Thursday, April 17, 2008

How companies think about climate change: A McKinsey Global Survey

Some interesting facts from McKinsey Global Survey:

* Fully 60 % of global executives surveyed by The McKinsey Quarterly regard climate change as strategically important, and a majority consider it important to product development, investment planning, and brand management.
* Fewer companies, however, act on these opinions. More than one-third of executives say their companies seldom or never consider climate change when developing overall strategy.
* Nonetheless, executives express optimism about the business prospects of addressing climate change. 61 % expect the issues associated with climate change to boost profits — IF managed well.
* Despite the uncertainties around regulation, a remarkable 82 % of executives expect some form of climate change regulation in their companies’ home country within five years.

I'd draw from here:
- Awareness, by itself, does not create change. There are loads of studies that demonstrate remarkable increase in the consumers, business people and other stakeholders' understanding of sustainability issues and challenges (climate change, poverty, social exclusion etc), its connection with doing business, daily consumption patterns and so on. Nevertheless, actually doing something about it, is significantly rarer. IE. one understands the issue, but doesn't actually act upon it and doesn't really get out of the "it-is-like-that, because-it-has-always-been-like-that", that for various reasons. For ex. a consumer x understands the issue of fair trade, the need for it and IS actually willing to pay more for a fair trade product. YET, the consumer patterns do not reflect that: in spite of the willingness, the consumer does not buy the product. Again, for various reasons.
How to have the ACTION reflect the AWARENESS? What are the challenges we face personally, in family life, in an organization we work, in the community we life in? How are we going to go about these challenges?'s quite a thing for the reinvention of the corporate world, the consumer society!

- Taking care of the environment, could be profitable for the company, if managed properly. What stops from doing it? Lack of the sense of urgency, knowledge and skills, consumer appreciation, too hard to let go of the 'business as usual'?

- Could acting before the state (by imposing more regulation) mean competitive advantage to the businesses taking a faster leap ahead?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carbon neutral events

Good to see the sustainability movement becoming a part of the organization of large conferences (that one is GRI conference).
Would be exciting to see the guys in Davos dressed in green :))), I guess it's not long from now.

The Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency will be a “carbon neutral” conference through use of carbon offsets. Environmentally friendly materials will be used where possible, for example, for the 1,100 conference bags and all printed materials. The conference catering providers will serve organic food and there will be no bottled water available in order to minimize waste. Every conference participant receives a free Amsterdam public transportation ticket for the duration of their stay, to use on all trams, buses and trains.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Plastic bags vs jobs

Brazil is definitely a country of plastic bags. In supermarkets you have to rush and grab your stuff before the shop assistants manage to put each item in a separate bag, or even worse in the case of heavier things, layer it with another bag to make sure you are 'safe' to go. Saying "no, thanks!" to the eager assistants, you might save yourself from the double-layer of bags or, if lucky, have a few items fit together in one bag.
Me and my room-mate Zoe had a no-plastic-bag approach, so we'd take our backpacks when doing the weekly groceries. But yet we'd wonder, what would happen, if the plastic bag culture had to change by, for example, the use of plastic bags being banned. What would happened to the shop assistants, whose main job seemed to be helping you putting your things in the endless number of bags, or what would happen to the industry that produces these bags, or to the employees that get their jobs in this production process.

So here I red an interesting example of China, which has banned, for environmental reasons, the free hand-out of plastic bags. As a result, the country’s largest plastic bag factory has closed, throwing 20,000 workers out on the street. Some see this as posing a dilemma between environment and economy, but some argue that the good environmental policies are proven good for the economy.
What this case illustrates instead is the dilemma between doing something good for the whole people/society, but at the expense of adjustment costs borne by a small group – the 20,000 workers and the factory owner.

- On a broader scale, good environmental policies create jobs directly and indirectly. China is quickly emerging as the largest producer of photo-voltaic cells and of wind power equipment (both supported by World Bank projects).
- The clean-up of lakes and rivers and the expansion of sewerage and waste water treatment facilities create huge numbers of jobs in construction and maintenance.
- The health benefits of the clean-up reduce illness and prolong life expectancy, both of which are good for long-run economic development.

Finally, it seems to be a clear tendency for cities with better natural environment to attract more investment and create more jobs. The highest productivity in the world is in countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all of which have good natural environments.

Invest in genocide free world

Would you ever think that by buying stock of foreign companies such as PetroChina on US stock market you would be supporting genocide in Sudan?

There are already a few examples of shareholder activism, where the proposals ask for procedures to screen out companies who "substantially contribute" to genocide. Organizations working on passing the proposals include the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Physicians for Human Rights, American Jewish World Service, Genocide Intervention Network, The ENOUGH Project, The Aegis Trust and the Unitarian Universalist Association...etc.

For example, the US companies are already prohibited from doing business with the Sudan government and Sudan oil companies. HOWEVER, US investors and mutual funds can still buy shares of foreign companies that trade on US stock markets, such as PetroChina, that profit from Sudanese oil.

I red this newsbit today on SRI News, and became thinking of the INTERDEPENDENCIES again, and of the fact how many decisions are actually made uninformed.