Research from Walker College sustainability director supports case that consumers can affect corporate climate action

In a recent post entitled Climate Change: The Ball Is In Our Court, Erik Kobayashi-Solomon cited Dr. Rajat Panwar, associate professor of Sustainable Business Management at Appalachian State University, to explain why greenhouse gas emissions are steadily rising despite growing public awareness of the scientific certainty of climate change. The article points to a low level of corporate awareness of the carbon footprint associated with supply chains and a shift toward "the offshoring of manufacturing to low-income countries in the developing world." Kobayashi-Solomon uses Amazon, one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world, as an example. 

"Amazon reported at the end of last month that its GHG emissions had risen by 15% compared to the previous year’s, despite its highly-publicized Climate Pledge."

Dr. Panwar, who serves as director of sustainable business in the Walker College of Business, commented in a recently published research paper on supply chain-related emissions.

"The Amazon situation is just an example of the bigger problem surrounding corporate claims of environmental responsibility. Most global corporations now make such claims, but the reality is that half of the carbon emissions since the industrial revolution have happened within the last 30 to 35 years. It seems that corporate environmental disclosures hide more than they reveal.”

Related: Sustainable business professor advises corporations to develop local production and supply networks

According to Kobayashi-Solomon, "Panwar says one problem is that corporations often outsource much of their work, which not only reduces their control over the environmental impact they have, but also their very knowledge of that impact. One study Panwar cites revealed 80 percent of 1,300 firms submitting data to the SEC could not even determine the country of origin of their products, let alone any information about their carbon footprint. Panwar’s research found that companies that build vertically integrated supply chains are measurably more socially and environmentally responsible than those who outsource to third-party vendors. In the words of the old business adage, if you want to manage it, you have to measure it. A vertically integrated supply chain forces a company to measure their production process carefully; armed with these measurements, they can decide how best to manage and reduce GHG emissions." 

Kobayashi-Solomon concludes that corporations aren't better managing their supply chains due to consumer demand. Companies only do what we as consumers and investors reward them for doing. If we reward them for systematically making our planet unlivable, they'll do it...

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About the Walker College of Business

The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University delivers transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college places emphasis on international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurial programs and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 3,000 undergraduates in 10 majors and 175 graduate students in three master's programs, the Walker College is accredited by AACSB International – the premier global accrediting body for schools of business. Learn more at

About Sustainable Business at Appalachian

Appalachian’s Walker College of Business is committed to advancing sustainable business practices that promote responsible management of economic, social and natural resources. The theory and practice of sustainable business recognizes that the economy, environment and society (the triple bottom line) are interconnected and interdependent, and strives to enhance the business model so that it can flourish and thrive to benefit future generations. The college offers a sustainable business minor available to business and nonbusiness majors, a bachelor’s degree in environmental economics and policy, and an MBA concentration in sustainable business. The programs focus on student engagement, research and community involvement. For more information, visit

Rajat Panwar
Published: Jul 24, 2020 1:45pm