Flight from Responsibility?

So we are to believe that the commitment of executives to environmental responsibility is wavering. According to a study by the the gandalf group reported in Canada's The Globe and Mail, 152 Canadian executives are less sure than they were 15 months ago that a carbon tax is a good idea  and no longer support a cap-and-trade system for carbon management with the same zeal.

As is pointed out, the results evidence some pulling back on environmental responsibility because of the imagined costs of economic turmoil and the impact of punishing increases in the price of oil. "Ensuring an adequate supply of energy is much more important to executives than fighting climate change or controlling energy prices," concludes the report. Support for a carbon tax has fallen from 63% in February 2007 to 47% today. Support for a cap-and-trade system has also fallen from 57% to 47% over the same period

There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth as people see evidence in this of lack of fealty to sustainability among Canadian corporations. Sure enough the Globe and Mail sought out interviews with executives who confirm they are even questioning the effect of GHGs on global warming. (Ignoring strangely an article just a few days before by Rick George, president and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc., expressing strong support for linking corporate objectives to social realities).

But when you factor in a confidence index of +/- 7.32% the ambivalence is hardly definitive and not especially shocking. The results may in fact be over-stating a decline that is not surprising really and not indicative perhaps of anything more than a reasonable caution in the face of economic instability.

There is also some good news in the study that shows some forward (if slightly defensive) thinking. Approximately 87% of respondents support government investment in emerging technologies: 85% support building new nuclear plants and 78% backed major investments in wind and solar energy alternatives. And aren't these alternatives the best and lasting answer to climate change?

What I found most troubling is the comment about government investment in emerging technologies. Haven't we been told time-and-again by business that it is a better midwife to innovation than government? Look at what GM is doing with its Chevy Volt. Let's not start asking for handouts.


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