The motivations behind Earth Day have evolved over the years. Historically, the environment movement was driven by immediate threats – such as polluted water supplies, chemical spills, and smog-filled air, among others. It was clear that pollution had a tangible and negative impact on our quality of life, and in many ways addressing the most egregious and visible of those issues seemed to really move the needle on environmental issues. In fact, in the US, the bedrock of environmental policies in the 70s, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, were set up as a direct response to the demand of the people involved in awareness campaigns from Earth Day demanding governments to take action. The passion of the people at the time was what drove action from the federal government.
In contrast, Earth Day has now expanded its focus from a local one to match the global implications of climate change. And for businesses, beyond this massive shift in how sustainability and climate issues are impacting society, the other great shift we have seen since Earth Day’s inception is who is leading the charge in taking action – with businesses playing an increasingly key role in this shift. Like other major transformations such as globalisation and the current digitalisation, sustainability transformation is in the early stages of disrupting how businesses operate and think about their role in the world.