It is 2017 and many people still wonder whether or not human induced climate change is happening and is real. Even as the list of devastating first ever climate change events continues to grow annually the naysayers continue their old ways lobbying. For over 3 decades there has been much international debate across the board. Still today, there are certainties and uncertainties. Even amongst the circles of well educated professionals doubt or lack of knowledge is apparent and well documented. If there is even a remote chance that the naysayers are wrong and climate change is indeed real then the impact on all of our lives will be enormous and the impact on the lives of our children many times worse. But let us assume, we really do not know.
The question that remains is, whether it would make sense to take action and mitigate climate change anyhow, despite us not knowing. Should we, given the uncertain circumstances, implement changes and manage our resources or should we just go forth with a business as usual attitude? What are the pros and cons of adapting to climate change that might or might not happen? What are the risks and costs of such efforts? What are the possible steps for corporations in order to adapt?
Let’s first understand what it means to take corporate action against climate change: It is developing an environmental strategy and policy for the company and/or embarking on sustainable facilities management. Both would include the following important measures
- Carbon foot-printing: is a great way to start as it’s a tool to use to understand non-financial environmental data and possibly reduce imminent carbon tax
- Water management to achieve efficiencies and save costs
- Energy management to achieve efficiencies and save costs
- Waste management
- Indoor health for employees to improve performance and lower absenteeism
- Supply chain greening to achieve a good corporate image
- Renewable energy as a way to reduce costs and secure energy supply
- Green education for all employees to build awareness
- Training in efficiency for key staff to build skills
The uncertainty whether or not climate change will actually happen, might prevent many executives from following an environmental strategy. In 2017 this is a point, however, where every citizen, human or corporate, has to make a decision. Yes or no?
There is an interesting video on YouTube with the somewhat exaggerated title of “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See” by wonderingmind42 (Greg Craven). Personally, I would not call it terrifying, but rather rational or quite logical. In his video, Greg talks about the decision making principle for us as a global race. He introduces 4 different options and suggests that our future will roughly fall into one of these 4 scenarios:
- Climate changes does not happen – yet we have prepared for it.
- Climate changes does not happen – and we have not prepared for it
- Climate change does happen – and we have prepared for it.
- Climate change does happen – but we have not prepared for it.
The matrix for analysis looks like this:
I suggest that companies who are unsure what to do about their corporate environmental responsibilities, could try the above exercise. Fill thoughts and considerations relevant to your businesses and the environment your operation depends on into this decision making matrix. As an example I have filled the table demonstrating potential outcomes:
Now that we created a bigger picture, we can see many possible effects and consequences, it is time to choose.
Which column is the best for us? Which column has the most positive aspects? Should we take action?
What do you think? What would you choose?
I can see a column that has a lot more ticks (✓) than the other: It is the one averting the most risks by taking action. I feel we can safely come to the conclusion, that the question whether or not climate change is happening is irrelevant. The question around environmental strategy and taking action gets a much clearer answer. It is just like the decision to buckle up when riding in a car… YES, let’s buckle up! Not only will this decision support us should climate change happen, but it might also avert climate change from happening in the first place.