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Balancing the Scales: Corporate Accountability in Carbon Footprint

Changi Airport announced a new initiative - travellers at Changi Airport can now offset their emissions from air travel regardless of the airline they are travelling with. How does this work?

​1) calculate the carbon emissions from their forthcoming flights based on the origin, destination and class of travel. 2) offered the option to offset the emissions from their journey and use their credit card for payment. 3) the collected payments will go into a programme that will support carbon offset projects

On paper, being able to eliminate your carbon footprint (and guilt) with such convenience is a wonderful thing. In practice, questions of efficacy abound. My students were quick to point this out without prompting, raising others questions about the inefficiency of clean energy and the delayed benefits of afforestation.

You should read the following material before continuing: Should you buy carbon offsets for your air travel? [National Geographic]

Clearly, carbon offsets does not work well, if at all. So why is Changi Airport offering what seems to be an unfounded initiative? Perhaps it is to change the conversation, and to control the narrative - if you opt out of buying carbon offsets, it becomes a YOU problem.

However, shifting the responsibility of climate change action solely onto consumers is unacceptable for several reasons.

First, corporations often wield significantly more power and influence in driving systemic change compared to individual consumers. They possess the resources, technology, and capabilities to make substantial environmental impacts through large-scale initiatives, innovations, and policy advocacy.

Furthermore, many consumers face limitations in making eco-conscious choices due to affordability, accessibility, and lack of viable alternatives. Corporations, on the other hand, have the capacity to invest in sustainable practices, develop green technologies, and make environmentally friendly options more accessible and affordable for a broader population.

Additionally, corporations frequently shape consumer behavior through advertising, product design, and market availability. When companies place the onus solely on consumers to mitigate climate change, it can create a misleading narrative that individuals bear the sole responsibility for environmental issues, deflecting attention from corporate accountability.

Ultimately, a collaborative approach where both corporations and consumers share responsibility is necessary for effective climate action. Corporations must proactively implement environmentally friendly practices, invest in sustainable innovations, and transparently communicate their efforts to consumers. Simultaneously, consumers should be empowered with information, accessible eco-friendly options, and encouraged to make more sustainable choices.

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