Monday, 29 March 2010

Personal conviction drives business climate change action

The Economist Intelligence Unit has published a report on business sentiment around climate change.  Called ‘After Copenhagen – Business and climate change’, it’s based primarily on a survey of 542 senior executives worldwide.  More than a quarter were CEOs and a similar proportion were in other C-level roles.

The full report, which was sponsored by 1E, the Carbon Trust, IBM and Hitachi, can be downloaded from here, but the main findings included the following:

• Climate change action in business has reached an impasse. Almost one third (32%) of respondents said they do not yet have a coherent strategy in place to address energy consumption issues.

• More than half (52%) of respondents believe the ‘jury is still out’ on the seriousness of climate change (against 31% who disagree).

• Companies where executives believe in the science of climate change tend to do far more on the issue.  They also seem more likely to reap the benefits; “Far more companies with believers have actually developed new ‘green’ products and services”.

• Seven in ten respondents (71%) maintained that carbon reduction policies are primarily driven by public relations.

• However, 59% of executives see cutting carbon as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over rivals over and above the PR benefit, and a range of companies have built major businesses on the back of new environmental products and services.

• Unclear regulation is the biggest barrier to greater climate change action by businesses – who want more direction. But 46% of those polled are now more pessimistic about the ability of their government to deal with climate change, especially in an international context.


An interesting study.  The first thing to note is that the survey was conducted just after the Copenhagen climate summit ended in January and not long after ‘ClimateGate’ hit the headlines, so the news was pretty negative.  I guess that partly explains the mixed messages, particularly the disillusionment with government action.

The survey results do seem to point to a polarisation of views (and actions).  There’s still a significant proportion of companies with no energy consumption strategy and more than half harbour doubts about the evidence on climate change.  Nevertheless most see the PR value in taking some action and the majority think that doing so can give them a competitive advantage. 

But what’s most intriguing for me is that personal attitudes, over and above business responsibilities, do seem to have an impact on how companies behave.  Moreover, companies where executives believe in the science of climate change are more likely to take action and seize the business opportunities it represents.  Or to put it the other way round, climate change sceptics are potentially damaging the companies they work for.

But if your selling green IT products and services, it may be that getting the prospect’s climate change champion on side is as important as the business case.

© The Green IT Review

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