Why Businesses Should Change?

2019 is set to be the hottest year in recorded human history. 2018 was the fourth hottest year recorded, bringing with it 70 tropical cyclones or hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere, 153 billions hours of lost labor due to heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and irreversible loss of life. These fatal weather patterns may increase by 50% on average if carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are not drastically and quickly reduced. The future of humanity and all life on Earth literally depends on the world's actions during the next 12 years.

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful leaders in the world continues to ignore and misconstrue the science and reality of climate change, belittling the largest existential crisis our modern generation faces in tweets like the following:

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President Trump's misunderstanding between weather and climate should not and cannot influence how we address climate change.

Expected effects of different degrees of warming. CarbonBrief

Expected effects of different degrees of warming. CarbonBrief

Of course, Trump is just one leader of one country in the world. In 2015, the historic Paris Climate Agreement united 175 global parties with the goal of maintaining global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which, if not achieved, would result in catastrophic changes to our climate. Both global and local leaders are taking action: China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, not only launched the largest national carbon market to reduce emissions, but also plans to invest $361 billion in renewable energy by 2020; Texas, as its own country, would be the fourth-largest wind energy producer in the world. In September of 2019, the world will come together again at the UN Climate Change Summit to "enhance national climate pledges" made under the Paris Agreement. Clearly, there are global leaders working towards solutions, but the responsibility of climate change also falls on individuals and organizations.

United Nations 2019 Climate Action Plan

United Nations 2019 Climate Action Plan

Businesses in particular have large, wieldy power that will influence the amount of waste and carbon created in the coming years. Peter Senges, author of the Necessary Revolution and faculty member at the MIT Sloan School of Management, explains that sustainability for a company should involve more than just limiting damage on the environment and communities. Sustainability not only supports prosperity in the long-run, but also reflects the true spirit of business: creativity and innovation that supports a community.

How should businesses implement change? Working with non-governmental agencies and other non-business entities. Senges elaborates:

"They’ll give you access to expertise that you can’t grow fast internally. Water is a classic example. A few years ago, Coca-Cola decided to cut the water used to make a liter of Coke from more than three liters to 2.5 liters. But it was overlooking the 200-plus liters it took to grow the sugar that went into that Coke. The company found that out because it partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, which knew how to analyze the water footprint of the value chain. Coca-Cola now knows the difference between drip-irrigated sugarcane and flood-irrigated sugarcane."

Climate change and sustainability are too pressing to be addressed with minor changes in a system; rather, sustainability needs to be incorporated into a business plan, which unfortunately only occurs at roughly 25% of companies, even though 90% of executives believe in the importance of sustainability. To implement effective changes and make sustainability a reality, many companies will need to use outside consulting groups, like Clean Consulting, to achieve their goals.

As a society, our economic system needs to change. We do not have time for minor tweaks or calls for change that are not realized. The existential crisis of climate change requires a global, fundamental overhaul of the governmental and economic systems that are currently failing us. We have the tools, knowledge, and power to create a bright, safe, and hopeful future; it's just a matter of prioritizing life on Earth over short-term profits.

-Lily Lee