In Germany, young climate activists protested at the beginning of the year against the intention of the industrial giant Siemens to supply the signaling technology for coal transportation in Australia. The media took this as an occasion for a classic David-Goliath story. However, the matter is more complicated. As the world's leading technology group with clear climate targets, Siemens is in any case part of the solution. The Friday youth climate protests have put significant pressure on companies to move in a more climate-friendly direction, but now the focus should shift from confrontation to cooperation.
To do this, climate activists must grow out of their like-minded cocoon of moral self-righteousness and seek dialogue with companies. However, current political polarization does not permit such cooperation, even if it is explicitly required by the global goals for sustainable development: According to this, an inclusive and innovative economy is needed to combat global poverty without additional environmental destruction. Post-material needs and sensitivities are secondary there.
Philipp Aerni is director of the Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Zurich.
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