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How Sports Can Help Address Climate Change


By Neil Hawkins

The next few decades will prove pivotal for mankind and for the planet.

The impact of climate change on our economic, social and environmental health is coming ever sharper into focus. Poorer countries are estimated to feel the brunt of this impact as our population nears 9 billion by 2050, spurring an increase in global demand for food by 60 percent and global energy use by two-thirds.

To build a better, more sustainable world, we must all change the way we live, work and play.

We must recognize that the incremental costs of an additional degree of warming will be the recurring kind and not a onetime penalty, impacting business growth every year as agricultural supply chains wilt or shift and migration disrupts employment and consumption patterns.

That cost – which would be largely borne by business – is projected to reach $700 billion by 2030. Every year.

As world leaders, government officials, business chiefs and others converge in Paris, there’s increasing hope that we will have a collective New Year’s resolution for 2016: a universal agreement to slow, stop and reverse climate change. This will drive everyone to work together to push forward faster and deeper efforts to curb climate change and help stem associated threats such as food safety and security, livelihoods, inequality and human rights.

Business efforts are already playing a central role and will continue to be critical. For all those organizations that have been touting corporate social responsibility commitments, now is the time to step forward and knit them together to become a powerful force for positive change. We must search for solutions at the local and global levels. We must learn to work together again. And we must continue to do our part, while using the power of our products and people to ensure a sustainable future.

For our part at Dow, we will do what we do best: innovate, adapt and collaborate -- courageously.

As a science-based solutions provider for more than a century, Dow combines the power of science and technology to drive innovation and help solve global challenges such as climate change. Earlier this year, we established a new set of sustainability goals to further refine how we envision the role of business in society; that business must help lead the transition to a sustainable planet and society. To start activating that vision, we are embedding sustainable factors into every single point of impact – through our footprint (internal operations), our handprint (sustainable solutions) and our blueprint (courageous collaborations).

Like our #EnergyBag that helped divert non-recyclable plastics from landfills and convert them into synthetic crude oil. Or our commitment to account for the value of nature in business decision-making on a global business scaled to generate $1 billion of net present value by 2025.

Another key sector where we are influencing change is in the world of sports.

Global sports events like the Olympics serve as an important opportunity to build momentum and catalyze social and environmental change. For many host cities, the games represent a time to refresh dated infrastructure, improve public transit and push development reform to shine a global spotlight on local economies and improve quality of life.

As the official chemistry company of the Olympic Games, Dow partners with organizing committees and host cities to create sustainable legacies through infrastructure improvements and behavioral change campaigns.

For the 2008 Beijing Games, Dow used water solutions and technology to provide adequate safe water access for the Games and thereby, creating a long-term, positive impact on the city’s drinking water supply. In 2013, Dow partnered with the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee to implement economically viable low-carbon technologies in Russia, making the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games the first in history to mitigate its entire direct carbon footprint prior to the Opening Ceremony.

Building on our work in Sochi, we have designed a tailor-made program for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, including low-carbon and energy efficient technologies that can address Brazil’s and Latin America’s needs for years to come while helping mitigate the Games’ direct emissions. Partners in this program include Farmers Edge and Irriger, organizations that provide farmers in Mato Grosso with technologies to optimize productivity in corn and soybean crops while minimizing environmental impact; Roncador Group, a leading organization in farming and livestock in Mato Grosso; and some of the leading manufacturers of insulation solutions in Brazil, in an effort to disseminate knowledge and technology for more energy efficient construction throughout the country to help build long-term sustainable agricultural and manufacturing infrastructure.

We must also target human behavior and habits to shift consumer perception and use of our natural resources. So we’re partnering with Rio 2016’s Transforma program to educate four million school children in Brazil on chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and sustainability and climate change.

A core commitment to advance the wellbeing of humanity by helping lead the transition to a sustainable planet and society is what’s driving us forward. We recognize that creating innovative products is not enough to build a world where sustainability is status quo. And we’ve put our stake in the ground.

Now the delegates converging in Paris must annotate this moment in time to turn the page. Together, we can and must push the boundaries of innovation, collaboration and public discourse to correct course on climate change. The costs are high. And the time to act is now. Dow is ready.

Image credit: Flickr/Oliver Hopkins

Neil Hawkins is Corporate Vice President, EH&S, and Chief Sustainability Officer for the Dow Chemical Company.

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