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Most Effective First Steps for Corporate Climate Change Solutions
Energy efficiency is the most effective company-wide first steps CEOs can take to launch a climate change program.
Energy efficiency is the most effective company-wide first steps CEOs can take to launch a climate change program, according to a team of environmental scientists and climate researchers.
The panel, which includes 54 fellows of the Switzer Foundation, an environmental non-profit, participated in a survey titled, "What the Scientists Know: How Business Leadership can Help Solve Climate Change." The survey was inspired by members of the Committee of 200, a group of women business leaders.
"The survey is designed to spark a dialogue between scientists and business leaders," said Jessica Switzer, Partner of Blue Practice Inc., which performed the survey. "We hoped to give a voice to leading U.S. scientists' concerns and create something useful that business leaders can use to develop solutions to a very large problem facing our world economy and social situation. We couldn't have a better audience to preview this than the Committee of 200."
"We often hear Switzer Fellows express their concern that 'all the
science in the world won't change a thing' unless business leaders and
policy-makers step forward and act on the available data," said Lissa
Widoff, Executive Director of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.
"With 400+ Fellows in the areas of academia,
government, private industry and NGO -- and more than 50 actively studying
the effects of climate change -- our Fellows are on the front lines of
study and there is much to be learned from them."
To best leverage a CEOs leadership, the scientists top rankings included:
- Improving energy efficiency of existing operations
- Improving manufacturing and distribution
- Converting to clean and renewable energy
- Engaging in climate change policy discussions
- Hiring or empowering an environmental officer
Suggestions to reduce energy consumptions included: video conferencing instead of airline travel and re-evaluating product life-cycles and other supply chain issues.
Many encouraged companies to set goals and look at how companies can create immediate and comprehensive reduction and efficiency actions.
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation is a 20-year old Family
Foundation with assets of $20 million whose focus is supporting
environmental leadership development and environmental improvement through
Fellowships, Grants and long-term professional development support of
Fellows and Grantees. The core grant program of the Robert and Patricia
Switzer Foundation is the Switzer Environmental Fellowship that provides a
$15,000 one-year cash award to 20 selected environmental leaders who are
attending graduate schools in New England and California. Recipients
receive trainings, professional development support, mentoring, career
coaching and a broad network of contacts in related fields.
- When asked if they could "have the ear of one CEO for 30 minutes,"
what they would say and who they would bring, most chose CEOs from
the Big Three auto manufacturers. Switzer Fellows questioned the
companies' inability to offer cars with better gas mileage or
produce products that lower GHG emissions. Suggestions on guests to
bring to the meeting ranged from GM's customers to Amory Lovins to
environmental activist Wangarai Maathai.
- According to the Switzer Foundation survey, energy efficiency is the
most effective company-wide initiative that corporate leaders can
implement. A majority surveyed (84%) agreed that energy efficiency
was the most productive way for business leaders to leverage their
positions within their firms. Improving manufacturing and
distribution (62%); engaging corporate affairs in state, federal or
international policy discussions (31%); hiring or empowering an
environmental officer (28%) and shifting investments to climate
neutral funds and securities (23%) were also called upon as
- Lowest on the list of suggested corporate priorities is the purchase
of renewable energy credits, or RECs. The most popular "write in"
suggestion was the reduction of energy consumption. Suggestions
included video conferencing instead of airline travel and
re-evaluating product life-cycles and other supply chain issues.
- Climate protection is no longer just good business; it is a social
justice issue. When asked which scientific finding or anecdote they
would most like business leaders to know, many discussed the social
inequity of climate change. In other words, those doing the least
damage to the environment will likely be the first to pay -- with
their lives. Relying on growing evidence of melting or collapsing ice
sheets impacting water storage worldwide and the displacement of
millions of people due to rising sea levels, (often citing the
recently published Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change)
scientists expressed concern that setting emissions targets within a
set timeframe should be a businesses priority. Many encouraged
companies to set goals and look at how companies can create
immediate and comprehensive reduction and efficiency actions.
- Which companies are doing the most good? When asked: "Which
manufacturing or industry segment is doing a good job addressing GHG
emissions?" only one company was mentioned: Interface Inc., an
independently owned manufacturer and marketer of modular carpets and
All of the Foundation's grant programs build on the Fellowship program.
The Leadership Grant Program awards grants of up to $40,000 for nonprofits
to employ a Switzer Fellow in a leadership position that allows them to
apply their skills and talents to a critical environmental issue and help
build the capacity of the organization. The Collaborative Initiatives Fund
also makes awards of up to $40,000 for projects involving two or more
Fellows working jointly to press forward a policy initiative or practical
strategy and which leverages resources of the Fellows' collaborating
organizations. Detailed information is available on the Switzer Foundation website
Blue Practice provides communications firm for a sustainable world. The
firm is based in San Francisco and offers specialized marketing and public
relations to sustainable companies, organizations, causes and products.
Edited by Carolyn Allen