An Earth Day Reflection: Can CSR Impact Climate Change?


Today is April 22nd and that means it’s Earth Day! In the 21st century, there is a global consciousness among individuals and businesses regarding how we utilize and deplete the earth’s finite natural resources. There is trepidation inherent in the latest climate change statistics that indicate there are detrimental effects resulting industrialized business on planet earth resulting in the rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, growing toxic greenhouse gases and the disappearing coral reefs. I am convinced that climate change is a fundamental business issue for which each person, business entity and government on this planet. So as I reflect on Earth Day, I ask myself…can corporations do more through a coordinated effort via their corporate social responsibility programs? Who are the major players and what industries can lead the charge on progressive CSR strategies? I believe all companies and industries have a fundamental corporate social responsibility and each one can systematically implement changes to mitigate manmade effect of climate change.

According to the IATA climate change fact sheet, the airline industry only accounts for two percent of the global manmade carbon dioxide. As I am writing this blog post from Dubai, there are air transport companies that are truly embracing the spirit of Earth Day and thereby integrating sustainable CSR into their overall business strategy. I was encouraged by a story from earlier this year in The National newspaper of Abu Dhabi,which reported that Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, did something BIG and something small in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

As an integral part of its CSR strategy, Etihad Airways flew a short 100 mile test flight from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain (two of the Emirates in the UAE) on their Boeing 777 using 10 percent of biofuel that was locally produced from plant material. This is amazing! The homegrown biofuel from Abu Dhabi is an vital part of a government initiative and commitment to developing alternative fuel sources. The Etihad flight was very short, lasting little more than 45 minutes. Why is this brief flight significant for the Middle East region and for the airline industry? The Abu Dhabi government and its premier airline are emerging as global leaders in the Middle East with regard to climate change efforts in airline industry. I firmly believe that Etihad’s CSR efforts such as this lay the ground work for other major corporations and businesses to create comprehensive and innovative strategies for sustainability. This flight was a very small step toward a BIG breakthrough for climate change and air travel.

As I reflect on Earth Day 2014, I am cautiously optimistic that CSR strategies can truly make an impact. Although these are incredibly challenging times specifically related to climate change, I feel a sense of hope. I am passionate about how corporations reinvest into communities through their business practices and CSR programs.

Karen Owens is the CEO of KRO Consulting LLC, which specializes in Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies.

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