The most condemned, yet heedlessly propagated agenda of the decade: Capitalism. The word symbolizes everything that is hurting the environment, humanity and sometimes, the economy. It is exploitative, unsustainable, discriminative, corruptive, and unethical; basically the entirety of what the richest man of this world stands for.
Green Capitalism might sound like the most bizarre oxymoron to you. How come the environment’s worst nemesis suddenly switch sides to rescue the environment from its own clutches? Well, they say that a known enemy is better than an unknown friend. So is green capitalism a mirage? I would say that it’s the perfect example of your murderer writing a eulogy for you. Take the next three minutes to formulate an opinion on the same.
Here’s an analogy to understand what Green Capitalism is. Have you heard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? It is basically a policy under which corporates are encouraged to contribute a certain portion of their profits to a social cause. Walmart, for example, has ripped local store owners of their livelihood. Now, Walmart, very kindly, donates 1% of its profits towards an NGO supporting small rural families and washes the dirt of its hands. This distracts our attention from Walmart’s unethical business practices and makes even the bad people look good. I am not denying the little benefit that CSR does, however, there’s something inconsistent in the very foundation of it.
Green Capitalism, also known as Eco capitalism is an approach to manage the relationship between the economy and environment under the presumption that capitalists and environmentalists work hand in hand. However the critics argue that attempts to save the environment will demand revolutionary economic and cultural changes that are not possible within the capitalist framework. This framework aims to achieve exponential profits, thereby forcing them to exploitation. However, the proponents need to realize that there cannot be infinite growth in a world of limited resources.
A theory suggests that capitalism serves a better standard of living to the population, even though it’s a small proportion. The complacent part of this population will eventually develop tendencies to protect the planet and therefore capitalism saves the environment. This theory makes as much sense as Donald Trump’s 2 a.m. tweets do.
This incident that took place in the last decade will justify how green capitalism is a facade. Quinoa became a staple diet for vegans back in the 2000’s; vegans are saints 2.0 who have given up food for sustainability and their love for animals. Little did they know that the rising demand of quinoa from “health conscious” Americans was rendering the Peruvian and Bolivian farmers hungry, since it happened to be their everyday meal. The kind of hefty price that the Americans were ready to pay lured the majority of the crop to the West. Besides, the incentive driven large scale growth of quinoa on highlands affected the wildlife there and promoted extensive use of machinery and fertilizers, which were earlier non-existent. Thus, bringing us back to point zero where it all started.
From green capitalism originates a new term called consumer activism, which by definition, is in complete contrast to consumerism. Consumer activism tends to influence the manner in which the goods are produced and delivered. I would describe this as an arrangement where a consumer can literally pay to be ethical. Obviously, capitalism is the underlying thread that knits all of this together.
Here’s a demonstration: Starbucks, the multinational coffee chain is known for its overpriced coffee besides misspelling names. But, their business model states that a few cents from your coffee are donated to a noble cause. Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher observed that when consumerists were starting to feel guilty, the capitalists allowed them to stay consumerists, and instead their altruism, solidarity and other virtues were included in the price of that coffee. Now, they are not only buying a product, but also demonstrating their capacity to care for anything that’s not theirs.
A staunch supporter of green capitalism, Roger Ballentine explains how capitalism can help fight climate change. He aims to disprove the popular notion that anything that is good for the environment is bad for the business and vice versa. According to our economics textbooks, the price of a good is reflective of its cost. However, the markets have consistently failed to include the environmental and social costs in the same. This is what has made capitalism the bad guy and environment, the victim.
Instead of investing in lawyers and lobbyists to resist change, companies need to invest in executives to innovate for better environmental performance. As Roger gives an example that if they invest in building technology to reduce carbon emission and hence, save carbon tax, they can increase their profits as well as save the environment. It is the best of both worlds, as you promote what capitalists do the best (making profits) and align that with mitigating climate change.
The millennials have come out and said that environment is one of their main concerns, and 30% of the world’s population is made of them. They are investors, leaders, executives, customers, teachers, employers, employees, entrepreneurs and everyone who drives the economy and lives in the society. The change is not impossible; in fact change is inevitable. The only variable in this equation is whether we are changing for good or for bad.