Why and How Businesses Can Tackle Climate Change
We live in incredible times, with massive tech and financial developments benefiting businesses greatly. However, with great power comes great responsibility — and in this case, that’s the responsibility for climate change. Until recently, many organizations and industries have gone about everyday processes without thinking about their carbon emissions. However, these emissions will increasingly come at a high financial and social cost.
We might be unsure about exactly how climate change will alter the planet — but the examples we’re seeing all over the world right now don’t look promising. Negative environmental impact will also have a domino effect on business and society.
Business leaders are well aware of the need to act. The trouble comes when deciding on how to act — and the route that is often chosen ends up forgoing long-term benefits for short-term compliance.
Why businesses should tackle climate change
Humans are evolved to pay attention to threats that are immediate and proximate. In the words of Ronald Wright, the author of A Short History of Progress, we are “running 21st-century software on 50,000-year-old hardware”.
That also holds true for climate change. Businesses tend to focus on more immediate and visible challenges or benefits and respond to those. Climate change seems like a “slow burn” in contrast or something that’s not even worth looking at. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Climate change will harm economies, decimate communities, and increase resource scarcity in the near future. All that will have a significant impact on business costs and profit margins. Over the next few years, we’ll see increasingly aggressive climate policies and regulations being set into motion — and retrofitting systems to comply with these could rack up some crazy costs. Being climate-forward before all this happens means that your business is already compliant and seeing the benefits by the time these regulations roll out.
Climate action isn’t something we can sit out any longer — it needs to be baked into the DNA and daily workings of every business in the world. So why not start right away?
How to tackle climate change as a business
The go-to for tackling climate change at an organizational level is almost always Corporate Social Responsibility programs. In addition to this, there are other lucrative ways for businesses to participate in climate action for both their and the planet’s gain.
Invest in natural climate solutions
Natural climate solutions (NCS) center around conservation and restoration of natural resources as well as land management. These solutions aim to improve carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and have a high potential to achieve that.
According to research, nature-based solutions can account for 37% of the reductions in emissions that we need to achieve by 2030. Simultaneously, they are able to boost jobs in countries across the world and protect vulnerable communities and habitats.
Planting trees is perhaps one of the most effective solutions in this category because trees are natural carbon sinks. By partnering with a transparent tree-planting organization, businesses can contribute to reforestation in areas that sorely need it.
Add UN SDGs to business goals
Business goals are traditionally reflective of financial bottom lines. However, tweaking them to reflect the UN’s sustainable goals can help businesses achieve climate action alongside high productivity and profits. It also helps that private firms have all the right ingredients to help further SDGs: people, resources, capital, and — potentially — the right leadership.
Businesses that work with supply chains are uniquely positioned to adapt, for example, Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. The supply chain must be seen as an extension of the company and the community — which means climate-first policies that apply within the office apply to the longer chain as well.
The United Nations is instrumental in shaping the interactions of businesses with climate change. Their initiative, Caring for Climate, brings together 400 companies from 60 countries. By signing up for this initiative, businesses can link existing efforts to an UN-led initiative, lean on the power of other companies striving towards similar goals, and shape the climate policy agenda on a global scale.
Take action from within
Today’s workforce is well aware of where they stand on climate issues. Many individuals are already fighting for climate justice outside of work — and businesses can leverage their knowledge and expertise at an organizational level. Employees hold tremendous power as they are instrumental in influencing innovation, functioning, and resilience as a team.
Doing this will mean that every job description should link to the business’ climate goals. Accountants, for example, can crunch numbers and align financial resources with climate goals. The cafeteria team can lobby for plant-based or low-meat diets and reduce food waste. Job roles that use up a lot of electricity — which is most desk jobs today — can include carbon offsetting as part of their performance metrics. Both the bottom line and the environment should gain with every employee’s good performance. Every job should be looked at like a climate job.
Spearhead projects that make a difference
While individual-level day-to-day action help, a huge difference can be made by backing a national or global green initiative. For example, the Zurich Insurance Group promotes the Zurich Forest Project, through which they’ve planted a whopping 1 million seedlings of around 120 selected native species in vulnerable areas.
Supporting major initiatives like these can help organizations fire up their imagination and contribute to global climate action. It also makes a massive difference in local communities — by seeing a huge organization leading the charge, more and more people join the train and do their bit to support them.
This is even more achievable if organizations partner up with local NGOs and communities. Such an exercise builds trust and respect and contributes to a more resilient social ecosystem that can harmoniously adapt to climate change.
Lobby dollars on pro-climate policies
The saying, “put your money where your mouth is,” is apt for this suggestion. Through lobbying, the corporate community has historically had a significant effect on policy-making. According to studies, the amount of money spent on lobbying is directly tied to how likely legislation is introduced and even passed. Companies are being urged to “fight back against anti-climate interests” and concentrate lobbying expenditures on a more secure climate future. This is especially true for tech companies that have held particular sway over policies created over the past few years but remain mostly silent on climate policy.
A great example of this effort is the 1 in 5 for 1.5 campaign, which urges FAANG and similar tech companies to spend 1 in 5 lobbying dollars for climate policies that will keep global warming under 1.5ºC as in the Paris Agreement.
The final word
Today’s employees are looking to work for companies that dare to care: about the climate, the environment, the society. They hold businesses to higher standards than before — which means they’re more likely to work for a company that aligns with their values.
For all these reasons and more, businesses must take on the challenge of climate change in their day-to-day and long-term functioning!