The Tea on Sustainable Living

#25 | Individual vs. corporate impact and action

March 14, 2023 Brandee and Hannah
The Tea on Sustainable Living
#25 | Individual vs. corporate impact and action
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Show Notes Transcript

Did you know that 11 people in 1 company made decisions that were responsible for 0.45% of all carbon emissions in 2020*? Sure, that doesn’t sound like much - except when you realize that the entirety of Africa only contributed 3.8% of global carbon emissions in 2020**.

In this episode, we talk about the difference between individual vs. corporate impact and action and the mindset shift needed to start viewing these companies as things that are made up of actual people.

What can we do? What can you do? Well, at the very least, you can grab some tea, get comfy, and hit that play button.

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Links and resources:

Article | Who has contributed the most to global CO2 emissions
Article | Individual vs corporate responsibility
Article | The role of high-socioeconomic-status people in locking in or rapidly reducing energy-driven greenhouse gas emissions
Article | How companies blame you for climate change
Article | Corporate honesty and climate change: time to own up and act
Article | Climate Solutions at Work, presented by Drawdown Labs, is a how-to guide for employees looking to make every job a climate job.
Article | The evolution of carbon footprint measurement - ClimateTrade
Article | How the World’s Richest People Are Driving Global Warming
Article | The role of high-socioeconomic-status people in locking in or rapidly reducing energy-driven greenhouse gas emissions
Guide | Project drawdown - Climate solutions at work
Video | Why I Don't Care About Your Flight Emissions
*Video | How the Rich REALLY Cause Climate Change
**Report | CDP Africa report
Report | New report shows just 100 companies are source of over 70% of emissions
Willow Update | Biden’s approv

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-Brandee and Hannah

Note: This transcript is mostly unedited.

Brandee   0:05  

It's not easy living on a dying planet. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes and taking action to try and save it. Where do you start? Is it even worth it? Can you really make a difference? Welcome to The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast, where we attempt to answer these questions by spilling the tea on living sustainably in a world that's going to shit. I'm Brandee.

Hannah  0:26  

And I'm Hannah. And for years, we've been navigating the big messy gray area of caring about our planet. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but we're not giving up yet. So brew yourself a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's try and navigate that gray area together.

Brandee   0:45  

Hello, good listeners. This is Brandy.

Hannah  0:47  

And you are listening to episode number 25 of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast.

Brandee   1:01  

And I still have not found a recorded woofer to put in or clapping or anything so awkward segue from the Welcome to the topic of the episode.

Hannah  1:07  

Okay, I think I should just do that next time. That was more awkward.

Brandee   1:13  

Do you want to do a well? Oops. Yeah, there we go. All right, now we can actually start. Alright, guys, welcome to today's episode, where we're going to expand on something we have only had, I only had like, a couple minutes at the end of episode 24 to touch on was from an article and I'm talking about like the different roles and one of them was, oh, how do they word it? I was like how your individual roles like you have a bigger impact than you think. And one of them was like, leadership or something. When organizations like that we're gonna organizations anyway. And then you had a note, in that outline, I think about how we view like, groups, organizations, companies, as if they're like, not made up of individual people. So today's we'll try to dive a bit deeper into that. And I kind of want to, I don't know, I think this is more of like, a mindset topic for me. Because, I mean, that's a common thread throughout all of our episodes, I think that you change your mindset, and that that change is more than just, you know, what reusable shopping bag you bring to the store and the small things like that. Okay. So, because it is, I think I definitely fell into the mindset of like, a kind of an us, us versus them, well, there's a couple things, there's like, individual act, action versus collective action. But then I think when I was doing this, this outline, a corporate, like, responsibility came up a lot for me. So no, those are kind of different things like you, you can, you know, make changes yourself or join a group that is making changes together. So, but I think maybe this is more of a kind of a corporate organization, you know, those big players that have a disproportionate amount of, you know, greenhouse gas emissions?

