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4 Key Takeaways for Businesses from the World Climate Summit

Several hundred business executives, NGO partners and government representatives gathered at the first-ever World Climate Summit (WCS) at COP16 in Cancun, Mexico.

The Summit was billed as "an open and collaborative global forum dedicated to helping businesses, financiers and governments accelerate solutions to climate change."

For those businesses executives unable to jump on a plane to Cancun to attend WCS, here is all you need to know: Think fast, think big, think collaboration, and think differently.

Think Fast

Billionaire-turned-environmentalist Ted Turner, who is not one to parse words, boldly stated during a plenary session with Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson that "humanity is not real good dealing with long-term problems like global warming."

When asked by an audience member if there was time to save our planet from global warming and the doomsday scenario, his response: "We'll have to wait and see." 

Richard Branson underscored the economic urgency of the climate challenges we are facing by concluding, "We're going to have the mother of all recessions if we don't begin to figure out our energy problems. Businesses cannot continue to wait for legislative action to implement carbon reduction efforts and planning."

Think Big -- Gigaton Big

According to Jules Kortenhorst from the European Climate Foundation, the world currently emits 48 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, and on our current trajectory, this figure will increase to 56 gigatons by 2020.

To put this in perspective, a gigaton of CO2 is equal to one billion metric tons of CO2. When thinking about your company's carbon reduction strategy, keep in mind the scope and scale of the carbon challenge we face. The first annual Gigaton Awards at the WCS highlighted some of the companies that are making great strides to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Think Collaboration

Perhaps the most promising and encouraging news to come out of the World Climate Summit was the great industry collaboration on display by numerous corporations. Nike is working together with industry competitor Puma on an initiative to reduce packaging in the apparel industry. Nike has also made available for others to use their Environmental Apparel Design Tool

Companies are quickly realizing that by working together they can accelerate the roll out of new cleaner more cost effective innovations that will benefit their company's bottom line and the planet's. 

Think Differently About Your Business Model

In addition to examples of great industry collaborations on display at WCS, it was also evident that businesses are starting to retool and rethink the fundamentals of how they will do business in this new low carbon economy. 

Automaker BMW is piloting a new program called "BMW on Demand" to enable customers to choose a BMW vehicle based on their current driving needs. Imagine having access to a small energy-efficient electric vehicle for your 10-mile solo commute to work, but then be able swap that out for a larger vehicle with greater range for that weekend trip with the family. 

As the world makes this transition to a low carbon economy, innovative companies are going to change their business models to profit from this transition.

Now get busy!

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Prabhu B.

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