Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 April 2021
This introductory chapter frames the issue of companies and their role in the climate crisis. It lays out the science of climate change and the causal connection between the historic and present contributions of companies to climate change through their greenhouse gas emissions. The chapter highlights the global temperature goals under the Paris Agreement and the consequential emission reductions it necessitates. This chapter also introduces some key concepts in company law theory such as shareholder primacy and shareholder wealth maximization and their role in Anglo-American company law. The chapter provides an explanation of a number of corporate forms, including traditional for-profit corporate models (both private and public) as well as a variety of hybrid and social enterprise forms. The imperatives of profit making, as illustrated by dominant corporate norms, are relevant (in varying degrees) to all of these corporate forms. The chapter concludes with a summary of systemic barriers of short-termism as well as opportunities such as corporate social responsibility and societal expectations which surround companies in the context of climate change, and why the United Kingdom is used as a model jurisdiction.