[Issue 094] How I stopped "carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes."


Join me, as I take you through my latest reflections…


I spend a lot of time reading about companies. Their choices, their behavior, their impact.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about my own personal responsibility for improving the world, which includes my environmental impact, consumption decisions and the types of businesses I support.

The amount of time I spend thinking about these issues is pretty much how we landed on the first 2 (of 3) defining principles for ABL:

  1. BETTER BUSINESS. Companies serve people, and the people demand moral responsibility. Better business prioritizes people and the planet above profits. As consumers, we keep companies in check by staying informed and making meaningful choices at checkout.

  2. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY. We all play a role in protecting the planet, not just corporations. We each carry the personal power to make better choices every day. Together, our individual choices lead us toward a more sustainable future.

One article in particular has me asking myself critical questions as it relates to collective responsibility: I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle.

The excerpt below is particularly worth sharing. In it, she talks about people "confessing" their environmental sins to her (emphasis mine):

I don’t blame anyone for wanting absolution. I can even understand abdication, which is its own form of absolution. But underneath all that is a far more insidious force. It’s the narrative that has both driven and obstructed the climate change conversation for the past several decades. It tells us climate change could have been fixed if we had all just ordered less takeout, used fewer plastic bags, turned off some more lights, planted a few trees, or driven an electric car. It says that if those adjustments can’t do the trick, what’s the point?

The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.
It turns environmentalism into an individual choice defined as sin or virtue, convicting those who don’t or can’t uphold these ethics.When you consider that the same IPCC report outlined that the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions come from just a handful of corporations — aided and abetted by the world’s most powerful governments, including the US — it’s victim blaming, plain and simple.

When people come to me and confess their green sins, as if I were some sort of eco-nun, I want to tell them they are carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes. That the weight of our sickly planet is too much for any one person to shoulder.


I've heard the stat before, the one about 100 companies being responsible for 71% of global emissions. But this was the first time I saw the source and dug into it. Unsurprisingly ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988.


This is one of those newsletter issues where I'm probably going to leave you with more questions than answers. Because while I was encouraged by that article to stop beating myself up for all the ways I contribute to many of our environmental issues (forgetting my reusable bags, not knowing how to properly recycle certain things, buying a fast fashion item when I know I shouldn't...), I am now left wondering where I draw the line regarding personal responsibility.

I think the one thing that's clear is that corporate responsibility is nonnegotiable, especially when it comes to climate change but also for inequality and a range of other social issues. That then leaves us to decide what actions we each should take to push for the companies we work for and buy from to change.

One thing I'm committing myself to doing is writing (okay... emailing) companies to express my concern about practices that I don't like. I have no idea how much of an impact this will have, as I'm sure it'll depend on the company and the timing, but it feels like a useful way to continue to use my voice.

What about you? Hit reply and let me know your thoughts on this. I'd love to have a richer discussion.




This Mexican researcher has discovered a way to turn cactus leaves into a material with similar properties to plastic. She says it's not toxic and is biodegradable.
Learn more [BBC] ⟶

HSBC Women In U.K. Are Paid Bonuses 70% Below Male Staff. The female staff of one of HSBC units in the U.K. are reportedly paid bonuses that average 70% less than their male counterparts. This, however, is narrowed from a bonus gap of 85% the year before. // BLOOMBERG

Gender Stereotypes Banned In British Advertising. Britain has started new legislation that bans commercials from depicting gender stereotypes. No longer will advertisers be able to depict men who are unable to change diapers, women who can't park, women who are cleaning while men kick their feet up on the couch, and many other typical advertisements with gender stereotypes. They will also be banning ads that connect stereotyped features with success, like pushing bravery and aggression for boys, or tenderness and passivity for girls. Companies have been given a 6 month adjustment period. // NY TIMES

Activists Urge Google to Break Up Before Regulators Force It To. Shareholders of Alphabet Inc, the world’s biggest internet ad seller and parent company of Google, are working with a U.S. based group called SumOfUs, which is aimed at curbing the massive power of big corporations, to present a proposal at their annual shareholder meeting that is requesting that Alphabet starts a strategic reduction in the size of the company. The proposal comes on the tail of an antitrust investigation into Google. // UK REUTERS 

Women Are Missing Out On The Biggest Job Boom in America. The clean energy industry has been welcoming more women into its leader positions in recent years, however, it is still dominated by men. This article discusses the job opportunities and how the industry is booming with new jobs. 1 in every 50 new positions created in the U.S. were related to solar power in 2016, but women are still struggling to find jobs within the industry. Read on for some explanations for the rift. // BLOOMBERG

Bitcoin Leaves a Carbon Footprint As Large as Las Vegas, Study Finds. A study has found that Bitcoin requires the same amount of electricity and carbon footprint as a huge metropolitan area like Las Vegas, or a small country like Sri Lanka. Bitcoin generates approximately 22 megatons of CO2 emissions each year, the report also estimates. // CNN 

The U.S. Just Set a New Record For The Longest Time Without A Federal Minimum Wage Increase. The U.S. has not had a minimum wage increase since 2009, which has become the longest time for not having a wage increase at 9 years and 10 months. The current federally mandated minimum wage is at just $7.25, which when adjusted for inflation, is actually worth less than the minimum wage in 1950. Several states have their own state mandated minimum wage, and some companies, like Amazon, have started creating an internal minimum wage for their employees that is higher than the federal minimum wage. // FAST COMPANY

Drugmakers Sue To Block Federal Rule Requiring Drug Prices in TV Ads. Three pharmaceutical companies have sued the U.S. federal government in response to a proposal that would require drug manufacturers in the U.S. to include the price of the prescription in its television ads. The companies claim the proposal violates the first amendment, but the proposal is in response to escalating costs of prescriptions. // WSJ

Google To Invest $1Bn To Fight Tech-Fueled Housing Crisis. Google will be investing approximately $1bn in housing throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to help the homelessness crisis, and the first step they are taking is to repurpose $750m of land currently zoned for Google to build a commercial building or office on to become residential housing over the coming 10 years for all income levels, and another $250m will be put into an investment fund as an incentive for other investors or developers to build more affordable housing units. // THE GUARDIAN

This week's headlines were curated by ABL's intern, Lora.


Here’s my confession: I don’t care how green you are. I want you in the movement for climate justice.

- Mary Annaise Heglar

Nikita T. Mitchell