The Greening of Rupert Murdoch

Attendees of last week's meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative were asked to make specific commitments toward advancing solutions to global problems such as poverty, religious and ethnic conflict and climate change. While Richard Branson's planned investment of approximately $3 billion in renewable energy initiatives has taken a large share of the press, companies not immediately identified with humanitarian or green causes also accepted Clinton's challenge.

Wal-Mart plans to leverage its purchasing power to reduce waste by encouraging environmentally friendly packaging. In Nicaragua, Merck plans to immunize 600,000 infants a year against rotavirus. But no global problem-solving plan was more surprising than Rupert Murdoch's announcement, reported in the Financial Times, that he aims to tackle climate change by making News Corp. carbon neutral.

A carbon neutral company releases no net carbon dioxide emissions. This is achieved by reducing emissions and offsetting what emissions they do produce by planting trees or investing in other energy conservation projects that reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions. On the heels of the Clinton Global Initiative conference, The Financial Times quotes Murdoch saying he was "examining" how to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions "in every country where we are."

Murdoch is an unlikely crusader against global warming. He's long been skeptical of anthropogenic climate change. Liberals have often accused the News Corp. media empire of censorship and biased coverage when it comes to the issue of global warming.

In a review of "An Inconvenient Truth" that appeared in the News Corp.-owned New York Post, many felt reviewer Kyle Smith spoke for his corporate master when he accused

"Look carefully at Gore's charts and you'll see that the worst horrors take place in the future of his imagination."

Given his history, Murdoch's U-turn on this issue is enough to provoke whiplash. Yet, perhaps his change of heart was not as rapid as that of Saul on the road to Damascus. There were recent indications that Murdoch was reevaluating his stance on global warming. In August, Murdoch invited Al Gore to give his climate change presentation at the annual News Corp meeting in Pebble Beach.

But what has provoked Murdoch to open his mind about global warming?

Signs suggest Murdoch's son James, presumable heir apparent since his brother Lachlan's resignation from News Corp. last year, may be influencing his father on this issue. This March, as CEO, of British satellite operator BSkyB, James spearheaded a carbon neutral policy for the company, setting a target to reduce corporate carbon dioxide emissions by 10% below 2002/2003 levels by 2010.

What do you think caused Murdoch's change of heart? Is it an example of jumping on the popular bandwagon, a true conversion, or something in between? Also, what do you think of other commitments pledged by people and corporations thanks to the Clinton Global Initiative?

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  • Judd

    Here is my thought. Rupert Murdoch is a smart and savvy man and he realizes that going carbon neutral is an important way to ensure that he not only stays current with a younger generation, but also a way in which he can ensure that his company can leapfrog its competitors by reducing corporate inefficiencies and adapt to the growing pressure for forward looking conservatism.

  • Derrick Daye

    Social responsibility is no longer an option. Having a cause/making a contribution is now an expectation (from consumers) on the platform of big business. Companies that recognize this see the benefits for their brand(s) and their cause. I think Murdoch's move signals he 'gets it'. Climate change is clearly one of the defining issues of our time and as the issue grows in profile more organizations will look to carry a torch for this cause. The planet needs all the help it can get. Let's hope many follow Murdoch’s example.

  • Andy Polaine

    I have no doubt his son has had great influence. He just moved back to Australia didn't he? I know from living there that some of the climate change and environmental destruction is quite visible.

    But really some kind of tipping point (yeah, I know.. sorry) has been reached in the last month or so. There seems to be a political and corporate 'who's the greenest?' competition that has just started.

    All these companies will have had/tolerated environmentalists on their books as a kind of insurance. If they turned out to be loonies, no harm done. If they turned out to be right (no surprise there) then they can be pushed to the fore and the insurance policy cashed in.

    The problem has been how to get people on the bandwagon. Let's not complain now that they are there. The more 'trendy' environmental concerns become politically and commercially, the better.

  • Mik

    I can't speak to Murdoch's motives, although it certainly sounds like the son could be the driver here.

    As to the other commitments achieved at the Clinton Global Initiative, I have a thought. Although it may be a stretch to call these actions by billionaires and corporations a "grass roots movement", perhaps we've entered an era when the major problems we face today will be tackled (and solved) by people, and not governments.

    Actually in hindsight, maybe we've always been in that era and just didn't know it.

  • roger fulton

    Clinton has a lot of sins to make up and he is redeeming himself a lot faster OUTSIDE of the office of President, rather than in it.