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FEATURE

Road to Copenhagen - Part 4: A New Social Contract





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As we approach the climate conference in Copenhagen, politicians are balking and diplomats are burning the midnight oil, deprived of sleep. But we can take heart. Some unlikely new heroes may come to the rescue.

One prospective hero is The Citizen-Consumer. Consumers are not the first group that pops to my mind when I think about environmental leadership. Unbridled consumption without regard for consequences has much to do with the mess we’re in.

Then came a poll by
TIME magazine over the summer. It found that nearly four of every 10 American consumers over age 18 regularly and deliberately choose products made by “socially responsible” companies. If conspicuous consumption got us into this mess, can it be that conscionable consumption will get us out? Maybe. Based on its poll and several other factors, TIME concludes:
In America, we are recalibrating our sense of what it means to be a citizen, not just through voting or volunteering, but also through what we buy…We are seeing the rise of the citizen consumer – and the beginnings of a responsibility revolution.
We might be tempted to assume these green consumers – TIME calls them the “responsibles” – come from the liberal wing of America’s vast customer base. We’d be wrong. According to TIME’s poll, “responsibles” are almost equally divided between people who classify themselves as conservatives, moderates and liberals.

The second unlikely hero is The Corporation. New evidence suggests that companies around the world are beginning to discover that “green” is golden. A significant number of companies apparently are committing to social responsibility and sustainability. Continued...

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