How Ford, Adidas are making climate change work in their favor

Up until now, companies have focused on quarterly profits to the exclusion of everything else, he said. But now, as it becomes clear that climate change poses a very real threat, many businesses are changing how they do things, some at a fundamental level. For example, every two years the apparel industry uses as much water as the entire Mediterranean Sea just to dye clothing, Winston said. Instead of looking to reduce its water use, sportswear company Adidas found a way to dye its clothing using no water at all. Winston praised the company’s innovative approach.

Adidas asked itself, “Why do we even need water?” Winston said. “That’s the kind of question we need to ask in our processes.”

Winston also suggested a renewed focus on developing quality products that last a long time. Apparel company Patagonia, for instance, launched the Common Threads Initiative, which actively encourages consumers not to buy products they don’t need.

We make useful gear that lasts a long time, you don’t buy what you don’t need,” says the initiative’s slogan.

It’s about “challenging capitalism,” Winston said. Companies need to follow Patagonia’s lead and ask, “what if we pitched customers on using less of our product?” he said.

Ford is an example of a company that has made sustainability a core part of its strategy, said John Viera, global director of sustainability and environmental matter at Ford, during the webcast. He said Ford recognized that as a big name company, it had a responsibility to put sustainability first.

“Climate change is real, man has an impact on addressing climate change, and we as a company need to do something about it,” he said.

Viera said the challenge has been convincing employees of the importance of becoming more sustainable. To get their cooperation, Viera emphasized the financial benefits to cutting emissions.

“The economic piece is really important,” he said. “You have to create the business case when addressing climate change.”

Next page: Setting long-term targets