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Want to Remain Competitive? Go Carbon Neutral This Decade

Greg Heilers headshotWords by Greg Heilers
Energy & Environment
Carbon Neutral

A company that does not address climate change faces numerous, severe risks, sustainability experts warn in a new joint survey from GlobeScan and SustainAbility. Only 2 percent of the 554 respondents from 66 countries predicted “no negative financial consequences for companies that fail to act on climate.” The solution? A plan to go carbon neutral by 2030 — if not sooner.

Nearly half of the experts warned that companies failing to move toward carbon neutrality in the next decade would see their reputations suffer. A third of respondents moved that deadline up to 2025. Another third of surveyed experts predicted climate impacts would lead to greater vulnerability of financial and physical elements.

The third installment of the bi-annual report, initiated in 2015 alongside the Paris Climate Agreement, wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. The experts shone a spotlight on several early corporate climate leaders: Unilever (22 percent), Patagonia (15 percent), Tesla (11 percent), Ikea (10 percent) and Alphabet (the parent company of Google, with 6 percent) were the top votes.

The 5 most effective climate adaptation strategies

The joint GlobeScan and SustainAbility survey crowdsourced experts’ most valuable suggestions for how to adapt to climate change. When prompted to evaluate several strategies for climate change adaptation, the experts identified several tactics which would provide immense value to corporations’ intent on going carbon neutral:

  1. The study found that 69 percent of surveyed experts believe enhancing supply chain resilience is a critical strategy for climate change adaptation.
  2. Becoming an advocate for policies which foster climate change adaptation was suggested as an effective tactic by 63 percent of experts.
  3. A similar 63 percent of experts also voted for conducting an organization-wide assessment of physical risks, being sure to account for different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Public infrastructure garnered the attention of 61 percent of experts, who advocated for greater resilience.
  5. Slightly less than half (44 percent) of the experts touted more funding for at-risk populations as a worthwhile adaptation strategy.

Of note, 2019 was the first time in the report’s history that science-based targets enjoyed greater support from respondents, up to 77 percent from the 66 percent recorded in both 2015 and 2017.

A call to corporate climate action

The overall sentiment expressed by experts was that current progress is not enough to avoid irreversible climate change. In 2019:

  • 49 percent of experts stated that it was unlikely we would avoid “major, irreversible damage to human, social, and ecosystem health.”
  • A further 16 percent voted that damage had already occurred.
  • 15 percent of experts remained neutral on the subject.
  • Only 16 percent were optimistic about our odds of innovating quickly enough to avoid major damage.
  • And, 4 percent abstained from issuing predictions on the matter.

Business leaders interviewed for the press surrounding the survey’s publication tended to agree with the bleak outlook held by a majority of experts, though they also saw the challenges as opportunities to rise to the occasion.

The business case for going carbon neutral

SustainAbility Executive Director Mark Lee summed up the survey as “a reminder that current action, while certifiably representing progress, is not enough to stave off major damage from climate change.” He encouraged corporations to “take immediate and rapid steps towards a low-carbon future.”

Mike Gerbis, the CEO of GLOBE Series and The Delphi Group, called for greater ambition. He found it “inspiring to be among so many of the companies and individuals who are at the vanguard of sustainability and climate leadership,” adding that he and his colleagues “look forward to accelerating our collective impact over the next decade.”

GlobeScan Director Eric Whan agreed with their sense of urgency, adding that, “The pressure is on for 2020, and experts are pointing fingers at both good and bad.”

For corporations who value their reputations, their bottom line, or–at the most basic level–their ability to live on this planet, this is the decade of climate action.

Image credit: Pexels

Greg Heilers headshotGreg Heilers

Greg Heilers writes on green business and sustainability for private clients and top publications. After graduating from university, he had the privilege to learn from opportunities in France, Palestine, Scotland, Guatemala and the USA. Today, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and enjoys any chance he gets to garden or hike.

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