Hannah  3:03  

Can you when you're talking about that, are you talking about companies? Or are you talking about countries, companies? Components, okay. Because

Brandee   3:14  

I kind of, I do view them as kind of, like a, kind of, like us versus them, like us, the, you know, the little people, individuals, the consumers, versus, than this like, I don't know, all like I know, logically, like, they're people, there are a lot of people that work in these, and these companies, fossil fuel companies, you know, consumer good companies, but like, I feel like I do kind of think of them as like, into, like, an individual entity. So,

Hannah  3:43  

I'm very sorry. It's just like a very weird function of companies, especially the big ones that you do kind of think of them as like a, as they have a kind of power of their own. Almost like as the company like, the company is, is a thing like a living entity, which I think it probably is, in some ways, but it is also made up of people. So it also it's like a weird sci fi kind of like, living monster. Yeah. Am I

Brandee   4:24  

made up? Made up of individual people? Yeah, no, that's to visualize it.

Hannah  4:30  

Just like, that's a good way to visualize it is running on cog, but the company is like, it's like its own beast.

Brandee   4:38  

It's like Godzilla or something made up of

Hannah  4:42  

like making hand gestures at the moment. That's what I think this company looks like. Anyway, sorry, that was a bit of a sidetrack.

Brandee   4:52  

No, I liked that. I liked that visualization. No, I think that's a good point. Because in the US, at least I remember the Fact, and I found it again. I think it was like Stuff You Should Know, YouTube video that, that companies in the US are given like personhood, like, that is what allows the company to enter into a contract versus the person who owns the company. So and in a legal sense, they are like, they're, it's their own thing separate from the people didn't make them up. I don't know if that's a grammatically correct way to phrase that sentence, but

Hannah  5:24  

just saying. I mean, it's very weird. I mean, so I work for a pretty. So I worked for, I guess, what would be considered like a medium sized company? directly, I think we're about 300 people, which already feels like a lot on a practical level, like, I don't know, most of the people. But then I worked at that company is like, owned and we get training. And it's like a it's like a subsidiary, I guess of like, a much larger company. And that is like, kind of interesting. You just see how it kind of like sprawls across, across the globe, you know, it's like, and like, you know, it's it's fascinating, you know, you have all this training that mentioned like, you know, what to do about bribes, like what you're going to accept, like, different countries like, Okay, you might work in a country where it's considered acceptable to accept bribes, but like our company policies that you can never accept bribes, for example. So you see all of these, like different, like tendrils, like across the globe. And then you know, when you have these, like, training as you can be like talking with people who like work in completely different roles, but we're also a name common things I've never even heard of. Most things I've never heard of, and yet they're working in the same company, being paid by the same company. Anyway, I don't really know where it's going with that. But it is just, it's true. Like, you work for some you even working for something. The company with a capital T and a capital C, like feels like its own thing. Yeah. Because it'll I'm

Brandee   7:05  

sure, I don't know if the contract in your, I don't know, training brochures, it says, you know, at this company, this these companies have their own values. Yeah, from the values of individuals. I mean, it's great if you get that if you your values as an employee align with the company. But yeah, they have their own, like, their own brand and values and messaging.

Hannah  7:29  

Yeah. Anyway, I feel like that was kind of a sidetrack. But there we go. Did you have a specific point you wanted to talk about? I mean, I know you had lots but where would you like to start this conversation? Brandy?

