Gigaton Awards Highlights Companies that Care About Climate Change

Government-led climate change action at Cancun has been slow. However, the business community has had a lot more to celebrate. Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room and clean technology investor Sunil Paul created the first annual Gigaton Awards. They were awarded recently at Cancun to businesses that have successfully reduced emissions even amidst the slow global negotiations.

Anu Bradford at the Huffington Post writes, “businesses today are already changing their behavior based on expectations of the future and that carbon emissions already have a de-facto price in their minds.” That price isn’t likely to be set by a global carbon market, but by national and sub-national efforts to mitigate climate change.

With that price in mind, some businesses are looking to get ahead of the pack. The Gigaton Awards were created to recognize them.

Twenty-nine businesses were split into six categories. The awards were given out as part of the World Climate Summit, a business-oriented side event linked to the government talks at Cancun. The winners were chosen based on direct actions they have taken to reduce emissions. In other words, you couldn't win just because you had a bad business year.

The most recognizable winner was Nike. The company received the award in the consumer discretionary category. Aside from reducing emissions, Nike also produced a recent CSR report that outlines how it will streamline sustainable product development through a web marketplace for sharing intellectual property.

The big winner of the night was 3M, who won the coveted Best in Class award. 3M has reduced its emissions to 77% below 1990 levels. That’s a reduction level government negotiators can only dream of.

And that’s why no binding treaty might not be that bad. There are already a select group of businesses moving forward on climate change. The Gigaton Awards along with efforts like the Carbon Disclosure Project put those businesses front and center. This gives consumers a sense of where they should spend their money if they care about sustainability. It also pushes other businesses to reach higher.

The Gigaton Awards also illustrate that mitigating climate change isn’t necessarily about sacrifice. Nobody would argue that Nike is seeing a drastic decrease in profits because of its efforts to reduce emissions. Climate change is an opportunity to evolve. This stands in direct contrast to skeptical arguments that the economy will suffer if we work to mitigate climate change.

At the award ceremony, Ted Turner accepted a prize for philanthropy. In his acceptance speech he said "We're right and they're wrong. You've got more motivation than someone who's wrong and knows they're wrong. We're going to win and we're going to win big." in other words, even if climate talks flounder, there’s still a lot of hope out there.

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