What About the Skeptics?

What About the Skeptics?

As a sustainability professional it is my obligation to consider the views of all my stakeholders -- among them corporate customers and employees. Obviously we cannot reach complete consensus on every issue, but I think that we have left behind quite a sizable proportion of each group. I am referring to the folks who are climate change skeptics.

My workplace neighbor is a skeptic. One of my close work colleagues from a past job is a skeptic. They are both good people who consider themselves well read, well informed and well intentioned -- just as I consider myself to be! But we disagree.

I know all these particular folks well, so they were willing to share their views. But skeptics can be reticent to tell the CSR guy their position, and I suspect these two colleagues who will share their views are but a subset of plenty of others who feel that their views on this topic will be minimized and so won't share them. Employees are a critical stakeholder group and we cannot afford to leave large numbers of them behind.

Most of the readers of GreenBiz likely feel passionate about avoiding the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change. There is an excitement that the new administration gets it too and so things are going to change now. Companies are on board and the mainstream media affirms our views too. But in our resulting enthusiasm we run the risk of minimizing -- and so not addressing -- the views of those with whom we disagree. Despite comments I hear to the contrary, I am confident that most skeptics are well intentioned people who have simply come to different conclusions.

This past Friday I was at the holiday gala lunch of the British-American Business Association. I chair the energy and environment committee of the association. I sat next to the CEO of a well-known and respected medium-sized corporation. He shared with me that he is a skeptic. When I reflect on my view that the corporate world gets it too, I realize that I tend to see the same company names time and again. There are plenty of companies on board, but plenty not.

My conclusion? It will come back to haunt us if we take the position that the skeptics are an insignificant, ill-informed bunch and it’s time to move on. From a purely parochial perspective, skeptics will at best pay only lip service to what we need them to do in their personal and work lives to address climate change. We do need to move ahead and take action, but we owe it to them as stakeholders to continue to hear out their positions considerately, to provide to them the evidence we find so compelling, and to consider and respond appropriately to the contrary evidence they find so compelling.

Kevin Moss has responsibility for implementation of BT's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy for BT in North America and maintains a blog at www.mosske.blogspot.com