Those of us in our late twenties and thirties, may clearly remember school book chapters on global warming and climate change. It never ceases to amaze me, that even though so much has changed in the world, our way of life and our realities – some BIG issues continue to haunt us. Climate change is one such issue, and while the world has done well to ask to most appropriate questions in this regard, it seems to many of us that the answers have often, fallen short.
My sister, who works for the International Federation of Red Cross often talks about the varied challenges which they face in helping, supporting and uplifting people, from across the world. Some of these are either directly related to or indirectly related to the accelerating forces of climate change. Millions of people are impacted and it is estimated that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. We in the corporate sector, are mostly blissfully (and sometimes willfully) unaware of such issues.
Even though today, many organizations have adopted the ESG standards of assessment i.e. environmental, social and government factors – often these are more form over function. Such organizations, big or small are thinking about building business models around sustainable growth, waste management and enabling measures to fight climate change. Though such initiatives are great, by most estimates they may fall woefully short, considering that we have abused the natural resources of the land since the dawn of the industrial age. It is thanks to a growing population, couple with growing consumption and an inconsiderate view of the world that these actions are now leading to long term effects – something which our future generations will have to deal with.
Yes, the business world has started getting its act together on climate change – but that is mostly the result of government policy, compliance, regulations – not just the goodwill of large conglomerates. Else, why would the world continue to be plagued with oil spills, massive plastic waste and tonnes of toxic e-waste – mostly built because we the consumers, want the shiniest phone or tablet each year. Companies have been trying to slash their own energy use and innovate to create products that help customers reduce their emissions – but the real reason for this is that these are ultimately, long term cost saving measures.
But its not enough.
Rather than be reactive in the movement of climate change, it is time that great businesses, brands and ambitious organizations become more proactive. We need to understand – the tide of global sentiment has turned and consumers want to associate themselves with brands that lead into that sentiment. It is after all what great brands were built around – Sentiment!
I believe that today’s crisis not just offers companies and brands a great opportunity to make a difference, but also to connect with consumers and build a more authentic, meaningful and sustainable brand. The collective dollar might of such organizations has and can continue to educate and nudge governments to change. Many in business will rebel against this idea, but we are long past the point where free markets alone could solve the challenge in time (if such a possibility ever even existed). Business needs to, in the words of Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp, “unleash the most powerful tool they have to fight climate change: their political influence.”