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Amy Larkin

Environmental Debt and Corporate Responsibility

Date:August 2015
Location:United States

Amy Larkin, author of Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of A Changing Global Economy, founder of Greenpeace Solutions, and head of the consulting firm Nature Means Business.

Amy Larkin is an author, activist and consultant who works with businesses to help them recalculate the value of the natural world and count the real costs of doing business. In this exclusive Green Interview, Larkin discusses the concept—and subject of her 2013 book—environmental debt, as well as corporate responsibility.

Environmental debt

Award-winning environmentalist Amy Larkin says that accounting systems and business models have to change so that they include the financial contributions of the natural world and stop ignoring the long-hidden costs of environmental damage. She gives the example of coal: despite what we actually pay for it, Larkin says coal might actually be the most expensive form of electricity in the long term. “The price of coal is cheap only because it is subsidized by its own victims,” she writes. Larkin argues that because we haven’t included the real costs of coal in the financial leger—climate change-related weather, droughts, and hurricanes—it appears cheap. But she says, “You’re just not paying it at the gas pump or for your electricity. This is the accounting that has to change. This is the business model that has to change,” she says.

Corporate Responsibility

As a consultant who works with businesses to help them recalculate the value of the natural world and the real costs of doing business, Larkin says there’s a growing number of big companies “that are organizing and ready to advocate for changing the rules.” She says that while there is still a long way to go, many are trying to incorporate good environmental standards as well as a system that correctly accounts for profit and loss. Regardless of their motivation, there are some that “advocate for the good,” she says.