It's Time Companies Accounted for Climate Change

Story by Mallika Naguran

Commercial enterprises, a major emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, should own up to their polluting actions, review their current practices and commit to an environmental policy.

The economic idealism since 19th century and post war consumerism has brought irrevocable environmental damage: warming temperatures, deforestation, loss of natural habitats, extinction of important species, soil erosion, freak weather patterns, economy destabilizing hurricanes and cyclones, just to list a few.

This is just the beginning of hard times.

Bosses and employees should face up to their leaks and spills, and do more to calm the environment, now.

Commercial Action for Calmer Climes

While these are real and immediate challenges, companies should realize that collective action is needed to heal our ailing planet and restore economic and social stability. Which is why, it would be a good idea for companies to join the United Nations Global Compact program that puts a leash on climate change.

Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform launched in July 2007 seeks to involve and engage participating companies worldwide to sit together – maybe over doughnuts and coffee - to jointly tackle environmental crises; this is hoped to advance practical solutions and shape attitudes. Already 230 businesses have agreed to implement relevant strategies and practices, disclose emissions publicly and report on progress made. (View brochure and list of signatories.)

George Kell wants to hear the voice of business in mitigating climate change

George Kell, executive director of UN Global Compact spoke to the media at Business for the Environment Summit in April 2008 in Singapore. “Climate change is both a risk and an opportunity for business - it's a regulatory and a branding risk. Companies must realise that this is the greatest challenge of our times and handling it must become an integral part of corporate strategy," he said.

He remarked that companies have opportunities to speak beyond national boundaries as businesses are increasingly becoming globally integrated. Kell added that he hoped “the voice of business will create a conducive atmosphere for international negotiations that would see a global treaty" to tackle climate change once the 2012 Kyoto Protocol ends.

"Climate change will leave winners and losers. When you start preparing for it may determine the winner. That's why firms are taking steps already," Kell said.

The UN Global Compact launched in 2000 helps businesses come to terms with the ten universal principles of the Millennium Development Goals, covering human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption by 2015.

"We will have time to reach the Millennium Development Goals – worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries – but only if we break with business as usual,” urged Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General.

Is it business as usual with your company? If it is, you should call in your boss and colleagues – over doughnuts and coffee – and ask why.

Photo by Mallika Naguran