BSR's President Aron Cramer made a big commitment at this week's conference in San Francisco. He and the BSR team are doubling down on 2 degrees Celsius, drawing a line in the sand and committing to use the power of their network to avoid breaching a global temperature rise above it. Two degrees is, of course, the limit in global temperature rise that the latest IPCC report recommends we avoid in order to skip the worst impacts of climate change.
BSR plans to utilize its stance as a key influencer and in Cramer's words, "spark action on part of business," by, in part, "changing the public narrative on climate change." How can a network, influential though it may be, actually have a measurable impact on a global problem like temperature rise? After all, BSR has few sticks with which to encourage its members.
Edward Cameron, Director of Partnership Development and Research, laid out the four point plan:
"We need a strong public policy framework and we need to create the right incentives. BSR will continue to push on that, not because we’re lobbyists, but because we're advocates for the companies in our community. It’s essential that companies address climate change, particularly in the U.S. In Washington D.C. right now there are only bad incentives or no incentives and that needs to change."
The global network can work to both influence policy and support companies in their operations around the world.
Sounds great! But let's hear a bit more about how it works in practice. Cramer spoke persuasively about the power of industry, for example, consumer-facing companies like McDonald's, to influence consumers. "McDonald's has 40 million people coming into restaurants every day. Business voices have resonance and they are great communicators."
Communications don't need to be hand-wringing or political, but companies have a real opportunity to educate consumers about the importance of climate change and their role in moving toward avoiding the worst impacts. Cameron agreed, "We need to change the nature of communications both to the companies and ultimately on to consumers. We need so show that this shift is feasible, you don’t have to wait for silver bullet. There are financial benefits of action now."
Eric Olsen, Senior Vice President, Advisory Services, spoke about a number of projects currently underway in the BSR working groups - small wedges with big impact. For example, the ICT working group is examining ways to not just green data centers and devices, but to support customers with the tools to make environmental shifts in their own practices. The shipping working group has been developing a dock-to-dock calculator to help retailers calculate the carbon costs of various shipping routes. If it works, Walmart plans to include its use as a requirement in the procurement scorecard.
Another exciting project on the horizon for BSR is a plan to translate the IPCC's latest report, the 5th Assessment, into business-friendly language. The translation reports will be prepared for the agriculture industry, transportation and logistics, and extractives at first. Each report will include specific tips, tools and stabilization wedges that the companies in each industry can put into practice right away to lower impact and improve the bottom line. Watch for these releases in the spring of 2014.
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.