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The climate has changed: 3 ways your company can act now

<p>This Climate Week, We Mean Business issues its first big report as it gathers clout among serious business leaders intent on change.</p>

Recognizing the growing urgency of climate change, BSR recently launched Business in a Climate-Constrained World, a program helping business develop a greater understanding of climate science and take ambitious and pragmatic steps to both reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate.

As part of this initiative, we cofounded We Mean Business, an unprecedented collaboration that brings together high-profile business sustainability groups to unify and amplify the international business voice for bold climate action. The collaboration includes BSR, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the B Team.

We Mean Business urges business leaders to take climate science seriously, to aggressively reduce emissions and to call on governments for bold climate action. It asks policymakers to help businesses go further by implementing climate policies that create market signals that enable companies to make investments in deep, long-term emissions reductions.

Today, We Mean Business launches its first report, "The Climate Has Changed," which highlights how bold climate action makes business sense. It demonstrates that investments in low-carbon projects can have attractive financial returns, and that good policy is already creating market opportunities in the transition to a low-carbon economy. And it explains how companies can balance investments that deliver high financial returns with ones that deliver high “carbon returns,” keeping both sustainability executives and the CFO happy.

We Mean Business report cover

The report also defines a set of principles for acting on climate change that all company leaders can use as a guide.

1. Acknowledge the science

Companies need to take climate science seriously. The Earth is on a path to a mean temperature rise of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and governments have agreed that the global temperature rise should be kept to 2°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst climate impacts.

In order to keep temperatures below this threshold, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 40 to 70 percent between 2010 and 2050. On average across sectors, achieving this would require 2 percent year-on-year annual reductions to reach the midpoint of that range, or 3 percent per year to achieve the high end.

The level of commitment needed by companies will vary by sector. For example, BSR recently translated the latest synthesis of scientific understanding by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for transportation, agriculture and extractives and primary industries, which outline a diverse set of climate risks and opportunities.

2. Act to reduce GHG emissions and enhance resilience

Companies should set ambitious targets with the above in mind to reduce emissions across their value chain and plan investments and activities to realize these targets. In doing so, they should use ambitious targets to innovate and create new business opportunities by harnessing design and innovation to reduce the lifecycle impacts of products and services.  

They should also take meaningful action to improve the resilience of operations, supply chains and communities in the face of an uncertain climate in the future. These actions include a full assessment of climate-related risks and adequate investment in infrastructures and capacity-building to meet them.

3. Advocate for a low-carbon future

Companies actively should support public policy to bring about a low-carbon transition. They also should ensure that all public policy advocacy — including any lobbying by groups to which the companies belong — is consistent on climate science.

Companies can demonstrate their dedication to the low-carbon agenda by publicly sharing best practices that illustrate the feasibility of ambitious leadership. They can also communicate all of the above in a consistent and standardized way, using the GHG Protocol and a well-established process such as the annual CDP public disclosure process.

Making investments that reduce emissions makes good sense for the economy, and failing to act on climate change creates enormous risks for individual companies and society as a whole. With this report, We Mean Business establishes a framework that has an unprecedented consensus among leading business groups about how companies should act, and it shows how companies and governments can collaborate in the effort to act boldly on climate change.

Read "The Climate Has Changed" or contact Ryan Schuchard for more information. This article first appeared in BSR’s Insight Blog.

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