Although the onus has been on politicians and governments to curb climate change, businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of their efforts in reducing carbon emissions. Governments and policies may change, but businesses can take a long term lead on changing the way the world’s economy works to encourage a more eco-conscious mentality.
Jim Yong Kim, the former President of the World Bank, explained in 2014 that “Every company, investor, & bank that screens new & existing investments for climate risk is simply being pragmatic”. Kim’s speech, at that year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, highlighted that businesses need to see the environment as part of their long term business strategy. Whilst it’s important to reduce carbon emissions to prevent global warming, it’s increasingly becoming a necessity for businesses to incorporate environmental strategies as part of their long term planning.
For some businesses, these plans are straight forward to implement. They involve moving to more environmentally friendly materials, reducing the amount of paper used in administration, changing to electric business vehicles and other similar initiatives regarding the day to day operation of business life.
Others can be more complex. For example, with the aviation industry one of the big emitters of carbon dioxide, international travel by plane needs to be reviewed as part of business strategies. 2020 has shown that most meetings can be held by video conference, but for many, international travel will continue to be important for conducting business meetings. For those who do need to travel by plane, there are opportunities to invest in carbon offsets – essentially investing in schemes to alleviate any pollution caused by your plane travel. But there’s an argument that such schemes are like a sticking plaster, in that they don’t address root causes of global warming – ie the public demand for plane travel.
Of course, implementing environmentally friendly schemes isn’t just about improving business prospects, it’s also about recognising public opinion. The UK, and the world, has been seeing the effects of climate change in action recently, with increasingly warmer weather, and unusual weather patterns like floods and droughts. As these issues affect the day to day lives of consumers, businesses need to respond. In a competitive business environment, businesses are beginning to appreciate that being environmentally responsible is about responding to the desires of the general public. Increasingly, consumers want to know that their products and services are environmentally friendly.
In 2018, a YouGov poll found that when asked how concerned respondents were about climate change, 74% said they were somewhat or very concerned about climate change, compared to just 23% who said they were not very or not at all concerned. Public opinion has led to Government action on climate change, and it’s also led to changes in the private sector as well. One of the major ways in which global warming is affecting business is requiring companies to address climate concerns head on. As businesses shift towards a more eco-friendly way of working, it’s become essential, not just for our planet, but also for our economies, that companies see environmental awareness as one of their top priorities.