Climate Change Compliance and Ethical Habits of Mind

In a soon-to-be published article in the Iowa Law Review, Susan S. Kuo and Benjamin Means, both of the South Carolina School of Law, argue that:

Unless corporations prioritize climate change mitigation, efforts to control global warming will fail. Yet, the strategies that have been proposed for enlisting corporations are insufficient to the task. In our era of political polarization, a comprehensive “Green New Deal” to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels is a nonstarter. Nor can we expect corporate risk management or social responsibility to fill the gap; there are practical limits to how far corporate managers can depart from strategies designed to maximize profits for investors. This Article contends that climate change is a compliance issue. Scholars have overlooked compliance as a solution because they believe it achieves nothing more than fidelity to existing laws and regulations. This is a mistake. Once neglected as a backwater of corporate governance, the field of compliance has evolved and now involves forward-looking strategic analysis of legal and business risks as well as ethical considerations. A compliance-based approach best captures the rationale for holding corporations responsible for climate change and provides a robust framework for achieving results

The authors cover a great deal of ground – too much for me to attempt to summarize here. So, I hope you will read the original.

But I do want to add from an earlier post on “habits of mind” the following:

The full promise of compliance and ethics programs goes beyond the business realm to nurturing habits of mind that can be helpful to addressing a wider range of challenges than traditional corporate law abidance and ethicality. Among other things, such habits could include thinking systemically about risk, having a deep appreciation for the interests of other individuals, insisting on transparency where it is reasonable to do so, embracing meaningful approaches to accountability for doing what is right and for stopping what is wrong and protecting truth telling at all costs. None of these ways of thinking were invented by C&E practitioners. But for many millions of Americans and others there is now a steady reminder through C&E programs of the importance of thinking in these and related ways – and this could provide a foundation for promoting greater ethicality in the broader societal realm, including addressing climate change.

In other words, C&E can not only make our corporations more responsible when it comes to dealing with climate change, it can do so for individuals.





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