Brandee   7:41  

I guess it's, I mean, kind of the underlying theme of all of our episodes is like, how is like making changes in our own lives, despite knowing that, you know, a small group of companies have the biggest footprint or responsibility? Yeah. So how do we kind of like I've, I'm guilty of this, or I have like, this kind of parallel things of like, okay, I can make changes in my own life, the way I eat, slower travel, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. While knowing that, you know, it's, it's, what is it like 100 companies are responsible for like 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Chemical war, I think that's a common stat, but I'll link wherever I found it. And a lot of them are fossil fuel. So it's like, I live my life with these two. Kind of different, like, knowing that the individual actions that I do, or changes I make, have a smaller impact, just, like contained to my own life than these companies. But it's like, okay, that's okay with me, because I want to live my values. And I know, there's a ripple effect. But I don't know, is there a way to I don't know if that's the best way to go about it as a way to kind of bridge those two parallels. And start viewing these companies at like, they're made up of individual people. So whether it's, like, I don't know, for starters, communicating with them more like it's not like, oh, I have no we have no impact on them aside from like a consumer goods for example, like, not shopping from them. Like because they feel so separate. My only interaction with them can be supporting them or not with my money. But like they're made up of people, so therefore, there are people that we can talk to. Yeah, so to like, spur them to do better just like you know, when they say, you know, call your you know, local politicians office local representatives office. I don't know that's always felt. I feel like for me, there's always been so that barrier of like, okay, but like, are they really going to listen to me? Because they're this like, I don't know. So

Hannah  10:00  

Don't know. Does that make sense? It does make sense. I like what I'm feeling. I do feel how do you feel about all that? Yeah, it's an interest. I was just trying to think about that. Because there's a part of me hearing that that kind of still feels a bit like, like what you just said, like, why would they listen to me? Because I feel like probably the person who is like dealing with your complaint, probably, or query or suggestion has probably got minimal power. You know, they're just on a customer service team, sometimes somewhere like having to send out another email, like, oh, no, this person's written to us again, about X y&z issue, like here, let me send back my stock email, like does it get to the decision makers? So that's like, part and then But then the other part, which is that some people? Well, I think we do all have some power, including in in the workplace, but it is true that certain people have much more influence over what happens the direction of a company. And so and those are people, so is there. So there could be ways that you could impact but I'm kind of thinking you kind of have to have a personal relationship with that person. You know, you just happen to make friends with the like the next CEO of Shell several. Right? I don't know, I don't know. But maybe that's like a defeatist attitude. Because then it's that that going back to like, the company is its own thing, and whatever we do doesn't have an impact on it.

Brandee   11:47  

I mean, I think that someone already working within a company has more power to change it from within, then like we do, planning to them. I think that was one of the points that that article make made about working in an organization. And as you have the potential to move up in leadership, that's the more power you have to like, change something.

Hannah  12:06  

Yeah, I think, you know, I guess if you work within a company, like, for example, in my company, there's like pretty big like networks, there's like, a women's network, LGBT network is like a diversity and inclusion network, like across multiple countries. I haven't got involved in any of those. But I think those kinds of places can be a positive place to get involved. Like within your company, whatever your role if you work for the kind of company. And I think most companies these days want to look at least like they're doing it's environmentally friendly. Yeah. If you can find ways to participate in those opportunities, you might have a disproportionate impact, regardless of your role. Yeah. Because it's

Brandee   12:55  

changed from within, because we can kind of give our input on the outside. If it's like, yeah, consumer good, like, buying it or not. But yeah, and who was it that said, Every job is a climate job? I can't remember how to do and I was at one of them good. Quiet, though. Was someone who project drawdown I think, I can't remember. If I'll, if I find it, I'll link it. So yeah, I think, yeah, I mean, it all comes back to mindset. And like that, quote, is, is a perfect example. Yeah. Like, whatever your role wherever you're at, like, there is something you can do. And I think there are there are still parallels, because you know, that kind of change. Unless, yeah, you're the top decision maker can take a long time. But you said, unless you happen to run into the next CEO of like, shell, well, maybe you maybe you will, maybe you won't, but maybe someone you do meet will be the person that runs into them, or someone that they know, or someone that they know, there's an element here of like, yeah, that ripple effect of kind of changing around changing like social norms. And you do that I, I, I personally do that by starting, like making change in my own life, and then people see it, and then talk about it, and it becomes more of like, a common thing. Yeah, I think that can happen within a company too. Yeah.

