President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will pull out of the historic Paris climate agreement has sent shock waves around the world. Although plenty of politics has been infused into the issue (and, remarkably, there’s a still a debate about climate change in the U.S.), a growing number of influential technology companies have signed on to the idea of honoring the deal, regardless of what the federal government does.
The list includes luminaries such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Lyft, Microsoft, Spotify and Tesla. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, went so far as to resign from a presidential advisory council. “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” he tweeted.
Although the tech industry isn’t the only group pushing back—more than 1,000 cities, counties, states, universities and businesses have joined in, CBS News reports—it is clearly taking a leadership position. For example, IBM issued a statement that read: “Whether the U.S. participates in the Paris Agreement or not, IBM will continue its decades-long work to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to help our clients do so as well.”
Here’s the thing: People can debate all they want about what role the U.S. should play in global climate agreements, whether the terms are acceptable and who should participate, but it’s all a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole. The Paris agreement does not have any enforcement provisions. It’s essentially built on the honor system. Nevertheless, tech firms and their leaders understand the importance of a sustainable future.
Coal isn’t coming back any more than the horse and buggy will make a triumphant return. RIP typewriters, landline phones and adding machines. Tech is the future.
Fortunately, operating in a green, sustainable way has evolved from a fringe idea—sometimes ridiculed by corporate leaders—into a mainstream concept. There are now green data centers, green computers and green buildings. It’s about dollars and sense, as well as improving the world.
An ABC/Washington Post poll found that only 28 percent of Americans support the pullout. What’s more, industry seems to have passed government by—at least in the U.S. This is ultimately a good thing. After all, industry is far more influential in shaping thinking and delivering on results than any government mandate or global agreement.
The tech industry, for all its problems and failures, should recognize that it has emerged as a shining beacon for global sensibility. It has the power to lead critical change and shape the future.