IPCC’s climate change warning: How companies should respond

by Oct 11, 2018

Shelton Insight

90% think the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his/her environmental impact (Shelton Energy Pulse 2016).

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Sustainability Win of the Week

This past Monday, a landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released – and the findings are hard to swallow. “There is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people,” an article from the Guardian states.

Indeed, many companies have already committed to keeping global warming to a maximum of 2C, yet the UN report calls for even more ambitious reductions, citing the major difference even half a degree could make (as demonstrated here by Carbon Brief, in their interactive diagram of the effects of climate change at 1.5 vs. 2C).

Certainly, these findings are not positive news. In fact, they are downright alarming. But is there a silver lining?

We think so.

Never has it been clearer to businesses and consumers that the time to act is now. Ninety percent of consumers agree that the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his/her environmental impact – and consumers increasingly expect companies to be taking similar (and bigger) steps.

Just look at the Climate Group and RE100 companies that are committing to 100% renewable energy, as well as the EP100 companies that are committing to lower emissions and cleaner energy. And look at Schneider Electric, a new RE and EP100 member with ambitious plans of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. And as we discussed in previous News of the Week, such climate-conscious companies actually outperform non-climate-conscious competitors in the areas of net profit margins and earnings, as a recent report from edie.net reveals.

So, hope persists. There is an obvious incentive for companies to step up and commit to 1.5C. Not only do consumers expect it of companies, but it is profitable and sustainable. While the IPCC report is a frightening call to action, it also serves as a reminder that it’s time to “do good” even better.

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News of the Week

The little reactor that could – WA state nuclear plant continues to break records – Forbes

Speaking of clean energy and committing to 1.5C, the Columbia Generating Station (CGS) nuclear power plant is setting records for zero-carbon electricity generation – producing enough clean energy to power Seattle on its own. CGS produces 20 tons of waste yearly (to generate 9.6 billion kWhs of electricity), compared to coal which produces nearly 1 million tons of toxic waste to generate the same. The plant has the capacity to quickly adjust its electrical output according to demand, and it regularly reduces output to accommodate spikes in hydro-electric renewable energy that occur during the spring.

In South Korea, a lesson to be learned from a plastic waste crisis – CNA Insider

South Korea has been on the cutting edge of recycling for years. The country has unique policies in place to encourage (and require) citizens to sort their waste according to “general waste,” compostable “food waste,” and “plastic recyclables” categories for easy processing. Here’s how South Korea is handling China’s recent ban on imported plastic waste – and how citizens and businesses are changing their behavior to not only recycle but also reduce. Some of the surprising yet effective ways of cutting back on plastic waste include banning plastic cups in Seoul’s more than 18,000 cafes and prohibiting plastic umbrella sleeves at businesses in favor of “umbrella dryers” and water-absorbent carpet.

IPCC report reveals urgent need for CEOs to act on climate – Forbes

In response to the recent climate change news, this Forbes article asks: “Could this report [by the IPCC] finally be the clarion call to our nation’s business leaders to take responsibility for ensuring a prosperous and clean energy future for all?” Consumers want brands to take a stand, the article states, adding that 64% expect CEOs to “take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it” (according to statistics from this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer).

Do consumers really care whether brands take a stand?

Yes, they do. But your brand can’t choose just any stand and expect them to love you for it. Learn how social purpose can create connection with consumers.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.