Blogging for Sustainability
There are contradictions between promises and outcome in environmental law. One of them is that international environmental law promises that environmental problems can be solved through the participation of all, yet some actors in practice exercise a stronger influence on legislative procedures and decision making than others.
New modes of existing in the world take time to develop. This is clear throughout the history of the law. It is also a mode of thinking about responsibility and sustainability that is making its way into company and securities law. It is increasingly the case, for example, that directors and investors are expected to have regard for the ‘long term’ when pursuing their actions and interventions. In the UK, section 172 of Companies Act 2006 (CA 2006), the Corporate Governance Code (now 2018), and the Stewardship Code (2012) are examples of instruments that mark out longer temporal horizons and counsel patience.
When is the right time to act on the environment? The environmental activities of the business sector and their governance, especially in regard to climate change, have crucial temporal dimensions. As I argued in my book Time and Environmental Law (Cambridge University Press, 2017), which investigates this topic in depth, time is important because it enables us to measure change and thereby to understand the relationship between events over temporal intervals. As the world changes, we need to know when to respond to that change or to initiate change. Timing is thus a navigational tool for regulators, business managers and other actors to help determine the most appropriate occasion to act.
“We need ecological literacy”, Benjamin Richardson proclaimed at the Time and Sustainabilty Conference (and has written; 2017). One of the many gems, or perhaps in a metaphor more in tune with the topic, seeds, that I took with me from this most enriching conference. More than a month later now, I am unbundling my ‘carrier bag’ (Le Guin, 1996; Haraway, 2016) and sifting through its contents for those seeds. Some of them are sprouting already, some I don’t know where to put, all of them will be planted, somehow, sometime. Patience. Research is slow, it needs attention, care, fertilization. And perseverance. Much like law, I guess.
Climate change is viewed as a long-term problem by most directors and corporate actors, but the financial impact of climate change is largely misunderstood. Short-termism pervades corporate decision-making, creating a temporal dissonance between the perceived long-term timescales of climate change, and short-term corporate and investment decisions. This dissonance means that climate change is not being factored into today’s corporate decisions or in asset valuations by the market.
Blogging for Sustainability
Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade (SMART) brings together researchers who focus on global, sustainable development, within the planetary boundaries.
Read our blog for current research and latest activities. If you would like to contribute, please contact our editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org.