I just changed cell phone providers. Why? My former provider, Telus, was tweeting its enthusiastic support for the newly announced Canadian federal carbon tax of $10 per tonne emitted in 2018. (The levy will increase every year, to $50 per tonne in 2022). See the story in the National Post here.

Telus, as a publicly traded corporation, has no business in supporting any government policy or tax—unless all of its owners decide that this is what they want the company to do, instead of creating wealth for themselves. Obviously, no shareholder consultation was done regarding the carbon tax, as the tweet followed the government’s announcement almost instantaneously. Nor is it likely that a consensus could be reached among all shareholders, despite the majority views on climate change and its alleged carbon dioxide connection.

It is the fiduciary duty of the executives of a corporation to maximize the company’s profits, to the benefit of the shareholders—and not to engage in diluting profits. The executives can of course hold whatever private views they want about carbon taxes, but they must keep them to themselves (or tweet about them as private citizens) and not let be distracted from their fiduciary duty.

The outrage against Telus’ support for the carbon tax on social media was swift, as angry customers were threatening to leave the company for its competitors. The new carbon tax is estimated to cost the average Canadian family $1,250 in the first year, and go up from there. In Alberta, the center of oil production in Canada, where the economy has suffered the most from the low prices and where unemployment is high, Telus’ carbon tax cheering tweet was considered particularly callous.

Obviously, it’s not in the self-interest of Telus to appear wishing hardship for its customers. So after 17 hours of pummeling in the social media, Telus tweeted an apology: “Our carbon pricing tweet late yesterday was not meant to be partisan or political, but we know it appeared that way, and we are sorry.” This was also what the Telus customer service representative told me when I canceled my contract. Clearly, Telus doesn’t get that its role is the creation of material values (cell phone service), not encouraging more taxation. On the contrary, it should oppose the carbon tax and any other taxes as they destroy human welfare.

Many commentators have argued that a federal carbon tax in Canada is completely futile, as Canada’s carbon emissions are only about 1.5% of the total global emissions, and that gasoline consumption is unlikely to decline regardless of price increases.

But the fundamental reason why business and everyone else should oppose a carbon tax is rarely addressed in any of the public discussion: there is no reason to try to lower carbon emissions—if human flourishing is the standard of value.

The main argument for decreasing CO2 emissions is that they cause catastrophic climate change—this is now taken as the unquestioned truth and “settled science.” However, those who hold such a view ignore the fact that climate is always changing, and the impact of CO2 due to any human activity on it (and particularly, on global temperatures) is negligible. To take drastic measures such as carbon ‘pricing’ means compromising human flourishing—lowering people’s standard of living and quality of life—for some alleged, unproven benefit of lower atmospheric carbon levels.

Carbon dioxide is not a toxic pollutant but a greenhouse gas that is necessary for plant growth and for a healthy planet. Historically, the current level of C02 in the atmosphere is relatively low, and lowering it further could endanger all life on Earth. See Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore’s informative explanation here.

Telus says it’s a founding member of Smart Prosperity, an organization of business leaders and others who pledge to fight for cleaner environment and economic growth. There are likely no opponents for such goals, as they are consistent with human flourishing. (Whether business leaders should participate in such organizations instead of focusing on economic growth of their own companies and keeping their pollution in check, is another matter). But Telus and other businesses should recognize that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and there is no evidence that curbing carbon emissions through taxation or other government measures has any human benefit at all.

SHARE
Previous articleGovernment regulation of business: Protection or harm?
Next articleThe oil and gas unemployment crisis and how to fix it
Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada.She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad.Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada.Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good for you.

    I’d already fired the Can’tTelusAnything phone company for falsely claiming there is no difference in reception between different models of phones.

    There’s limited choice of providers in Canada, government attempts to increase competition have not worked because foreign investment is restricted in a capital intensive industry. (Apropos your earlier article.) AFAIK or most people there’s essentially only the Bell/Telus/Virgin network and the Rogers network (which is not as extensive).

    Many business people are suckers for Chicken Little pitches, which is surprising as they are presumed to have ability to avoid fraudsters. (Though the owner of the predominant Telus dealer in my area fell for an investment scammer, even sending more money when he went into hiding.) They aren’t “leaders” but sheep being used by anti-human wolves. Chicken Little pitches are permeating professional ranks, such as IEEE and professional licensing bodies. Apparently many engineers don’t apply professional epistemology to matters outside of their specific professional work. They should read the website of Friends of Science, with particular emphasis on the basic physics of absorption and emission of greenhouse gas molecules and the saturation effect of the overlap of spectra of carbon dioxide with dihydrogen monoxide vapor (the most plentiful greenhouse gas). And the Climate Audit blog which provides examples of how “scientists” botch and fudge analyses.

    • Excellent, Keith! I know the current oligopoly (due to government regulation) is bad for us, but owning an unlocked phone makes it possible to switch providers at a drop of a hat. I have notified Telus and send them a link to my post. I also tried to post it on their FB page–not sure if they removed it not. I also informed my new provider, Bell, why I switched, and told them I expect better from them. (My hopes are not very high, given what kind of power the government sanctioned oligopoly gives these companies).–At least I can use different SIM cards when traveling.

  2. You can switch to a carrier with compatible over-the-air protocol. Bell runs mostly on the Telus network in western Canada, Virgin runs on the Bell network, Different customer service and some difference in capabilities. (Some phones may be able to run different protocols, for greater use worldwide, even on some frequencies not used here.)

  3. I also fired Intact insurance and Petrocan for peddling climate alarmism.
    (The head of Petrocan’s parent, now called Suncor, has fallen for the scam, labels are now on Petrocan fuel pumps. Suncor has large operations in the oil sands of northern Alberta)

    An insurance industry trade association is also doing that, I’ve made my position clear to the PR person from Richmond BC and tried to educate him. But he just points to a study purporting to show increased risk, that I suspect does not include all factors. (Shot time span is a common scam, incomplete data set a common scientific error, damage correlation to where people built is another error – demonstrated by a study in Africa. One has to either review the studies oneself for find a credible person who has, division of labour would help, perhaps a good task for a management course. 🙂

Leave a Reply