What do we do about our changing climate? That’s the question world leaders will be focused on as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP24, kicks off this week in Katowice, Poland.
When events like this take place, it does truly feel as if the whole world is focused on addressing climate change. However, I have to remind myself that nearly 40 percent of Fortune 100 companies haven’t set even a single climate target.
I don’t want to sound like just another environmentalist waving my hands, jumping up and down that we need to act to reverse climate change NOW. The truth is simply this: I know it can be done, sustainability targets create business value and companies stand to lose big financially if they don’t act.
If your company falls in this bucket, listen up. I have helped Walmart, Starbucks and other household names get started with sustainability. I can help you too, using all the lessons I’ve learned from them.
Don’t take my word for it. Take it from the White House, which recently released a report showing a side of climate change that many people haven’t yet seen – the precise price tag of climate impacts to the U.S. economy. Projected climate impacts by the end of the century include $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage.
Think back to the recession of a decade ago. Remember the devastating impact on our economy (and possibly your business)? This will be double that.
What does this mean for the companies that haven’t set a climate target – or more broadly, any U.S. company? Supply chains will be disrupted here in the United States and overseas. Disasters will impact factory production, transportation will be disrupted, costs will increase and agricultural productivity will suffer. Almost no industry here in the U.S. will be able to escape the negative effects of climate change on their business.
Therefore, I have an offer for you: pick up the phone and call me. Let’s get started on your company’s sustainability journey. If you are feeling shy, but want some direction on the way forward with sustainability, here is some free advice: the three reasons for you to set a goal in 2019.
According to Gallup, more than half of Americans think that climate change won’t affect them personally. If you fall in this category, please take it from me – the effects to my family are as real as they can get. You will be affected one way or another – maybe severe weather, maybe dramatically more expensive food, or maybe living through one of these traumatic events directly yourself.
The bottom line: We need to not only reduce emissions but start to actually pull emissions from the atmosphere. And we need to do it all now. This means cutting emissions from factories, implementing full energy efficiency in every sector, ramping up renewable energy, designing products to minimize greenhouse gases, protecting tropical forests, planting trees, and improving agriculture to increase soil carbon and reduce fertilizer pollution.
If you needed more reasons than savings, your family and science, how about supply chain risk reduction, new product innovation and employee and customer engagement? Whatever your reason, now is the time for you to act. While world leaders are focused on climate change this week at COP24, I challenge you to be the leader in your company focused on climate change.
Now that you have (hopefully) a reason for setting a sustainability goal in 2019, here’s my final piece of advice – how to do it:
Elizabeth Sturcken is Managing Director at EDF+Business, which develops and implements joint projects with leading companies to create environmental change.