Hannah  14:19  

I do think this is going off on a slightly different issue, which I haven't noted in your outline, so but that's fine. I was just thinking about I think one of the things that feels really hard. And it's purposely done like this by big companies, is that they're so multinational, you know, they were talking about in a way that very is an individual we're kind of put normally part of like one country or like to kind of, you know, or maybe a few countries but was like, as a member, as it were, like a member of this country, but then like, you know, corporations like span span the globe, and often will purposefully you know, they'll register themselves in countries that have, you know, lower taxation, lower. Like, you know, they like juggler, right? They like play, where can they get away with like cutting back on like climate issues, issues around like international law. These are all things I know very little about. So I don't know, maybe this isn't a productive conversation to have, but it's just something on my mind where I'm like, maybe there's a way in if we engage with like, international, like lawmaking processes or like, how, I don't know how you do that, but like, yeah, I don't know. Help me out here brand new.

Brandee   15:45  

I don't know either. But are these but he's great. Yeah. Your your tangential thought reminded me of a point I did want to make about how, how these companies do distract us with individual responsibility, guilt, carbon, footprints, etc. So that they can go on, you know, destroying the planet and making their money. I think that I think it was an article I linked in a previous outline that we didn't really touch on. I forget which one about people will say, Okay, well, these, I forget was it ceclor? Want one of the the big oil companies invented carbon footprint to like write us feel guilty. It's like, not completely true. Like, it was I think created before they it was used as a guilt and distraction tactic. And it's not that we don't have a cart like people say that I've read online that they'll say that as a way to like, just kind of not discredit it, but like to say, Oh, well, they just invented it to make me feel bad. So I don't have a carbon footprint, or I don't have to worry about my individual actions. So I don't think that that's necessarily true, we do have, we all do have an impact. But we would, regardless of what our world look like, like just existing means we have some sort of impact. So it's true that we do have a carbon footprint, individually, it's true that it was used as a distraction tactic. And only that means you can you could just say oh, I'm going to I'm going to use all the oil and I'm going to start my own oil. Like I'm gonna, I don't know, I'm going to drive more I'm going to eat more meat, because my individual footprint doesn't matter. I think it does. But still recognizing that how it's used. So that we're not focusing on the fact that, yeah, such a small number of people. I'm gonna say people instead of organizations have the biggest impact. And they're, they're making us like, feel bad about it and make changes when they're the ones who need to make serious changes. Because, yeah, part of also what sparked this episode. Go ahead, respond, and then I'll share,

Hannah  17:53  

okay, is a very tenuous thought. Let's see if I can put it into words. Thinking back to last week's episode, we talked a lot about shame. Two weeks ago, two weeks ago, I'm sorry. So yeah, two weeks ago, and how we can shame like, it's so much easier to shame an individual, whether that's ours, someone else, perhaps because when again, is like this, like, human versus the company, like thing where it's like, how can I like, it doesn't feel real to think, oh, I can like shame shell. But it totally should name a person and but then then oil. So like, though, your distinction. And the other part of that was, it's also easy when we work within a company and on a job that we can like diff, for good and for bad. And I think there's a reason why but we can, like deflect what the company does, as like not being part of our own actions. Because sometimes place we feel like there is a limited choice of what we can do. Which is true, right? Like it is this weird thing, you do things at work that you don't necessarily like 100% agree with? Or you might feel a bit awkward. I'm sure both of us have had moments, maybe in climate change or not where we felt Oh, not sure about this. But yeah, people are the ones making decisions and companies. And like, it was interesting, you just made that distinction. When you were talking about being like I'm going to talk about people I'm not going to talk about companies, but it's like the CEO of Shell if the person it was being I don't know why keep talking about shell, but you know, whatever. I'm like the CEO of you know,

Brandee   19:46  

it was BP who did that whole campaign about carbon footprint,

Hannah  19:49  

right? You know, those are choices made by humans, by people. And maybe they slightly pressured because of their job or I don't know. It's like we kind of sometimes give ourselves and out in the workplace. This is kind of this is getting very unwieldy this thought, but it's I mean, the, you know, I'm gonna stick with it. I'm like, But and I understand why, right? Because we don't have full choice in the workplace. And we're also like, Well, I kind of need this salary. And I'm like, is this the hill I want to die on? And then, you know, maybe you get to a point with a job for various reasons where you're just like, I just can't anymore. Like, what I'm doing this so far for me that what I want to do or my values or whatever, or you kind of like, keep being like, Okay, I'm not 100% sure about this, but like, everyone's doing, I'm just gonna keep doing it or I don't know, anyway, whatever. I don't know, that was that. Can you help me out with that thought?

