Customers have a say

Customers have a say

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Xinhua
Wildlife experts clean a pelican covered in oil. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused an environmental catastrophe. Photo: Xinhua

By Cameron Dueck

Thousands of barrels of crude oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, polluting fishing grounds and threatening coral reefs and beaches.

The companies that owned the equipment and oil well at the heart of the spill are blaming each other for the accident. None of them are willing to take full responsibility for the environmental catastrophe their business has caused.

Who is responsible for the environment? Is it the companies that make billions of dollars in profit from harvesting the earth's resources?

Should the governments that collect taxes on oil and make the laws protecting the environment be responsible? Or is it you and I, who use the energy being produced and select the governments in charge of making laws?

The easy answer of course is that everyone is responsible, and if everyone took their responsibility seriously, problems like this wouldn't happen.

But in reality it's more complicated than that because everyone involved has different levels of power and control over the situation.

Most of the world's leading companies today spend millions of dollars on corporate social responsibility.

Corporate responsibility for environmental problems is becoming more important because the world's leading companies have immense power and wealth. In many cases, they have more power than the governments of the countries in which they operate.

As a customer, you can send a signal to corporations by buying only goods and services that are produced in an eco-friendly way.

If enough people say 'no thanks' to products that hurt the environment, waste natural resources or exploit poor people, corporations will try to produce them in a more responsible way.

Cameron is available to speak to primary and secondary students about environmental and climate change issues as well as his recent Arctic sailing expedition. Contact info@openpassageexpedition.com

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