Can capitalists save the planet?
Aug 24, 2021
Episode 503

Can capitalists save the planet?

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Companies are making pledges to cut emissions and investing in climate solutions. On today's show, we'll discuss the corporate side of the climate crisis.

We’ve seen plenty of companies make pledges to reduce emissions and increase investments in climate solutions. How real are these commitments?

Someone who has been thinking — and acting — on this topic is Michael O’Leary, the managing director of Engine No. 1, the activist investment firm that won three seats on the board of Exxon Mobile. 

“I think if we had made a purely environmental argument, kind of a save-the-polar bears argument on why we need a new leadership at Exxon, I don’t think we’ve been successful. We had to make the economic argument, the argument that this is what what was best for the long term of the company,” he said.

On the show today, we’ll discuss the role of corporate America in the fight against climate change and what it really means to have environmental social governance, or ESG, goals incorporated into business strategies.

O’Leary, who is also the co-author of “Accountable: The Rise of Citizen Capitalism,” said there was a way to build an economy better prepared for climate change.

“Ultimately, our economy has transformed before, it can transform again. But given the sort of capitalist society we live in, it’s going to require capitalists to require shareholders to be part of that movement, if not leading it.”

We’ll also discuss more dire news about how climate change threatens our food supply, and another sign that “capitalism doesn’t care if you live or die.” 

Plus, listeners react to last week’s episode with social psychologist Amy Cuddy on “pandemic flux syndrome” and an answer to the Make Me Smart question that’s giving us all the feels.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week, we’re explaining food deserts, bicycle commuting and the possible end of open office workspaces. You can hear all our explainers here. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here’s everything we talked about: 

Read the transcript here.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer