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When Companies Reverse Their Climate Commitments

Companies announce climate goals with great fanfare—but all too often, they eventually scale back or fail to implement those pledges. We asked Yale SOM’s Todd Cort how significant these reversals are and what should be done to encourage companies to keep making progress.

Climate protesters outside AIG headquarters in Manhattan in 2021.
  • Alumni Forum

    Yale SOM alumni from around the globe weigh in on the question "Can we afford sustainability?"

  • What is ecological economics?

    Robert Costanza is one of the founders of a trans-disciplinary effort to understand how economics is embedded in the broader ecosystem that supports all human activity. From this perspective, he sees both limits for economic growth and opportunities to improve long-term human well- being.

  • Can the planet handle nine billion people?

    Relentless population and economic growth is pressuring the systems that support human life. The head of a leading environmental advocacy organization talks about balancing ideals, such as the conservation of natural treasures, with the pragmatic steps and alliances necessary to get the planet on a sustainable path.

  • Can we afford sustainability?

    If sustainability is understood as the continuation of human life on earth, there is no alternative. Whatever the cost, we have to bear it. But how do we determine the right price to pay right now to ensure survival in the distant future?

  • Does sustainability matter to consumers?

    From laundry detergent to automobiles, more and more businesses are presenting their products — and themselves — as green. How effective is green marketing? Will it have a meaningful impact on the planet?

  • What if the future is a disaster?

    The future is not only the domain of economic projections. Writers have long imagined future worlds where life is a totalitarian nightmare, or hubris has led to nuclear or environmental catastrophe. While each dystopia contains unique horrors, the stories often spring from the same well — a feeling that the way we're living now is unsustainable.

  • Where will our energy come from?

    Vast reserves of natural gas in Appalachian shale could shift the entire energy market. Indeed, if gas prices fall, the challenge of increasing the use of renewable sources of energy will rise. The head of a private equity firm with major investments in oil and gas exploration discusses the structure of the energy industry and what it means for sustainability efforts.

  • How do corporate leaders think about sustainability?

    Solving problems on the scale of climate change will require that businesses change what they sell and how they operate. The founder of a consulting firm specializing in sustainable business talks about how environmental issues are seen by executives and the business opportunities in sustainability.

  • Is x sustainable?

    Will medical costs in the United States swamp our ability to pay? Can information technology continue to get faster, lighter, and more effective? Will global trade go on increasing and generating wealth? Asking if a system is sustainable forces one to project far into the future — and then to look back at the present from that vantage.

  • Where's the profit in nature?

    One study in 1997 estimated the value of all the functions performed by ecosystems at $33 trillion per year — substantially more than the entire world economy. But in most instances, functions such as purification of water and air, nutrient cycling in soil, or the resilience created by biodiversity don't have a clear economic value. A number of firms around the world see opportunity in monetizing those functions.