It’s time to commit. I mean, really commit.

by Oct 26, 2017

Shelton Group has spent the last 13 years of our 26 years in business exclusively focused in sustainability marketing. We’ve created messaging platforms and sustainability stories so that well-recognized companies could build their brands.

We’ve created marketing strategies and campaigns to sell more efficient, greener products. And we’ve created multi-media campaigns to drive behavior change and new social norms around conservation and sustainability.

I can show you all sorts of compelling results from all of that work. But it’s not enough.

The reality of the situation

Most of our homes and buildings are leaking energy (and greenhouse gases) like a sieve, we haven’t figured out how to transport people and goods in a sustainable way, and the planet is still getting hotter. And the cost of all of that is enormous.

The (literal) cost of climate change

Let’s just look at the U.S. alone. The Government Accountability Office released a report (sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican) this week with some big numbers:

  • In the last decade, the federal government – and if you’re a taxpayer, that actually means you – has spent $350 billion because of extreme weather and fire events, including $205 billion for domestic disaster response and relief; $90 billion for crop and flood insurance; $34 billion for wildland fire management; and $28 billion for maintenance and repairs to federal facilities and federally managed lands, infrastructure, and waterways.
  • It’s forecast that as weather events that were once considered rare become more commonplace because of climate change, we could start spending $12-35 billion per year by mid-century and $34-$112 billion per year by late-century.

What else could we do with that money?

What if instead of spending $12 billion a year to react to climate disasters we used that money to prevent them? What if we used that money to fix our building and housing stock and massively reduce carbon emissions? What if we used that money to fund science and technology development that would allow us to power our lives and get from point A to point B with zero environmental impact?

Or what if our federal government – us – didn’t have to spend the money at all? What if the world’s largest companies truly dedicated themselves to boldly solving our biggest environmental problems? What if they built business models around those solutions so sustainability wasn’t seen as charity; it was indeed a product development, innovation and profitability driver?

Focus on one big challenge

I’ve been looking at too many corporate sustainability/social responsibility reports lately. And I’m struck by how many companies now dedicate a spread to the ways in which they’re addressing some or all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I mean, it’s terrific that corporate America is responding to the UN’s call, and that the SDG framework has offered up a way for companies to think about what they could solve.

But I don’t think anybody’s going to solve for any of the 17 goals if they try to make a little effort in each area. I believe companies should pick one area – one SDG if that framework fits – and really go for it. Boldly commit to solving one big problem that’s related to their business. (This aligns with what American and Canadian citizens expect, according to our 2016 Eco Pulse study.)

Why on earth would we want to continue subjecting ourselves to the impacts of climate change – the human agony of it and the financial impact of it? Why on earth would we accept a future where at least one country is planning on spending $12 billion/year to react to the impacts? Why on earth wouldn’t we get in front of it and solve it?

As I’ve said before, there is no business case for a two-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. It’s time for companies to commit – really commit – to boldly solving our environmental problems. We’ll all be better for it – including the companies.

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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.

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