Facing the Facts: Climate Change Is Bad For Business

As leaders of the industrialized world continue to squabble at home over how to address the threat of climate change – and even as they battle internal factions who don’t believe the science of climate change – one group of leaders has come out in favor of swift, comprehensive action to prevent global catastrophe.  Those leaders come from some of the largest businesses on the planet.

Just one year ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast with a force not seen in the region in decades.  In the aftermath, shipping and distribution of goods in and out of the Northeast was severely disrupted.  The costs of these disruptions, as well as the physical damage from the storm, are projected to cost the U.S. economy $20 billion

Sandy served as a wake up call to business leaders, as it highlighted how grossly unprepared they are in the face of climate change related disasters.  In the Midwest, floods and wildfires in recent years have also impacted the business supply chain, costing untold millions worth of economic activity.

But many within the business community understood what was happening, and what it means for the future of business.  They know that, at the end of the day, climate change is bad for business.

Is Wal-Mart Really Saving the World?

Spinmeister of the day award (at least so far) goes to Andrew Ruben, Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Sustainability for Wal-Mart. Ruben was one of the speakers at an opening plenary at the SEJ2006.

Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Wheeler introduced Ruben by pointing to Wal-Mart's three environmental goals: that its energy use should be 100 per cent renewable; that it should produce zero waste; and that it should sell products that are are environmentally sustainable. Wheeler asked, Is that for real?

Ruben immediately redefined the goals as inspirational injunctions to Wal-Mart staff.  He acknowledged that they are achievable only in the very long term, but he insisted (correctly) that they are no less worthy. And he admitted (or stated, or posited; I don't want to imply anything unnecessary) that Wal-Mart is still in business; the company has not suddenly remade itself as a philanthropic organization.

Ruben's most compelling points were that Wal-Mart is really making headway in addressing some environmental issues. For example, it has retrofitted its truck fleet with auxilliary power units that allow it to save 10 million gallons of deisel fuel a year - reducing its greenhouse gas production by 100,000 tonnes.

Wal-Mart has also started to push compact fluorescents, expanding their presence and visibility in the stores. As a result of this fairly subtle marketing change, Wal-Mart hopes to sell 100 million compact fluorescents this year, resulting in a further saving of 25 million tonnes of CO2.
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