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Corporate Rights & Corporate Governance

Corporate Rights and Corporate Governance – Managing Sustainability

This posted is based on an article published a few days ago on The Guardian, titled “‘The latest must-have among US billionaires? A plan to end the climate crisis”. Most notably, the article stated: “Together… [Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates] have an estimated wealth of $466 billion and some of the biggest personal carbon footprints on the planet.” It is not news to any of us this is an absurd amount of money. Personally, if I encountered this amount of money, investing in climate change technology is probably one of the most pressing issues we would use it for. But, billionaires continue to be held at a lower standard for investing in climate policy within the private sector. 

The net worth statistics of the billionaires mentioned in this article are staggering. Elon Musk has a net worth of &171 billion, while Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have a net worth of $202 and $135 billion, respectively. Upon learning this, I began to wonder what other things that have to do with the world’s richest, are making headlines. I found an article from Newsweek, titled “Bill Gates Defends Using Private Jets While Warning about the Dangers of Climate Change” and “The Rich Get Richer- Bezos Earns $13 Billion in One Day” from SmallJoys. Clearly, it seems that these men are aware of climate change and its downfalls, but continue to justify their own behavior both personally and within the corporate world. They continue to practice small acts of sustainability and claim that it is enough when in reality their corporate decisions have caused billions of dollars in damage to ecological resources. Actions and mindsets such as these do no set the right precedent for how urgent climate problems truly are. 

In an attempt to play devil’s advocate, I began searching for things that billionaires are doing with their money that aid in climate action. Most notably, Elon Musk is giving away a monetary reward for the best carbon capture technology and investing in the research and development of that company. This raises the question, is this enough? Personally, I believe billionaires should be developing their own technology and investing in that, in addition to external investments. 

The topic of our class this week is Corporate Rights and Corporate Governance, which has to do with regulation from the government on the corporate world. This type of regulation is really important when it comes to climate action. To accompany this, our class discussions last week were about managing sustainability and learning to adapt company policies and traditions in a more sustainable fashion. When issues such as the one I’ve illustrated in this post arrive, I recommend we ask ourselves a series of questions. 

  • Do these billionaires have an ethical obligation to develop their own plan for climate action? 
  • Is it justified to hold these men to a higher standard and expect more from them, given that their success and profit stems from harmful actions to the planet? 
  • What are your thoughts on the private sector mitigating the effects of climate change through investment? Is it expected that the private sector will step in or should we expect the government to do all the work? 

Exhibit 1: Capture taken from Forbes Billionaires of 2020 depicting Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as the richest men in the world. https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/ 

Reference

The latest must-have among US billionaires? A plan to end the climate crisis. (2021, March 25). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/25/elon-musk-climate-plan-reward-jeff-bezos-gates-investments 

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