How Leaders Can Move Beyond Greenwashing Toward Real Change

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Harvard Business Review

At the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), former President Barack Obama asked those gathered and tuning in to consider the question: “How do we close the gap between what’s necessary for our survival and what seems politically possible right now?” The solution, he added, will require collective action: “We are going to have to muster the will and the passion and the activism of citizens, pushing governments, companies, and everyone else to meet this challenge.”

Businesses should be ready to defend what they’re doing about the climate crisis and how they’re taking meaningful action. If they don’t, they could face challenges from many directions, from the SEC to activists to litigators. Take Shell, for example, which is being held legally liable by a Dutch court for its contributions to climate change, with a judge ruling that the company’s current climate strategy is “not concrete enough and full of caveats.” They could also face the consequences of consumer activism — data shows that half of U.S. adults have stopped buying goods or services in protest of a business.

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