From deadly wildfires to historic hurricanes, scientists are convinced that climate change is affecting the United States. Those concerns are reflected in the recently released National Climate Assessment, which says climate change poses a major threat to our health, economy, infrastructure and natural resources.
The private sector is near the center of the potential crisis – both as part of the problem and as vital contributors toward solutions.
Many climate scientists agree the main cause of the global warming trend is the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And 46 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are caused by the private sector, according to the November 2016 White House Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Carbonization. Encouragingly, though, some businesses are taking the initiative to combat climate change in innovative ways.
“These are very important steps, but many more must be taken,” says Barry Breede (www.koppersuip.com), chief innovation officer at Koppers Utility & Industrial Products and author of Transforming the Utility Pole. “The social and environmental costs are too high.
“We’re on a collision course with disaster, especially if the private sector, in particular, doesn’t step forward and lead the way, but there are good signs that they’re starting to get it. Innovation has become one of the premier business buzzwords, but now it includes ways of improving the environment. Businesses realize that emphasis can align with their bottom line and their overall mission.”
Breede cites a few ways businesses are innovating and changing to help battle climate change:
Increasing reliance on renewable energy. Many companies are already taking steps to reduce emissions by using renewable energy. Numerous Fortune 100 companies have committed to procuring 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources. “They realize that investing in clean energy is not only good public relations, but it’s also profitable, because energy costs are declining and they have the ability to lock in to fixed-price contracts,” Breede says. “In addition, they can influence business partners to make the move to renewables.”
Green financial tools. Companies are using “green bonds” to achieve climate and energy goals. “Green bonds act as a vehicle for institutional investors who put their capital in projects that address climate change,” Breede says. “Green bonds also help drive innovation and development of low-carbon products.” Another tool is green pricing. Large energy-buying businesses purchase it from a renewable project operated by a utility, allowing the company to use environmentally-friendly sources such as wind, solar, and low-impact hydro.
Tech developments. Technology companies are keeping pace with clean energy investment decisions by developing new types of battery storage and intelligent solar inverters, which convert DC output from solar panels into AC that can be fed to a commercial electrical grid. “Leading firms can make the best use of technology and see how it can benefit them significantly in savings and energy efficiency,” Breede says. “More importantly, all these advancements reduce greenhouse emissions.”
Internal carbon pricing. Companies that establish a corporate carbon price assign a monetary value to carbon-dioxide emissions associated with a business activity. “This price signal is factored into investment decisions, providing an incentive for the company to move from emissions-intensive programs and products to low-carbon, climate-resilient alternatives,” Breede says.
“Business leaders across industries face the challenges of a changing economy and environmental sustainability,” Breede says. “And they are finding they have a real opportunity, and moreover a responsibility, in adjusting to climate change.”
About Barry Breede
Barry Breede (www.barrybreede.com), author of Transforming the Utility Pole, is the chief innovation and marketing officer at Koppers Utility & Industrial Products—a national leader in the sale of wood utility poles. He leads the company’s efforts in commercializing new business ventures, products, and services. Breede also assists Cox Recovery, a Koppers subsidiary providing utilities with environmentally friendly methods of disposing of wood waste. A graduate of the University of Oregon, Barry has also worked extensively in the innovation area with several global companies including Electrolux AB, Umbro International, and Specialized Bicycles. Barry currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina.