A climate of change: What should your organization do?
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Severe hurricanes in Louisiana. Record heat waves in Russia, Africa, Asia, and South America. High fire danger in the Pacific Northwest. Above-average rainfall and ongoing flooding in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
The data show the earth is getting hotter — hotter now than it’s been since records were first kept in 1880. The rise in temperature affects animal and marine life and causes potentially devastating dangers for people. The question is, what, if anything should we do about it?
One school of thought says this will happen regardless of what human beings have done or will do in the future, so we should just get used to it. The other school says we can impact our climate, and we need to take the necessary actions to do so now before things get significantly worse.
While the U.S. government subscribes to the first theory, most other countries (and many multinational corporations) believe in the second.
How involved should businesses and associations be on this issue? Will support for one position or the other help or hurt your business?
Here are a few points to consider:
How might climate change impact your business?
This will likely be different for each organization. For example, anyone who ships perishable products will need to take additional precautions for a greater period each year in order to ensure their products arrive in good order.
Businesses built on seasonality may see their opportunities grow significantly — or shrink dramatically. Production costs may escalate significantly.
What impact will this likely have on your customers…and their customers?
Your customers will be facing similar challenges, as will their customers. How can you help them adapt, by providing the products and services they will need to remain competitive?
What actions should you take to safeguard your business?
High temperatures may result in extended power outages or travel delays. Are you prepared?
What are your contingency plans? Can you be more efficient in your use of natural resources? What is your Plan B if components or supplies are no longer readily available at a cost-effective price?
What actions are your competitors taking?
Are they stepping up to address the issue publicly and to help their customers? What will happen if they take aggressive stands on this issue and you don’t?
What are the implications of taking a public stand — one way or the other?
You have a particular set of customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders. What will they expect of you? How might they react to your organization taking a leadership position in this area?
Can you be seen as part of the solution?
Are there unique offerings or technologies you can bring to play that might impact this situation? Is there an opportunity to be seen as a leader, an innovator, a good corporate citizen?
What happens if we guess wrong?
In this case, if you choose to take action against climate change, but it turns out those actions were not necessary…you are no worse off.
However, if you chose to not do anything and it turns out proactive action really was necessary, then not only will you suffer the consequences, but so will the people who depend upon your products and services.
Finally, there are times when you have to step back and simply ask, what is the right thing to do, regardless of the short-term cost to the business.
In 2014, CVS decided to stop selling tobacco products because it felt it was inappropriate to offer a product that caused cancer when its focus was on wellness. The loss of business was estimated to be as much as $2 billion per year.
In 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style weapons and restricted sales of gun and ammunition in its stores. The hit to its bottom line was $150 million per year.
Yet, both businesses took the actions they thought were necessary, and both have remained successful. Their actions may have cost some immediate sales, but they built loyalty and goodwill with many, many other customers.
The climate appears to be going through major changes. How will your business weather the storm?
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