The climate crisis as a business opportunity

33 leading U.S. and multinational companies have joined in the struggle to solve what is currently mankind’s worst headache ever: the carbon emissions and the catastrophic climate change they can possibly cause. Through a coordinated effort by businesses and consumers, the companies want to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world powered by renewable energy – and simultaneously, they actually see this as a good business opportunity.

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC with 25 feet of sea level rise. Photoshop projection by Nickolay Lamm from

Blog post by Mik Aidt

Climate change. The poles are melting. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations fear the total collapse of civilizations. Solutions from the political system have turned out to be completely inadequate. Weather forecasts for 2030 do not look good.

But here in 2013, a new trend starts to look as if it could turn into a solution of its own: Responses to climate change are flourishing across the globe, not from our world leaders, or local politicians, but from bottom-up.

Demonstrating awareness of carbon emissions and creating concrete action to tackle climate change is a growing, global movement now, after some years of declining intestest. Great numbers of both individuals and businesses as well as an alliance of the world’s 49 poorest countries are responding from the new warnings from scientists, and regardless of the hesitating politicians, they have decided to place themselves at the head of a rapid transition to renewable energy sources.

With the U.S. ‘Climate Declaration’, which was published on 10 April 2013, some of the world’s leading multinational companies have taken a first significant step to reduce the dangerous CO2 emissions and make ecological sustainability a common concern.

Intel, IKEA, Nestlé, Nike, Adidas, Levi Strauss, Starbucks, L’Oréal and eBay are some of them. A total of 33 world brands are among the first signatories of the declaration, which at the same time is also an appeal to President Barack Obama and U.S. politicians to support the green business initiatives and create favorable conditions for the development of new, sustainable technologies.

While politicians have been fumbling with the our planet’s future and failed to act, some big firms such as Disney and Microsoft have taken matters into their own hands and autonomously introduced a ‘carbon tax’ within the company itself. In this way, from 2006 to 2012, Disney has managed to halve its CO2 emissions. IT companies like IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Apple, Google and Yahoo, and clothing companies such as H&M and Puma, and even the oil company Shell is in the throes of a transition in which they do sustainability and carbon awareness their new trademark.

This new U.S. ‘Climate Declaration’ is spectacular because it shows that it is no longer just environmental activists, charity campaigners and prophets of doom, but also forces from the top of the business world who mobilise accountability, responsibility and true leadership to promote a sustainable world with an atmosphere in carbon balance.

The declaration states, among other things:

“Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century. What made America great was taking a stand. Doing the things that are hard. And seizing opportunities. The very foundation of our country is based on fighting for our freedoms and ensuring the health and prosperity of our state, our community, and our families. Today those things are threatened by a changing climate that most scientists agree is being caused by air pollution. We cannot risk our kids’ futures on the false hope that the vast majority of scientists are wrong.”

The declaration comes with concrete proposals on how the individual American can go in combating climate crisis, and overcome it:

“In doing this right, by saving money when we use less electricity, by saving money to drive a more efficient car, by choosing clean energy, by inventing new technologies that other countries buy, and creating jobs here at home, we will maintain our way of life and remain a true superpower in a competitive world. In order to make this happen, however, there must be a coordinated effort to combat climate change,” acknowledge the 33 companies.

Failure of the political system
Lack of co-ordination is one of the climate-effort’s biggest unresolved problems. In the fall of 2012 came the first reports from climate science that it looks as if the world’s political leaders cowardly have failed what they had otherwise promised the residents of this planet back in 2009 when, with loud proclamations, more than 140 of the 192 UN countries signed that they will not allow the planet’s average temperature to rise more than 2° Celcius degrees.

Those words might have looked pretty on paper but they were not translated into action. Power plants and cars have since then continued to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in large and even increasing amounts. The planet’s average temperature has already risen 0.8° C degrees, and today, four years later, climate scientists — along with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, NASA, the International Climate Agency and many other official bodies — talk about that the race against time is just about lost: Within a matter of one or two years we are passing the tipping point where we can begin to face a global warming of four degrees or more, instead of just two — with disastrous consequences for the climate, nature and humanity to follow. Among the researchers 2015 is said to be absolutely last chance to get CO2 emissions under control in a downward direction if we want to be able to limit the damage.

