A binding set of ethical rules to help fix the climate?
As noted in this NY Times article, former Simpson Thacher lawyer turned climate activist Jaime Gamble blames the law for a lot of what has gone wrong in trying to combat climate change. That the law has handcuffed companies from considering anything beyond shareholder primacy.
That kind of talk certainly isn’t new. Jaime’s proposal is that – as excerpted from the article is (and spelled out in detail in this essay from Jaime):
Companies, he suggests, should “adopt a binding set of ethical rules, approved by stockholders and addressing the key ethical dimensions of corporate life” including:
– Their “relationships with employees.”
– Their “relationships with the communities in which they produce and sell.”
-Their “relationships with customers.”
– Their “effects on the environment.”
– And their “effects on future generations.”
Once the rules are in place, he writes, “any shareholder could sue the board of directors for violating the ethical rules — just as any shareholder can today sue the board of directors for violating the maximize rule.”
It’s Jaime’s last bullet that caught my eye. The “effects on future generations.” That intergenerational equity concept isn’t talked about enough – and is critical for changing mindsets that we just can’t ride this out since we’re all going to die soon anyway.
I feel that discount factors have become such a common thing to use that we often forget to challenge the assumptions behind discounting. Yes, I personally may prefer to enjoy a cup of coffee now rather than in a week. So I see that it makes some sense for consumption within individual lifespans. But what makes us think we can discount the future of future generations? Why should the life of a child born in 100 years have less worth than one born today?