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Straight Talk: Jared Diamond and Business Driving Sustainability

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond, Pulitzer distinguished author of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel, was in town last week.  During an intimate discussion group hosted by Point Park University’s Environmental Journalism Program, an attendee asked who Diamond views as the major influencers on climate change.  The “interesting” answer, according to Diamond?  Big business.  Many corporations, he said, including those with the largest of impacts and footprints, are becoming forces for sustainable development.  An op-ed he penned back in 2009 (Will Big Business Save the Earth?) reveals this is not a new revelation for Diamond but rather an observation he has offered for some time.  No doubt, we need to have eyes wide open when evaluating corporate actions.  Diamond acknowledged such in quipping that even the best companies have their faults.  He noted, however, the potent market forces now favoring companies that are doing right by their customers, communities, and the environment.

Points of validation are increasing in frequency.  Today’s Sustainable Finance newsletter by Bloomberg carries several insights that add weight to Diamond’s prescience about the marketplace.  Examples include the following excerpts.

  • “Funds worth $27 trillion that comprise 60 percent of the world’s biggest investors are considering climate change when making investment decisions, according to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project.”
  • “New York City’s five public employee pension funds, which manage $175 billion in assets, began a new search April 22 to hire low-carbon and sustainable index managers.”
  • “Wind and solar are about to become unstoppable, natural gas and oil production are approaching their peak, and electric cars and batteries for the grid are waiting to take over.”

These tidbits, in step with Jared Diamond’s examples of where profit and responsibility are lining up, represent a gradual reordering of capitalism whereby sustainability is rising to ultimately be THE bottom line.