It could look as if the politicians have betrayed their populations — but mind you, when politicians do not experience that they have solid backing from the business world and from their voters, their party members and the public in general, then they are careful with taking action. You can blame the policians for subsidising the oil industry with 1.9 trillion US dollars annually, and as long as there is so little interest in the topic, and so much confusion caused by ‘climate deniers’, you can’t really blame them for not having taken the necessary steps to creating a green energy reform.

According to surveys only somewhere between one in five or one in ten citizens in the Western world are alarmed about climate change. A recent survey showed that 37 percent of Americans don’t even believe that carbon emissions are causing climate change. After the flop in Copenhagen in 2009, most people give climate change a deaf ear, for what can we as individuals possibly come up with against such overwhelming and border-crossing problems of carbon emissions?

The answer to this problem could well be embedded in this recipe of the Climate Declaration: Companies and consumers in co-ordinated action.

“Climate Change is the biggest economic growth and job creating opportunity of our generation. Business and entrepreneurs in particular, must take the lead.”
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

New lists of carbon-conscious companies such as the American Climate Declaration — and, for example’s scorecards — offer consumers a tool to make informed purchasing and investment decisions based on how little or how much the brands are making an effort to combat climate change.

Consumer research from the Natural Marketing Institute in the U.S. have shown that knowledge of that a company is mindful of its impact on the environment makes consumers 58 percent more likely to buy its products or services.

In the U.S., more than half of the population’s consumers say that a certification mark indicating a product is environmentally-friendly increases the likelihood they’ll buy it. In Italy, it is two out of three consumers. In China, nine out of ten consumers.

And in respect to carbon emissions, consumers matter more than you’d think. In a country like the United Kingdom, consumers are responsible for — and have a direct influence on — 57 percent of the country’s total CO2 emissions, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.


New movement in civil society
This is why the climate crisis also represents a business opportunity. As the climate crisis worsens, customers will increasingly favourise those products and brands which are making an effort to combat climate change.

Everywhere in the world people are starting to take matters into their own hands to reduce CO2 emissions, and when spend their money on products which are environment-friendly. In Germany and Australia individual homeowners have created a power-generating revolution by installing solar systems on the roofs. Over a million houses in Australia today has solar power on the roof.
The Germans expect to be producing 35 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

And as the U.S. ‘Climate Declaration’ of 10 April stated it, making sustainability a common concern and focusing on innovation in the field is creating new business opportunities, new jobs and security for our grandchildren at the same time.

It is a business opportunity because comsumers, civil society, is waking up to the challenge. The general frustration with the climate situation, caused by the ongoing stream of bad news from climate science, is reflected in a corresponding stream of appeals and declarations which in the latest months have been written, published and circulated worldwide, to local and national governments as well as to the general-secretary of the United Nations.

For example, 55 civil organisations are asking the International Monetary Fund to stop investing in fossil fuels projects. And students at universities in the U.S. and recently also in Europe are asking their universities and pension funds to divest their shares in fossil fuel projects.

In Denmark, 50 young people under the title ‘Transition Now’ (Omstilling Nu) have written an appeal to the Danish government to “wake up, recognise the need for fundamental change and join us pave the way for a sustainable future”.

Without any notice from mainstream media whatsoever, over 700 people in just one week in April signed a letter to the Danish public service broadcasters DR and TV2, requesting a coverage of climate substance which levels with how important it is to get have these questions and topics covered and explained:

“Because it is nothing less than crucial to the future of Denmark,” stated the appeal: “Someone needs to take the lead. Therefore, we ask the public service broadcasters that we as taxpayers and license fee payers are funding, to do better journalism and cover climate issues in more depth and far more often in 2013 than they did in 2012”.

