In the modern era, capitalism, a system designed for production, and climate change, an ongoing environmental battle, have a less than perfect relationship. While individual activism plays an important role in the fight against climate change, it is hard to ignore the overriding exploitation of the planet by big businesses. 

Historically, capitalism has thrived off of exhausting natural materials and producing waste, destroying the ability of nature to replenish itself. It shows a major contribution to climate change, prompting a demand for urgent action through movements such as the Extinction Rebellion in the UK and the Green New Deal in America. Established in 2018, the Extinction Rebellion has sought out to implement policy changes through protest, wanting the government to take immediate action against climate change, similar to the desire for stimulus funding to green sectors by the Green New Deal. Though, costs for radical reforms rack up high prices, granting a gradual shift towards sustainability instead. 

Since 1998, more than 71% of greenhouse emissions can be rooted back to just 100 companies, as examined in a 2017 study.  Corruption of natural cycles such as carbon, water, phosphorus, and nitrogen, interrupt processes that take millions of years to complete. The central intent of maximizing corporations through the exploitation of materials such as forests, oil, rivers, and livestock, to fit into a “quick and cheap” agenda is a dangerous cycle that is hoped to be broken in the near future.  

The approach of this climate catastrophe is battled not only by movements, however, but by an increase of incorporating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors into companies. The emergence of ESG companies is hoped to have a steady incline, tending to be a better fit for longer investments while utilizing sustainable options. Environmental criteria consider the ability of a company to function through conservation and sustainable practices, while social criteria deals with the relationship of employees, customers, and suppliers, and governance examines leadership, executive pay, and shareholder rights. Firms with ESG principles are no longer ignoring the environmental detriment created by large companies, beginning to shift the view of capitalistic corporations to become more “green.” As the future of business begins to focus on sustainability, the development of economic growth needs to take into account the costs to uphold such social and environmental policies. 

The issues surrounding capitalism when dealing with the environment are in dire need of evolving to turn the fate of global warming around. Mass movements pushing for urgent action, hoping to reach a 2030 deadline, as well as an emergence of new sustainable businesses are promising, hoping for the calls of “green” measures to be amplified. The capitalist system has the capability to shift its focus from fast and easy profit to a more conscious eco-friendly perspective. With integrating economic and environmental interest into new capitalistic strategies, the question now turns to where policies and activism meet and how radical movements need to be in order to help reverse this environmental detriment. 


Noor, Saleha. “Why We Need to Change Capitalism for Climate Action: Earth.Org – Past: Present: Future.” Earth.Org – Past | Present | Future, 19 Aug. 2020,

Reyes, Farid. “Capitalism Is Responsible for Climate Change.” Left Voice,

Hyman, Elliott. “Who’s Really Responsible for Climate Change?” Harvard Political Review, 2 Jan. 2020,

Hyman, Elliott. “Who’s Really Responsible for Climate Change?” Harvard Political Review, 2 Jan. 2020,

Zitelmann, Rainer. “’System Change Not Climate Change’: Capitalism And Environmental Destruction.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 July 2020,

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