Businesses and Grandparents

Treehugger, hippie, flower child, greenie, liberal, idealistic kid. These would probably be the stereotypical response from many Americans as to who is taking part in COP21 in Paris. There are a number of these kinds of “traditional” environmentalists here, but the number of businessmen, businesswoman, “suits,” financiers, executives, capitalists, and even grandparents that are also in Paris has been incredibly striking to me.

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While the activists and protestors are shouting the loudest here in Paris, it is the quieter executives that are making the most noise. We had the chance to meet with Laura Bishop, VP of Best Buy today. Best Buy, along 80 other companies in the U.S., has signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. The list is quite impressive and the standards are not easy. You can find the pledge and the list of signatories here.

You might be thinking that it must have cost Best Buy a lot of money to meet these standards. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. They have diverted a billion tons of electronic waste from the landfill, retrofitted all of their lights, audited their supply lines and saved $50 million dollars in the process. They have stayed a float in trying economic times, and currently their stock value is three times higher than it was at the end of 2012.

Do these companies only care about public perception or money? Perhaps, but that is beside the point. Laura Bishop of Best Buy said that many people are now more environmentally conscientious in terms of where they spend their money, and increasingly, even where they invest their money. A Google search showed that $20-30 trillion dollars is invested in the US Stock market. That is a ton of money. What if people started to look into and choose investments based on the sustainability practices of the companies they invest in?

The other quiet group here at COP21 is the grandparents. Yes, the “old people.” I have often read that this battle to address climate change is going to be a young person’s fight. As an educator, I understand that. But I also think that our grandparents are a huge part of the equation and I was honored to talk to a few people from the Grandparents Climate Campaign of Norway today. They have been on this earth longer than most of us, and have seen it change the most. These people aren’t just “old hippies” either. I asked why they are here, and their simple answer of, “because I have grandkids, and the earth will belong to them” spoke volumes to me.

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