Corporations' duties in a changing climate
Collins, Stephanie. (2020). Corporations' duties in a changing climate. In In Moss, Jeremy and Umbers, Lachlan (Ed.). Climate justice and non-state actors : corporations regions, cities, and individuals pp. 84-100 Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429351877
|Editors||Moss, Jeremy and Umbers, Lachlan|
[Excerpt] When we consider the harms of human-caused climate change, there are numerous entities to which we might want to assign duties. Perhaps most obviously, we turn to states. Moral and political philosophers have had a lot to say about states’ climate-related duties. But the urgency of the situation calls upon us to investigate other, less obvious, duty-bearers.
One natural reaction is to go from the largest agents to the smallest—from states to individuals. Do individuals have duties to fly less, drive less, and eat less meat? In Section I, I argue that this question raises difficult issues about individual difference-making. This prompts us to turn elsewhere. The rest of the chapter focuses on (what I take to be) the third most-salient duty-bearer: large for-profit corporations. 1 These entities have largely been overlooked in philosophical discussions of climate-related duties. In Section II, I consider two possible reasons for this neglect, and argue that neither are good reasons. In Section III, I give a positive case for weighty and demanding duties for corporations, to cut back their present and planned emissions and to offset their past emissions. These duties are grounded in (at least) three facts about corporations: corporations are capable of doing something significant about climate change (that is, the difference-making problem does not arise for them), corporations benefit from climate injustice, and corporations are culpable causers of climate change.
In Section IV, I bring the discussion full circle: corporations’ duties always imply duties for corporations’ members, that is, for the individuals who constitute the corporation. Drawing on earlier work (Collins, 2019), I give an account of who corporations’ members are and how their duties are structured. In heavily-emitting corporations, members prominently include managers, shareholders, and rank-and-file employees. So a range of individuals are on the hook after all, because the corporations that they constitute bear duties. Although individuals cannot make a significant expected difference to the harms of climate change by reducing their personal emissions, they often can make a significant expected difference to whether corporations discharge their climate-related duties. Additionally, even non-members have duties to act upon corporations, from the outside, with a view to inducing corporate duty-fulfilment. These ‘responsiveness duties’ are held by non-member individuals and nonmember collective agents—most prominently, states, who have it within their regulatory and legislative power to reign in corporations’ emissions.
|Book title||Climate justice and non-state actors : corporations regions, cities, and individuals|
|Place of publication||Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429351877|
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|Deposited||22 Jul 2021|
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