From Consumers to Corporations: Examining the Blame Game in Carbon Footprints and Sustainability

Contributor III

In social justice and activist spaces, personal virtue and action often take the place of blame for wide-reaching issues rather than more significant steps taken by politicians and corporations, affecting millions and billions of people at large. 


This phenomenon occurs with many issues, but the ones I will be talking about today are carbon footprints and sustainability. 


Of course, if you have the means and opportunity to do so, there is nothing wrong with making individual sustainable choices like shopping at thrift stores, avoiding single-use plastics, etc. 


However, like all other things in life, sustainability is not always black and white, and making sustainable choices is not always as easy as it seems. Sustainable options are typically expensive, uncommon in many areas, and non-inclusionary. 


Sustainable fashion alternatives outside big cities generally are out-of-date and non-inclusionary to plus sizes. In big cities, sustainable fashion is typically more expensive. Some big city thrift and vintage stores are substantially more costly than fast fashion clothing, even when reselling fast fashion clothing. Sustainable food alternatives are usually the same; they are more expensive and harder to find. 


So, with these factors and others in mind, why do we, as a society, blame issues like climate change and overconsumption on individuals rather than corporations?


This shift is because of individual “carbon footprints,” coined in 2003 by oil companies to transfer attention and blame from oil companies to individuals regarding climate change and environmentalism. The fault is on corporations for causing the climate crisis and politicians for allowing them to continue to change the earth's atmosphere drastically. 


Realistically, we can't all make the most sustainable choices, and even if we did, as consumers, our individual choices would not make the same significant changes that governments and corporations could make.


Collective action is required at all levels to transition away from fossil fuels and implement systemic change; personal, political, and corporate. 


As individuals, we can amplify our voices through activism and putting pressure on governments and corporations for necessary actions. Our voting choices should prioritize candidates with environmentalism on their agendas and back companies dedicated to cutting their environmental footprint. We must also aim to educate ourselves and those around us about the reality of the climate crisis and the urgency for action.


On a larger scale, we need governments and corporations to take steps towards transitioning to renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. This can include implementing policies such as carbon pricing, investing in renewable energy infrastructure, banning fossil fuel extraction, and phasing out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Companies must also be held accountable for their environmental impact and commit to reducing their emissions and shifting towards sustainable practices.


We all have a role to play in combating climate change, and we must work together to create a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations. It's time to move beyond individual actions towards collective action for systemic change.


Contributor II

Completely agree: it's incredibly manipulative of corporations to conveniently shift the blame to consumers for the mistakes that they themselves have made, solely for the purpose of making more profit. While individual action is powerful, we can see far more change when the major contributors to the climate crisis start looking for sustainable solutions themselves as well.