Pioneers of Sustainability - Al Gore

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Al Gore was instrumental in changing the perception of environmentalism from a fringe, alternative movement to a mainstream, commercially viable one.

Climate change awareness and environmental activism have been on the rise as the consequences of climate change become more evident such as extreme weather, excess pollution, and ecological destruction. Not long ago, the average person was not aware of sustainability and its importance. Nor of climate change and the dire consequences.

Few individuals have done as much as former United States Vice-President Al Gore in bringing awareness and changing the culture and policy around environmental protection. He has been instrumental in changing the perception of environmentalism from a fringe, alternative movement to a mainstream, commercially viable one. Albert Arnold (Al) Gore was born March 31, 1948, in Washington DC. In 1965, he went to Harvard to study English. There, he discovered his love of politics and the environment. He took a class with professor Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and gained an early awareness of climate change.  

In 1976, he quit law school to run for the US House of Representatives, a seat he would hold for four terms. During his time in Congress, he held the first congressional hearings on climate change and co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste and global temperature rise. Al Gore’s political career progressed. He became a senator and ran for president in 1988 but failed to receive the Democratic Party nomination. In 1992, Bill Clinton selected Gore to be his Vice Presidential candidate and became the 45th Vice President of the United States. In the same year, Al Gore released his book on global warming, "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.” 

Gore partnered with Richard Branson to create the Virgin Earth Challenge, offering $25 million to anyone who could develop technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

As Vice President, he pushed for a carbon tax to modify incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption, which was partially implemented. He created the Globe Program, which used the internet to educate students on the effects of climate change. Most importantly, he negotiated and oversaw the creation of the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that committed industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by adopting sound environmental policies.

After his controversial presidential election defeat by George W. Bush, Gore decided to dedicate his life to environmental activism. Gore began traveling around the world, presenting the science around climate change and the repercussions if we don’t stop it. In 2004, he created Generation Investment Management, a fund management firm that makes sustainable investment portfolios. As of 2017, they had over $14 billion in assets invested in sustainable enterprise. He paved the way for environmentalism and social responsibility in business. 

In 2006, Gore released the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Intending to disprove skeptics on climate change, he adapted his presentations into this film. It was a significant success, receiving praise from critics, standing ovations at film festivals, and winning the Oscars Best Documentary. This film was instrumental in changing the mainstream narrative around climate change and is at the core of much discussion around this issue today. For his work, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Al Gore has since worked with many members of the business community to encourage green development. Gore partnered with Richard Branson to create the Virgin Earth Challenge, offering $25 million to anyone who could develop technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. He created the Alliance for Climate Protection, which has created initiatives with industry to adopt more sustainable technology. He has promoted environmental protection as the UN, the World Economic Forum, and many universities and conferences. 

Gore developed a system to analyze the sustainability of a business, a strategy that is commonly used today. The strategy criteria for this system include: Do its practices, products and services drive revenues, profitability and competitive positioning? Does it avoid borrowing its current earnings from its future earnings? Does it operate its business consistent with a low-carbon, equitable, safe and healthy society? Does it not compromise returns, instead realize the benefits and advantages of sustainable practices in its business strategy? Businesses should assess their systems in place against these criteria to form more sustainable practices. 

Al Gore’s work has been paramount to convincing the world about the importance of environmental protection. Moreso, he found a way to unite businesses, political leaders, and individuals in the fight against climate change. He helped change the way the public views climate change and has arguably helped change human behavior towards the environment. Al Gore has created a brand that has been at the forefront of changing businesses’ perspectives on environmental issues and the marketability of sustainability.

Takeaways

  • Businesses are crucial to a sustainable future.
  • Al Gore has worked closely with companies to assess their environmental impact and create more sustainable practices. 
  • Businesses should compare their current practices against Gore’s criteria for sustainable business operations. 
  • Marketing sustainability has proven to spread environmental awareness that leads to social and political change.

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