By Leslie Pascaud, Executive Vice President Branding and Sustainable Innovation, Teiko Uyekawa, Steven Ebert, Kantar Added Value
Climate change has been a topic of interest and concern for over a decade. In 2006/07, Al Gore’s disquieting film, An Inconvenient Truth, along with Nicholas Stern’s calculation of the monumental cost of climate change, shook people out of their apathy. Initially, people felt overwhelmed by the immensity of the task. But slowly, a group of pioneering individuals and businesses began to put strategies in place to lower their carbon emissions by shortening supply chains, revisiting production practices, reducing energy consumption and cutting waste. They quickly discovered that many of these initiatives improved quality of life and reduced costs, thus encouraging them to double down on their efforts. Unfortunately, certain passive businesses and governments have taken much longer to climb on board.
The reality is that the climate has already begun to change. Our seas over the past decade have risen at double the rate of previous years. South Florida and Bangladesh are seeing the most immediate impacts, but projections put cities from New York to Accra at risk in the next 20 years. It’s no surprise, then, that Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement has prompted such overwhelmingly strong condemnation from all but the most retrograde local governments, citizens and businesses across the U.S. and the world. Importantly, some of the world’s biggest financial advisory firms and fund managers are beginning to speak up, as seen in the unprecedented vote by Vanguard and BlackRock against Exxon Mobil on a recent shareholder resolution demanding greater climate disclosure.
Today we can no longer restrict our focus to just stopping climate change. The question ‘what happens if?’ is now necessarily coupled with ‘what happens when?’. Brands and businesses thus require a 2-pronged strategy that includes both prevention and adaptation.
Below are but a few examples of smart companies adjusting to this new paradigm: innovating to adapt to inevitable climate change while also putting in place strategies to prevent or even reverse its effects.
Jackson Family Wines, best known for its Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, sees the future… and it is drier and hotter than ever before. As a result, at Jackson’s winery, newly dug reservoirs are connected to drip irrigation systems that pull water downhill and through the vineyards. Drones detect moisture by monitoring changes in leaf color to assess the need for irrigation, while a solar powered weather station anticipates cold spells, launching wind machines that circulate warm air to protect the vines. And, in recognition of California’s serious water security issues, the family has chosen to expand northward, recently purchasing three wineries in Oregon.
Danone Wave: Agribusinesses, meat and dairy farming in particular, are significant contributors to climate change. Livestock is estimated to contribute 15% of global greenhouse gasses. A recent call to action from 40 investment companies urged agribusinesses to begin the transition away from meat and dairy. Danone is one company that has heard the call, as demonstrated by their recent acquisition of the plant-based company WhiteWave. Emmanuel Faber, Danone’s CEO explains this move as a means to “leverage consumer trends and expectations for healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking choices”.
Unilever is another company that has been paying close attention to the impacts of climate change. They know their growth will come from countries experiencing water shortage and are proactively seeking to address this reality. In 2016, they launched Sunlight 2-in-1 Handwashing Laundry Powder in South Africa, a country which is experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years. The product includes SmartFoam technology to reduce the need for rinsing which represents up to 70 percent of water usage. In the U.S., Unilever’s Dove brand took a different approach, partnering with and cross promoting Delta Faucet Company at Lowe’s to promote the sale of water saving showerheads while promising a better shower experience.
In their new book, Climate of Hope, Michael Bloomberg, Entrepreneur and Former Mayor of New York and Carl Pope, lifelong environmentalist and former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, remind us that the best way to reach climate skeptics is for more people to tell climate success stories. The book talks about how taking action makes us healthier, extends our lifespan, saves us money and creates jobs that strengthen our economy. This isn’t just wishful thinking. Many solutions have already been identified; others are close at hand. So rather than wringing hands we should all be rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.