Last week’s Supreme Court ruling struck a very strong cord for me regarding any “progressive” mass agenda. As I understand it, corporations can now;
* spend whatever they want
* for/with whoever they want,
* whenever they want.
The span of influence now open to corporations is staggering. Since corporations usually have a vested interest in the status quo, the ruling becomes a real threat to progress and change. Obama is quoted saying as much in this NY Times piece – “the ruling would also make it “more difficult to pass common-sense laws” to promote energy independence or expand health care.”
After the shock wore off, I starting to think about how this could impact sustainability. After all, politicians are by large extent marketers – they are sellers of ideas and platforms/agendas. And if sustainability isn’t on the agenda for their corporate constituents, individual voices could get a lot quieter vs. the new megaphone of corporations.
At first blush, this empowers the bulk electric, oil and gas companies to keep on with their cash cow agendas and just raise the volume of their lobbyist efforts. Exxon, Mobile, BP – they can all continue to do some light marketing towards sustainability as pure PR to cover themselves publicly.
But let’s look at the other side. There are some significant companies that have publicly declared roadmaps and future spending that’s significantly tied to new green ways of doing business. GE, Intel, Cisco – they’re betting real development and marketing dollars on sustainability. Many of the recent “I’m an IBMer” 30 second TV spots directly showcase efforts towards making smarter and more sustainable solutions possible.
Marketing and social media have the potential to play a huge role here. Will corporations do “what’s right” because they’ve figured out the math makes it what’s right for them? And how will individual voices calling for real change – individuals whose influence is amplified by social media to drive brand loyalty and dollars among their network – motivate corporations to continue down the sustainable path?
The unintended consequences of the Supreme Court decision could actually drive sustainability, mobilizing both concerned citizens and vested corporations alike to keep green on the national radar.