Extinction Rebellion has organised a series of events to highlight the urgent need to tackle climate change. These involve demonstrations, blockades, and protests. The response has been mixed. Some agree that tackling climate change is urgent, but protests are doing more harm than good (e.g. blocking public transport, which is a solution to climate change). Others argue that the urgency of climate change is so great that radical action must be taken. Regardless of what your views are, there are at least two key takeaways from Extinction Rebellion.
First, it demonstrates the power of citizens’ agency – their power to act and shape the world around them, rather than simply being passive bystanders and be acted upon by corporations (as stressed in Chapter 10). In particular, the actions were inspired by a teenager, Greta Thunberg, contradicting views that only CEOs or the ultra-rich can make a difference. Irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with the protests, few can deny that they have substantial impact, and have made climate change a front-page topic.
Second, it highlights that companies must view climate change extremely seriously, because citizens are doing so – and thus will stop working for or buying from firms that take insufficient action. Moreover, while Pieconomics – the theme of the book – argues that most actions that benefit stakeholders will ultimately boost profits in the long-run, it recognises that this won’t always be the case. Perhaps customers are more likely to buy from a company that uses less plastic or has a lower carbon footprint, but there’s no way of knowing whether this greater revenue outweighs the cost of taking action. Pieconomics argues that a company’s concerns for the environment – and any other stakeholder – should be intrinsic, not instrumental. Even if action on climate change reduces profits, many investors may still support it – because they care about social, not just financial returns. The key is for a company that wishes to sacrifice long-term profits to combat climate change to be very clear on its position, regularly engage with investors, and report comprehensively on its climate impact. Doing so will mean that investors know to evaluate the company on its climate impact, rather than solely profits, thus freeing leaders to focus on the former.