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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Externalities Management in Business: Heliogen’s Breakthrough in Combatting Climate Change

A company’s values and norms can resonate to some extent with their societal counterparts by the company providing goods and services of value to customers resulting in a reduction of their suffering or increase in their happiness. Providing a net-value (the value to the customer less the price) to people can resonate with societal values and norms that esteem happiness and frown on suffering from want. Indeed, a utilitarian ethic can apply to the provision of as much value as possible in the form of goods and services that reduce the suffering or increase the happiness of as many people as possible. Legitimate wealth can “result from having provided a significant amount of value to a significant number of people.”[1] Even fortunes, according to this ethic, are justified by the provision of “a very unusual form of value to a very unusual number of people.”[2] Utilitarianism is popularly known from the expression, the greatest good to the greatest number (i.e., of people). Of course, an ethic justifies what should be, whereas the extent to which a company’s values and norms approach those of society is a descriptive matter. Describing the degree of fit is not to say that a company’s values and norms should (i.e., normatively) have that degree of fit, or even more. Ethical reasoning would be needed to supply the normative contention; such reasoning involves argumentation that the extant societal values and norms should be held generally speaking and specifically by companies. The fact that the values and norms of many German companies in the NAZI era resonated with societal values and norms is not to say that the managements should have sought to fit organizational values and norms with NAZI values and norms. The field of business & society, which is oriented to the degree of fit that exists descriptively between a company (or the business sector) and a society (or internationally-held values and norms), is thus distinct from business ethics, which is oriented to providing ethical justification for what managers and companies should do. With regard to the former field, companies can orient themselves even closer to societal values and norms than by providing value to customers and even taking other stakeholder interests into account by being primarily oriented to taking on a serious societal or global problem. In terms of business ethics, such an orientation can be said to be one that a company should have because an unusual number of people (even beyond customers and other stakeholders) could receive an unusual amount of value. Climate-change is such a problem, and Heliogen’s breakthrough exemplifies such an extraordinary mission.

1. Rod Burylo, The Wealthy Buddhist: Buddhist Ethics, Right Livelihood, and the Value of Money (Nepean, Canada: The Sumeru Press, 2018).
2. Ibid.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Will Breakthroughs Save the Planet?

The dire predictions concerning the probable impact of climate change on ecosystems, ocean-levels, and food-production, as well as on our species itself have understandably been made without taking into account the countervailing impact of technology yet to be invented. Instead, the focus has been on governmental, rather than business, efforts aimed at reducing carbon emissions. This too is understandable, as companies have consistently been oriented to their own profits rather than reducing externalized costs, such as pollution. This focus has left the element of technological innovation or invention out of the equation. Moreover, because it is not possible to predict whether our species will have invented technology in time for it to counter the predicted impacts of climate change, relying on such technology so as to obviate the need to act so as to limit or reduce carbon emissions would be foolish and reckless. Put another way, it was irresponsible as of 2020 at least to say that government restrictions on carbon emissions were not necessary because technology will be invented that will substantially reduce emissions or even remove the excess carbon from the atmosphere. This does not mean that such inventions will not be made in time to make a significant positive impact. It is indeed possible, moreover, that our species, homo sapiens, will be saved by its own knowledge after all, even though we do not seem capable of regulating the innate desire for instant gratification even if the species’ survival lies in the balance. An invention by Heliogen in 2019 was such a breakthrough that it was arguably the first invention capable of giving people such hope. That is, the step-forward represented by the invention was such that people at the time could hope that the most noxious future impacts of climate change might not be inevitable.

The full essay is at "Breakthroughs in Climate Change."