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CSR, the EPA, and the Environment: What Can We Do to Help?

The outlook under a Trump administration is not promising for the EPA. Issues like staffing and having the support of an administration that fights for clean air and water are at risk. After all, Trump has said, in so many words, that he is a climate change denier. However, Diane Regas argued that it is unlikely voters will support policies that would increase arsenic levels or the amount of sewage allowed in our waterways. If we did, David Lillard points out, we would be forced to deal with trash and sewage in our lakes and rivers, again—a la pre-1970.

In an article for the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Peter Lehner uses photographs of the New York City, Cleveland, and Beijing skylines to illustrate a point: we can’t afford to discard federal standards that prevent us from making our air and waterways into dumping grounds.

Encouragingly—according to Jody Freeman of Harvard University’s Environmental Law program—“Any broad legislative attack on environmental statutes is unlikely to succeed without a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, which the Republicans do not have.” Freeman also points out that Congress has locked in tax incentives for the next few years and states have already begun moving forward with cleaner energy as part of the Clear Power Plan.

Both private citizens and corporations need to stay vigilant and press for sustainable policies that promote a circular economy, one capable of reusing, renewing, and recycling raw materials and products. The reasoning behind this is tied in part to a number of global resource predictions.

Two hundred years ago Thomas Malthus predicted, that overpopulation would result in a catastrophic famine. A Living Planet estimates that we are using 30 percent more resources than we are able to replenish every year and oil and natural gas are predicted to last for only 46 and 55 more years, respectively. Encouragingly, 360 investors and multinationals recently penned an open letter to Trump urging him to support sustainability and the Paris Climate Agreement.

This stance makes sense considering the generally leftward drifting politics of the younger voting generation—that is, U.S. citizens under 45 or so. In general, within this age group, there seems to be a consensus that we need to combat climate change as well as adopt responsible corporate practices or CSR. People are beginning to realize the power of voting with their pocketbooks, rather than merely at the ballot box. When we collectively choose to support or boycott a company financially, our choice can have massive consequences on its ability to turn a substantial profit and it is possible to influence a company’s future policy decisions.

Moreover, according to Washington State University, Nielsen research discovered the following: “Fifty-five percent of global online shoppers in sixty nations are particularly passionate about companies that make a positive social and environmental impact; in fact, these consumers will pay more for related products and services.” In other words, CSR isn’t merely a measure of charitableness or karma but rather it reflects that a good track record can make or break a company’s corporate earnings, so it’s really the only financially savvy course of action to take.

I suspect that, in the end, Trump’s administration will find that the corporate status quo has shifted considerably to the left, when it comes to sustainability issues—simply because it makes sense, strategically. Corporate social responsibility has evolved beyond basic policies like finding ways to reuse glass bottles and jars. However, Trump’s environmental policies—or lack of, thereof—seem terrifying although I take comfort in knowing that respected legal experts call the feasibility of Trump’s threats into question.

This is a call-to-action! Let us only support corporations that take the global climate crisis seriously and are willing to adopt policies that reflect that reality. We can’t afford to ignore this perilous situation any longer. In addition to supporting elected representatives who work for policies supportive of our disappearing natural resources and wildlife, we can do diligent research, share information and try to avoid supporting companies who are flagrantly wasteful and socially irresponsible. We can do this, but we all have to work together.