Brandee   20:46  

Yeah. That's fair. I mean, I think that's fair. You know, as like, humans, we are inherently social creatures. So we can only judge like the right and wrong thing based on like, what people around us are doing, you know, think like COVID before, like, mass were mandatory somewhere, somewhere. And as more people around you or them like, oh, okay, it is dangerous. Okay, I should do that it is the right thing to do. So I think it's definitely easy to kind of get caught up in flexible ethics. Well, I think it's, I can see how Yeah, you're in a workplace environment that they all kind of act in a similar way that you go along with it. And also, like, when you're driving down a highway, like you, you can't drive significantly slower or faster than the rest because then that's dangerous. So I get that like, kind of inherent need to go along with the status quo. But yeah, I think as something like if you're someone like in power, you know, the people who are in charge of these companies, BP and the 99 others, they bring it back to shame like yeah, shame, shame on them, they have the power, they know better. They know that they are, they are intentionally, you know, tricking marketing efforts to make us feel bad about flying meanwhile, they're, you know, drilling, having new drilling new oil projects and making more money. And we're, that's like, where I think the focus should be. Which is what I was trying to have checked, I spent a while trying to find this clip in a video from our changing climate, which is a good YouTube channel like video essays about our changing climate, but it's in the title. And it was about seven minutes into this video called How the rich really cause climate change. First, I thought it was the video that was titled Why I don't care about your flight emissions, which is also a good video. But for this restaurant, it starts off like kind of not shaming Taylor Swift. Talking about how people did shame her for like all of her private, like jet emissions and I think it was in 2022 recently. Yeah. And so that's like how it started. And then it went cuts to about seven minutes and it cuts to love and people in this conference room and Switzerland who work for private building company called I'm reading my notes here to wholesome h o l cin whose main business is cement and cement and like the building and in the industry sector in general, I was like I think the largest kind of sector responsible for greenhouse gas emissions they can this these 11 people responsible for like making all the decisions for this company are responsible for 156 point 3 million metric tons of co2 emissions and 2020 which is almost 19,000 times what our good friend T swift emitted and private flights in 2022 Oh, that's what the year came in. So like things like this, where it's like all the attention is on Taylor Swift all the attention is on us the individuals for what we eat how you know how often we fly all the things when these 11 people are responsible for what is the percentage point four 5% of all carbon emissions globally and 2020? Which no point four or 5% could seem small but for the whole planet there's one company controlled by 11 people responsible for nearly half a percent of all emissions all carbon emissions globally. Yeah, it's like the the distribution or lack of or uneven distribution like just a wealth period how few people right

Hannah  24:19  

but then it was sorry, did you want to continue but I was gonna say it that's a really interesting I mean, like terrifying and interesting but then also with the private jet thing that was in the article I can't remember off the top of my head but the article we talked about two weeks ago the about rich about wealth, but it also did have a statistic showing how much more emissions a private jet causes as per an IF per individual than you fly in like a commercial flying. So yeah, and then there's like a proportion. It's like levels, right? It's like yes,

Brandee   25:00  

Yeah, it's like your diet like eating or drinking like a fresh squeezed orange juice is better than the one with added sugar. But eating an orange is even better. So yeah, there's like levels to it and that I'm not saying yeah to use with great keep up, keep up with your private jet. Right definitely cut back there are people. I think also in this video I mentioned like Al Gore, how after his documentary, blanking on the name, Inconvenient Truth. They like shamed him or like pointed the finger at him for like his, you know, electricity bill for like his mansion, which Yeah, he could cut back then. But like, if we're at a point with like, climate change climate crisis, where it's like an overflowing bathtub like, okay, where I think we're getting distracted with just like scooping a cup of water out, like we need to turn off the faucet, which is like taking on the fossil fuel industry, like the people who are at the source of it. And I don't think that I don't think that means that we should just forget all all of the smaller things.

