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Under Trump, best defender of the environment is ... big business?

Dec 14, 2016

Word came down recently that Shell — the second-largest oil company in the world — has announced that it will link top executive bonuses to progress being made on managing greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, if they don’t hit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’ll get hit in the wallet.

It’s yet another example of business — in this case, a mammoth oil company — recognizing that its long-term survival depends on its ability to reduce the environmental impact of what it’s producing.

And Joe Arvai believes that will help to offset President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to kill off President Obama’s sustainability efforts.

Arvai is the Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, and the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. He joined Stateside’s host, Cynthia Canty, to discuss the future of sustainability.

Asked how he felt about climate change and environmental sustainability under a Trump presidency, Arvai expressed concern — particularly over the skeptics of climate change Trump has chosen to surround the government and lead the EPA. But ultimately, Arvai said he’s taking “a glass is half-full view.”

“I think there are some firewalls out there,” he added — which is where big business and even small businesses come in.

And this is the premise of Arvai’s recent piece in The Conversation: “Why Trump’s vow to kill Obama’s sustainability agenda will lead business to step in and save it.”

Companies don’t like to work in “fits and starts,” Arvai told Stateside. He explained that companies make plans over time and develop clear, long-term agendas. And, he pointed out, they’ve been doing this under President Obama for the last eight years.

Therefore, the agendas they’ve been developing are “responsive to things like the Clean Power Plan, that’s responsive to changes in terms of our cultural values around sustainability,” he said.

“So to think that now business will put on the brakes, put on the shelf all of the investments they made, get into their time machine, and go back to 2008, I think that’s unrealistic.” 

Listen to the full conversation above. 

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