• Global businesses should jump before they are pushed

Air Clean Up

Global businesses should jump before they are pushed

Dec 04 2009

Fearing a lack of adequate progress at the Copenhagen ’COP15’ Climate Change Summit in December, Richard Laverick, Corporate Responsibility Director at environmental consultancy firm ADAS, is making a plea for organisations to take action now rather than waiting for governments to force them to do so.

Governments have a responsibility to their own citizens above those in other countries and this is likely to be the cause of much disagreement in Copenhagen. In contrast, stakeholders in multinational organisations are not so parochial, so they have a great opportunity to make things happen, globally and now.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that world leaders are unlikely to agree on a comprehensive treaty in Copenhagen and that it is more likely that there will only be agreement on principles. Richard Laverick believes therefore, that large organisations have a "corporate responsibility to take the lead." He says, "We need global recognition that climate change is imminent and accelerating, forget 2 degrees, some are now talking about a 4 degree rise before the middle of this century. This is a catastrophic scenario. We can’t afford the time for global leaders to shuffle reluctantly towards what would ultimately be an ineffective compromise. Time is running out and big problems demand radical solutions."

Richard acknowledges that real progress cannot be made without the commitment of China and the USA, and that governments have a major role to play in resolving issues between the developed and developing economies. He can also see benefits in the creation of government-led incentives to create low carbon economies. However, he believes that multinational organisations have an opportunity to make things happen much more quickly. "Large companies have a significant effect on the environment and therefore possess a fantastic opportunity to make a difference. However, through their supply chains they have an even greater opportunity to cascade environmental initiatives to an enormous number of their suppliers, across borders and irrespective of nationality."

"Organisations have a huge capacity for innovation and a wealth of knowledge that gives them the ability to respond quickly and imaginatively, adapting to even radical changes in their operating environments. Working in collaboration with clients and suppliers provides the potential for very rapid progress, particularly when facing an issue that will engage staff and maximise the effectiveness of the human capital within the business."

"Organisations must start the journey of transformation today; not wait for governments to present them with a route that may be anything but clear. The organisations that are first to adapt will be the ones that flourish in the future and go on to make the greatest contribution to the development of humanity and the mitigation of climate change impacts."

"Companies that take the lead in this way will derive major competitive advantages. Firstly, they will be better prepared for the inevitable regulatory requirements that will ultimately stem from events such as the COP15 Climate Change Conference. Secondly, environmental initiatives generate a wealth of internal benefits such as reduced energy and waste costs, more efficient supply chains and better staff recruitment/retention. Thirdly, verifiable green credentials appeal strongly to customers and shareholders."

Naturally, Richard hopes that participants in Copenhagen will be able to reach agreement across a broad spectrum of issues that will help force organisations to implement emissions reduction strategies, but he hopes that faster, more effective solutions will be achieved if organisations jump before they are pushed.



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