Hannah  26:01  

But do you, those 11 people are aware of what they're doing? I think so I think, or do they just think they're doing their job?

Brandee   26:13  

I think they think they are maximizing profit, because that's the name of the game, in our capitalist society, is maximum profit at the expense of the workers in these factories at the expense of the planet. It's like profit above all else. So I think they're aware of it. I think there is like a mental kind of thing to I who I think on the snow podcast episode, called Why billionaires shouldn't exist with the eggs podcast with Mikayla loach and Joe Becker. So that was a, they made interesting points, I'll link that, because they, I think I might have mentioned this before, they definitely were a bit more eloquent on how they talked about that there is, I think, a different mindset when you are in that position, right? Similar to, or maybe not similar. But I'm thinking of just my own experience of like, how a surgeon has to remove themselves from, like, the actual, like, impact they can have, like, it's the life or death they have to remove themselves from so that they can do their job. So I wonder if there's like, other like some sort of mental thing that like, characteristic, or I don't know what to call it a flaw or just, I don't know, something that you kind of, maybe they, they are aware, but like don't let themselves connect with because their goal, their their job is profit. So I don't know, I think the more

Hannah  27:35  

you, like, the more you practice something like that, or that kind of mindset, like, the more you lie, the easier it is to keep lying. You know, like when you kind of crossed the lines with certain things. I think this is making a very big generalized point, but I think there's some truth to it, that just becomes like easier and easier. It's like, Oh, I've done it once. So whatever was holding me back before was not strong enough. Just gonna keep going. Yeah. All right, we

Brandee   28:06  

have an Austin, I think we're at two minutes, but I just want to bring it back to like, this is when I think this is a good place to bring it back to like, viewing these companies as people and like, okay, humanizing them, so that we can like communicate with them and let them because of their and also if their goal is profit, and fossil fuel becomes less profitable or cement industry building cement becomes less popular, profitable in the like building an industry sector, then they will have to shift because they won't make a profit if there's less reliance less need for for these materials. Yeah, fossil fuel, etc.

Hannah  28:48  

So, God, it's so complex,

Brandee   28:51  

and an easy place to start. And I'll link it in the shownotes is, there's a petition, you can sign going around for the Biden administration, they're like, looks like they're, they're having officially like given the green light for this Willow oil project. So there's like a really easy thing you can fill out online. And then there's options to like leave a voice like to call, which I do want to do, but it's harder to do because the phone calls to stop this oil project in the Arctic that okay, Trump, like was pushing it through, but then it got stopped before environmental reasons. But now the Biden administration is pushing it there, despite him saying, you know, I care about the climate basically. And like, we're gonna, you know, make moves to, to make things a bit better. So this just doesn't make sense to me. I mean, it does in the context of our capitalist society, and money and profit, and powerful, powerful people apply. So dismantle the fossil fuel industry is, I think, where I would like to, I just want to shift my mindset a bit more to these these people, these few people who are in charge. So I'm looking into more ways that

Hannah  29:54  

that I can do that kind of strategic effort.

Brandee   29:58  

Yeah, more strategic effort. Last still living my life how I choose to because it it feels values. Exactly, exactly. So I think we'll leave it there because we're less than a minute. I don't know how many seconds are left. So all right check out all links and resources. Thank you for listening head to the show notes the T on sustainable 25. And we will 25 Next one. We

Hannah  30:23  

love it. Whoo.

Hannah  30:29  

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast. Now go share it with a friend, a co-worker, a partner, a family member, or whoever. A pet, your cat, someone on the street.

Brandee   30:41  

Whoever you think could use a little more support on their sustainability journey, share it.

Hannah  30:47  

You can send them over to our website, And while you're there, check out the show notes for more info on today's topic. 

Brandee   30:56  

All right, Give-a-Shitter, tea you later. Get it? Tea you later? As in, see you later? So punny… 

Hannah   31:01


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