Some high profile CEOs are taking action to support legislation to curb emissions that contribute to global warming. Like President Bush’s recent speech on excessive CEO pay, the subject of recent comment on these pages, it comes as a surprise to many.
In his Wall Street Journal column this week, where he praised the CEOs for taking the lead, Alan Murray asked “Why has the business community suddenly turned green?”. There are several reasons, of course, not the least of which is the hope of getting in on the ground floor to help draft the legislation they know an alarmed public and a Democratic Congress will demand. Some companies, like GE, where CEO Jeffrey Immelt is spearheading the move for new laws, stand to make huge profits from nuclear sales and other measures to stem emissions. But there is a larger issue to consider here before we go around handing out awards to CEOs for doing the obvious (which will probably be taken by some as another excuse for bigger bonuses). My comment responding to Mr. Murray’s piece is available at the Forum section of the Journal or below for those without a subscription.
Would we be wondering why Captain Smith slowed down when he had reports of icebergs nearby? Unfortunately, he did not. The rest is history. It was called the Titanic.
When disaster’s portents surround us, it is wise to act and not stand back and allow the unthinkable to happen. We hire leaders for their vision and ability to avoid calamity, not for their propensity to sound the alarm after catastrophe occurs. In that regard, it is a sad commentary on the quality of business leadership that we have to ask, “Why are they doing it?” when many less illustrious figures saw the dangers some time ago and have attempted to adjust their own conduct, and those of their policy-makers, accordingly.
It is not leadership these CEOs are engaged in by responding to the dire fears of climate change at this point. It is manning the lifeboats.