On Monday, February 4, our Sustainability and the Future of Fashion class at LIM College shared a conversation with Founder and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, Karenna Gore. We spoke about climate change and its relation to ethics and social justice on a global scale.
Daughter of former Vice President Al Gore Jr., Ms. Gore had a political upbringing, but her professional expertise lies in ecological conservation, ministry, and social justice. Gore founded the Center for Earth Ethics in 2015, after the Religions for the Earth conference held at Union in 2014. At this conference, over 200 religious and spiritual leaders gathered to emphasize climate as a moral issue and apply faith-based activism to help fix it. Gore explained that the Center’s purpose is to generate dialogue around the immorality of climate change and train leaders to implement change across the world.
I found Gore’s focus on social justice and ministry to be intriguing because it is a niche perspective on our threatened ecosystem. When talking about climate change, most people think of the very tangible effects it has on the earth’s landscape and our weather system. However, listening to Gore refocused my lens toward the humanitarian crises—which include threats like floods, food shortages, and large-scale displacements of populations—that will result if change is not made now. Gore believes that the magnitude of hope and good-will that accompany followers of faith can be the catalyst society needs to spark progressive efforts toward conserving our planet and improving our society.
Being that we are taking this sustainability course at a business-focused fashion college, how can we change the fashion industry to better serve the environment? Gore had a number of solutions to this problem, one of which included measuring the success of a business beyond profit. She explained that examining a brand’s globalism and ecological footprint are very relevant measurements of a company’s effect on the people it serves internationally as well as how its business practices affect the environment. I believe if every fashion brand started to prioritize their ecological footprint, that alone would initiate visible change on our planet.
On a macro level, we talked about government and its role in climate change and conservatory efforts. Joining our lecture was Professor Gayathri Banavara, from LIM’s Marketing, Management & Finance department. Professor Banavara asked if government policy should play a role in conservatory efforts. She used, as an example, India, which has imposed a policy on incoming corporations to contribute 2% of their profits to maintaining India’s landscape and resources and improving their infrastructure. Gore implored the helpfulness of this practice and explained that government policy can play a major role in climate change. If political leaders used their power and influence to create conservatory policies and eco-friendly regulations, companies and people as a whole would be forced to take these issues seriously and implement change. She also explained that similar to business, governments measure a nation’s success with a bottom-line mentality, considering only GDP. The problem is, GDP does not measure aspects like pollution, depletion of resources or environmental harm. Nations are being held to a standard of profitability only, and it is that mentality that has led to our overuse of resources.
I found Gore’s presentation and dialogue inspiring, because it allowed my perception of climate change and the realities of it to come full circle. I came away feeling that it is important to know and share this information—we must emphasize the immorality of ignoring our changing environment and warn against the humanitarian crisis that will result should we continue this way. As future business leaders and advocates for change, we must use this knowledge to change how business is conducted. There is much more at stake than hotter summers.