The following article was featured on Triple Pundit on July 5, 2017. It was written as part of a series by me, as Chair of the first European 'Companies Vs Climate Change' conference in Brussels that took place in October 2017.
Collaboration. It’s not a term that sits easily in a competitive business environment, but it’s an approach that businesses large and small all over the world must increasingly get to grips with. It’s steadily dawning on CEOs, CFOs and everyone else that climate change is an issue too big for anyone to take on alone.
Ocean acidification and rising temperatures change marine ecosystems, threatening one of the essential pillars of our own food chain. Desertification and water shortage is already kicking off mass migration, which causes pressure on government support programmes and local communities where climate refugees end up. This is no longer the future; anyone who follows developments worldwide knows this is happening now.
This is definitely not a doom and gloom story though. Climate change does create massive opportunities for businesses to lead and innovate, creating new approaches, products and services that are suited to the present and contribute to a sustainable and exciting future.
Those who are stuck in old-fashioned business models built on an assumption that they’ll have an endless supply of resources simply won’t survive.
Many businesses are aware of this, are up to the challenge and are doing a lot already - from setting emissions targets to introducing sourcing policies that encourage conservation and re-forestation. These efforts should be celebrated, but they can’t possibly go far enough fast enough to truly address the scale of the climate change challenge.
That’s why collaboration is crucial. Establishing joint, business-led solutions that create innovations and action to address climate
change is an imperative. It’s time to find ways to go over and around the things that have been barriers to business collaboration up til now. Fortunately, there are increasing examples of those who have done this and done it well.
Take, for example, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). It came about after Walmart and Patagonia brought together 10 apparel companies in 2010 to adopt one standardized index that would drive efficiency and innovation across their value chain, reduce environmental impact and de-risk supply chains. Together, they created the Higg Index, which enables companies to compare environmental performance on material waste, water use, energy efficiency and other areas, and created ‘positive competition’ among companies like Asos, Burberry, Disney, Helly Hansen and Nike to be strive to be increasingly great on these climate-change related issues. The SAC now numbers more than 100 member companies, and is a leading example of how collaboration can create a shift in the way an entire sector operates – a shift that no member company on its own could have created.
That’s also why the first ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ conference was held last year in the US and why it’s coming to Europe in October 2017. Held in Brussels over three days, it’s been consciously designed to bring together a range of business people to share, learn, discuss and create action on climate change as a result.
The speaker lineup for the Brussels conference includes global software leader SAP, manufacturers from Toyota to ArcelorMittal, global retailers like Lidl, brewer Carlsberg, apparel company and SAC member Helly Hansen and others. Those attending come from a range of backgrounds – from fleet managers to manufacturing engineers, sustainability officers to communications people - but what they all have in common is that their role touches on climate change in some way. Everyone will come away with practical tools, a stronger network of collaborators and a sharper focus on what they and their company can do to tackle climate change as part of the global movement of business doing just that.
The beauty of events ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ is that they bring people together to find practical ways to tackle big issues, so that’s precisely what they tend to achieve as a result. Business is the world’s most powerful economic force, and it has the power to lead the way to new solutions to address climate change.
So join us in Brussels from October 4-6. Be part of the next chapter in collaboration and innovation. Why settle for modest impact on your own when you can join others to have a bigger impact? Check out the website, follow us on Twitter and join us on LinkedIn.
Betsy Reed chaired ‘Companies Vs Climate Change’ Brussels in 2017 and will Chair again in 2018. Over the course of her career in sustainability, Betsy has done a ‘grand tour,’ having worked in and for government, NGOs, communications agencies, tech startups and large corporates like Nestle UK.