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  • Writer's pictureMarkus Starmer

I Could Have Done More

Amidst the overwhelmingly powerful panoply of scenes that make up the movie Schindler’s List, there is one that moves me more than any other. It’s the moment when Schindler realises that everything he has done to help his Jewish charges is not enough. As he struggles to contain the emotional torment that plays upon his soul, Itzhak Perlman's haunting melody plays in the background: 'I Could Have Done More'.

Almost two years ago I wrote an open letter on LinkedIn to Noel Quinn, imploring that HSBC ‘do more’ to help belay the devastating effects of climate change. I offered the global banking giant a highly effective way to start and lead a global landslide in the reduction of the worst GWP gas emissions. I was positive that having already embraced tackling the crisis (and knowing Noel personally), that HSBC would do whatever they could to make a difference. Politicians could not be relied upon to act, but surely the corporate world would have more appetite to do good?

I was wrong. I was referred to the regional Sustainability Head in Canada, who made it clear that my suggested initiative was neither necessary or welcome.

Since then, I have had many similar conversations with CEOs and Sustainability Heads alike. Disturbingly, in their focus upon achieving Net Zero targets, many seem unaware or careless of the fact that (as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us) methane and nitrous oxide emissions are respectively 25 and 300 times more damaging to our world than the carbon dioxide emissions corporates aim to reduce. Yet when I offer a simple yet powerful way for their companies to do more in the fight reduce these most harmful of emissions that will inevitably negate all the good Net Zero initiatives do, they are uninterested.

Naively, I had expected business leaders to care, if only for the sake of their own families. I believed those with sustainability titles might genuinely be trying to save the planet. Yet all I have experienced is dull intransigence or PR showboating, geared to satisfy investors. No urgency. No determination to make an impact. No drive to do whatever is necessary.

It was no surprise when I recently read that we will exceed the 1.5 °C warming target we needed to stay below, by 2027 not 2030 as was believed a mere two years ago. So it seems that at best, we can expect that future generations will witness environmental devastation and experience hardships that we have barely begun to sample as yet.

Meanwhile the CEOs of today’s global corporations and their sustainability 'champions' have it within their power to make a difference. So why are they not doing enough, or nearly as much as they could? Is it greed, ignorance, carelessness or simple corporate cowardice?

As our planet ups the ante in its revenge upon us for our careless treatment of it, I wonder if there will be a point at which these people, who could do so much more, will come (too late) to a Schindler-like grim realization that ‘I could have done more?

Or will they save their souls and muster the courage to act now?

Please share this article in the hope that it will reach a CEO or sustainability head who really wants to save our world. Thank you.

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