A chill runs through me whenever I hear a sample of the gaffe from Mitt Romney’s 2011 presidential campaign speech in Iowa: “Corporations are people, my friend.” He was responding to a heckler. What he said was accurate in the eyes of the law in the United States; a corporation has the legal status and rights of a person. But it’s not hard to imagine that Romney was cheerfully referring to psychopathic friends who would blithely step over your body to reach profit.
Corporations as psychopaths is not a new idea, of course. The 2003 Canadian documentary film “The Corporation” makes the case, in a clinical sense, that if corporations are people, they’re psychos. Put simply, they lack empathy for others. They focus on profit alone. The free market rewards such self-interested ruthlessness.
Judging by news from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, public opinion and, more importantly, harsh economic reality, are pushing the corporate world to see that self-preservation now actually requires reactions to climate change. Many of today’s meetings of politicians, business leaders and reps from aid organizations in Davos, and a record number for the event overall, are about climate change and sustainable business practices. That’s a lot of talk from some influential people, and now that it’s about money as much as it is about doing good (or appearing to do so), maybe it will make a difference.
And, of course, as the mainstream media has well-recorded, the actor Matt Damon received an award in Davos for his work as co-founder, with Gary White, of Water.org, which works on access to freshwater for the world’s 800+ million who lack it. Damon is one of four recipients of the WEF’s Crystal Award, for artists who have contributed to a better world. The others are Peruvian opera star Juan Diego Flórez, American violinist and conductor Lorin Maazel, and the Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat.
Industry awakens to the threat of climate change – The New York Times
Davos 2014: live and archived blog coverage – Guardian Sustainable Business
2014 World Economic Forum: live updates from Davos – The Huffington Post