Why Businesses Are Embracing Sustainability

Climate change is motivating businesses to embrace sustainability, as a recent webinar by the Climate Reality Project titled "The Business of Climate Solutions" revealed. The reason why it is a big motivator is simple. Businesses think climate change will adversely affect their operations. 

Brian MacGannon, Policy Director, American Sustainable Business Council, used extreme weather events as an example. Twenty-five percent of small businesses never open after a weather event. “If you don’t have the option to move your operations to another facility, you are wiped out,” he said. 
Businesses are building sustainability into their core operations, MacGannon explained. “Businesses are increasingly raising their voice and talking about the risks and virtues of moving away from a carbon economy,” he said. 

The Ceres led coalition of over 20 consumer companies, called the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), is an example of companies speaking out on climate change. The goal of BICEP is to work with allies in the business community and Congress to pass legislation on climate change and energy.

Clean energy is a focus of many businesses. MacGannon claimed that clean energy is creating jobs faster than fossil fuels industry. A recent report by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) backs up his claims. According to the report, if countries commit to investing 1.5 percent of GDP a year in renewable energy and energy efficiency, economic growth would be stimulated and new jobs created. 

Sustainability is on the Rise

Three Squares Inc. is an environmental supporting organization specializing in implementing sustainability plans for businesses large and small. Three Squares President, Jaime Nack has seen an increasing demand over the last five years and has worked all over the world. Businesses, cities, and governments are seeing the benefits of reducing their impact on the environment, she said. 

Businesses are following the lead of the federal government in tackling climate change. Nack cited an executive order by President Obama to increase federal sustainability over the next decade by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “All of these areas will allow the federal government to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. 

The way businesses view their bottom line is shifting and plays a big role in the increasing importance of sustainability. Businesses used to only think of profit as the bottom line. “Today things are very differently,” said Deb Nelson, Executive Director, Social Venture Network. “Most people expect companies to be strong sustainable organizations,” she added.

One aspect of sustainability that will likely increase is divesting from fossil fuels. Social Venture Network is behind the divestment movement. “There’s a smart business reason to do this,” said Nelson. 

Indeed, there is a smart business reason to divest from fossil fuels. A recent report revealed that two California public pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), lost over $5 billion on fossil fuel investments during the last fiscal year. 

Photo: Lawrence Murray