September 13, 2011

Climate Reality

I believe in science and facing facts or, to borrow words from an important awareness-building event today, I believe in “climate reality.” I'm donating my Twitter feed and this blog space to point people to the Climate Reality Project , Vice President Gore's latest attempt to light a fire under everyone about our climate.

In my work, I try to convey the benefits of going green to executives around the world. I generally avoid talking about climate change, at least in the U.S. where it's such a political hot potato. So instead I demonstrate how profitable it is to reduce your footprint (including carbon), regardless of the science on climate change.

My basic logic is this: decoupling our companies and economy from fossil fuels, and oil in particular, is just good business. By reducing energy use and carbon pollution, companies save money, reduce the risk that comes from relying on volatilely-priced fuels, and reap the benefits of taking part in the clean economy, which will drive innovation and generate vast wealth. But it's also a matter of national security (which is why the U.S. Navy is greening itself faster than any company I know). So, no, it doesn't matter if you "believe" in climate change.

But every now and then, I have to state clearly what I believe. Saying "it doesn't matter" is true, but it's not leveling with everyone about the depth of the challenge.

So here's my belief: The scientific evidence that the earth is warming and humans are the primary cause is vast, overwhelming, and very convincing. We are destabilizing our one home, and it's endangering our economies, communities, and even our species. The fundamental change in how the planet works – which has begun already with record droughts, floods, heat waves, and storms – is larger than we realize..

I think a lot about what a "real" approach on climate would mean for business, which will play a pivotal role in finding and spreading solutions to our energy and climate challenges. While many companies have begun the hard work, they need to step up their game.

On the day-to-day level, that means setting much more aggressive carbon reduction goals (80 to 100% reduction by mid-century or sooner). A few leaders, such as Wal-Mart, P&G, and Sony have set 100% renewables (and/or "zero impact") as goals. The rest of the business world needs to follow, and truly lay out a path to get there.

On the larger level, companies need to pursue what I call "heretical" innovation that rethinks business models and provides goods and services with dramatically reduced environmental footprint (see my blogs on this, here and here).

I see a deep parallel in all of this with one of strategy guru Jim Collins' major principles in Good to Great: "Confront the brutal facts." Collins makes a compelling case that businesses won’t succeed if they don’t tell themselves the truth.

The same logic applies to each of us as individuals, and to all of us collectively as a country and planet. It's time to confront our brutal facts -- our climate reality -- and get moving.

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