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  • Robert Hinkley

Corporations Must Have Circuit Breakers

Updated: Jun 27


Why not simply require corporate directors to stop their companies from severely harming the environment whenever it is discovered?

 

June 27, 2024


When a corporation continually inflicts severe damage on the environment or another element of the public interest, should the law:

 

·      Encourage its directors to continue until a new law is enacted that will force the company to stop (as the law does now)?

 

Or

 

·      Be changed to require the company’s directors to immediately take steps to make the damage stop?

 

The looming climate crisis shows how existing law encourages companies to continue inflicting severe harm on the public interest. The encouragement to continue comes from the duty of directors which says that directors must “act in the best interests of their company.” Among other things, this means they must protect their company’s largest assets.

 

Electricity companies have huge investments in fossil fuel burning facilities which (so far) have been allowed to continue emitting large volumes of greenhouse gases (GHGs). If those facilities were replaced by new ones using renewable resources, the investments in the retired facilities would need to be written-off. To avoid this expense, the companies put off the transition and continue to emit GHGs making the threat of global warming ever more dire.

 

The same principal applies to motor vehicle manufacturers which produce vehicles that depend on the internal combustion engine.

 

GHG emissions remain legal because, big companies using technology now known to be harmful, successfully lobby government to allow them to continue. Nearly thirty years of U.N. sponsored Conferences of the Parties (COPs) and the efforts of thousands of environmental organizations have been ineffective at bringing overall emissions to a halt. The result is increased carbon in the atmosphere and the increasing threat of climate change.

 

If government cannot pass laws to stop corporate behaviour which severely damages the environment, then there is only one answer--implanting a "circuit breaker" in the law that automatically requires directors to stop it whenever it is discovered.

  

Many countries are going to the polls this year. Voters across the political spectrum need to demand that their public officials change the law so that directors “acting in the best interests of the company” no longer includes acting in a manner which causes severe damage to the environment. It’s time to start asking candidates for public office if they agree, and if they don’t, voting for someone else.

 

The role of corporations in our society should not be a partisan issue. No one should be in favour of allowing corporate destruction of the environment on a global scale to continue.Certainly not public officials elected to represent everyone.

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