Monday, September 30, 2013

The Business Community Responds to the 2013 IPCC Report

The business community must acknowledge the material threat posed by climate change. Now that the IPCC has released its fifth assessment offering the most unequivocal support for anthropogenic climate change to date, business leaders worth their salt will be forced to take notice or suffer the consequences. Here are four reactions from responsible corporations (Ceres, HSBC, VF Corporation, and Swiss Re):

Ceres says the IPCC report confirms climate change is affecting businesses’ bottom lines and their strategies.

HSBC climate change center head Nick Robins: “The key thing now is taking this very high quality science and then translating it into a risk management strategy for business which is [a] question both of size of impact and the probability of impact. We actually need to avoid not just the most likely scenarios but those long-tail high-impact scenarios as well.”

Financial firm HSBC echoed the IPCC report’s conclusions by issuing two separate reports of its own in recent days. It’s research shows that India, China, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil are the G-20 nations whose economies are most vulnerable to climate risks, including rising sea levels and melting glaciers. The IPCC report “provides firmer foundations for policy action,” says Nick Robins, head of the Climate Change Centre at HSBC. 

VF Corporation — one of the world’s largest single purchasers of cotton, whose brands include Lee, Wrangler and The North Face — says much of the world’s cotton comes from areas that are expected to be impacted most by water scarcity and extreme weather such as the Western US, China, Pakistan and India. The IPCC report makes firms’ risks associated with climate change even more clear, says Letitia Webster, VF’s director of global corporate sustainability.

Climate change hurts VF’s outdoor and recreation brands, Webster says: “Whether in mountains or the ocean, our brands and our consumers are feeling the impacts of climate change,” which means less ski-related business for The North Face. The company today signed Ceres’ Climate Declaration, calling on US policymakers to enact climate and clean energy policies that will benefit the economy.

Swiss Re’s Mark Way, who heads the reinsurer said its sustainability work in the Americas, says it would be “foolish” not to listen to IPCC’s conclusion that it’s 95 percent likely that mankind is causing climate change. Transitioning to a low carbon economy is not an option, it’s a necessity, Way says. To this end, Swiss Re will join an initiative that pledges companies to source 100 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Business leaders have a powerful incentive to act now to decrease their GHG emissions as reductions of just 3 percent annually, can save up to $190 billion in 2020 alone, or $780 billion over 10 years, according to a report published in June by World Wildlife Fund and CDP.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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