In the U.S., a similar letter will is ready to be sent to five of the country’s leading news tv stations.

If such exercises prove to be successful, seeing public service broadcasters taking the lead to take the climate issue more seriously, it can start an upward spiral because increased knowledge creates awareness among consumers, and because CO2-conscious consumers create CO2-conscious businesses and companies — and eventually also more willingness among politicians to act.

The point being that media is an important link between companies and the consumers. Unfortunately so far the missing link. With the great ability to reach and communicate with the population, media has a crucial responsibility in relation to disseminating new knowledge and provide advice on how to combat the climate issues at an individual level.

Regardless, partly because the Internet provides alternative channels of information, and partly because of the increase in climate disasters and wild weather, in certain countries there is a growing number of consumers who realise that if we want do something about carbon emissions problem before it’s too late, we must all – each and every one of us – step into the battle where we can. At home, at work, in associations, in educational institutions, religious groups, and so on.

As the U.S. multinationals’ joint statement says it: There is no reason to give up, even though the challenges are huge. On the contrary! It is often the biggest challenges that bring us out the other side stronger than ever.

In other words, it is time to take the ball from politicians and give it up to both public service broadcasters, the press, and business leaders in your country. So, here: Grab it!

Video from the launch of ‘The Climate Declaration’

Read more

• U.S. ‘Climate Declaration’

• The Danish ‘Climate Letter’ to DR and TV2:

• The Danish declaration ‘Transition Now’ (‘Omstilling Nu’):

• “There is money to be made”: article in Harward Business Review, 22 April 2013:
The 21st Century Economy Will Be Urban, High Tech, and Green

• See which companies do the most to climate security

• The Natural Marketing Institute’s consumer surveys

• Mik Aidt’s climate safety blog with more on the same topic:

Related articles and sources

• Ceres – 1 May 2013:
General Motors is First Automaker to Join Growing Group of Businesses Calling for U.S. Policy Action on Climate Change
At Ceres Conference, seven more businesses, including GM, sign BICEP’s ‘Climate Declaration,’ asserting that policy action on climate change presents an American economic opportunity

• Reuters – 13 April 2013:
World climate change goal at risk as emissions surge – U.N.
A global goal for limiting climate change is slipping out of reach and governments may have to find ways to artificially suck greenhouse gases from the air if they fail to make deep cuts in rising emissions by 2030, a draft U.N. report said. By Alister Doyle

• GreenBiz – 12 April 2013:
How companies and weather may sway public opinion on climate
By Doug Miller

• Reuters – 9 April 2013:
Air pollution scourge underestimated, green energy can help – UN
By Reuters

• Storage Front – 5 April 2013:
What Will Sea Level Rise Look Like in Real Life?
By Nickolay Lamm

• The Guardian – 26 March 2013:
Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes
Where governments have failed to act, some big firms have taken matters into their own hands. By Marc Gunther

• The Guardian – 12 April 2013:
US companies issue declaration urging government to act on climate change
Group tells Congress to enact strong legislation and see climate change as 21st century’s greatest economic opportunity. By Bill Baue

The world’s ice is melting fast

According to a new paper published on 4 March 2013, the Arctic is melting much faster than most studies previously predicted. As early as 2020 and no later than 2050, it will be almost completely ice-free. 

“It’s pretty scary how rapidly all this Arctic change is happening,” said James Overland, lead author of the new study, and a research oceanographer with the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

The Verge – 12 April 2013:
Arctic will be basically ice-free by summer 2050, NOAA study says
By Carl Franzen

Climate Central – 12 April 2013:
Andes’ Tropical Glaciers Going Fast, May Soon Be Gone

Chronicle in Danish language on this topic

Løsninger på den globale klimakrise blomstrer frem
Det amerikanske erhvervsliv har meldt sig i kampen for at løse det, der i øjeblikket er menneskehedens værste hovedpine – CO2-udledningerne og de katastrofale klimaforandringer, de kan medføre.

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