Business Can Play a Profitable Role in Combating Climate Change
Published on Nov 5, 2014
Andrew Winston is a bestselling author and business strategist who has advised some of the world’s top companies on environmental matters.
In his new book, The Big Pivot, Winston advocates for a major shift in business priorities away from short-term earnings and toward long-term sustainability. Despite outside pressure to achieve quick wins, Winston believes the business community can help tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues (such as climate change) “using the tools of capitalism, markets, and competition to do it most profitably.”
In his recent Big Think interview, Winston calls climate change “arguably… the greatest challenge we face for humanity.” Not only does it have a negative effect on our environment, climate change has been and will continue to be catastrophically expensive for both the public and private sectors.
Yet, thanks to efforts to raise awareness about its many costs, Winston expresses confidence that the growing environmental movement can make a lasting impact. All they need is help from the outside. Read more at BigThink.com: http://goo.gl/vw1ZHY
Transcript: I believe that the challenges we’re facing globally as a business community and as a species are getting so large and so complex that the way we do business has to fundamentally change. And The Big Pivot is about a deep change in the priorities of business, kind of a flip from worrying about short term earnings first and then getting to some of these kind of shared challenges we have only when, you know, there’s pressure from outsiders or there’s maybe quick wins or kind of easy wins that companies can pursue. And flipping that so that we’re operating businesses in a way that tackles our biggest challenges and works back from there and says how do we do that using the tools of capitalism and markets and competition to do it most profitably.
Often what people call sustainability which is not, I think, always the perfect word but the things that fall under that that are environmental or social challenges – there’s this assumption in business quite often that trying to tackle these issues will be expensive, that there’s this tradeoff, this fundamental tradeoff between trying to manage these big challenges in a profitable way and just managing your bottom line in a normal way and that it’s going to be expensive. This myth was based in some reality for a long time.
There were things that did cost more money and green products or green services – they weren’t very good for a long time so there’s a sense that green was somehow not good for business. It wasn’t out of nowhere but that’s really a dated view. We now have a situation where the challenges are so vast and the world is changing so fundamentally that the only path we have forward is to manage these issues. That’s the point of The Big Pivot so that we will find a profitable path to do it and we have so many options now.
There’s a whole category of things that companies do that save money very quickly. All things that fall under kind of the banner of eco-efficiency or energy efficiency or using less. I mean in part green is about doing more with less. That’s just good business and so that part of the agenda has become much more normal in companies and they’re finding ways to cut costs dramatically. That’s the easy stuff.
But we’re now finding even the things that seemed very expensive for a while like say going to renewable energy – that’s one of the examples people always use of if we’re going to go green, we’re going to put solar on our roof and it’s going to cost so much. The cost of that has been dropping dramatically, 70-80 percent reduction in cost of, you know, using solar power in the last five years. So the economics have shifted. This is now very good for business.
Almost all of the agenda of The Big Pivot is good for business in the long term, in the medium term and very often in the short term. So there isn’t this tradeoff. This is the path to growth. This is the path to innovation, to building your brand, to cutting costs and to cutting risk. All the value drivers that you can create in business, this pivot will help you enable.
Climate change is arguably, and I believe really, the greatest challenge we face for humanity and I’m not alone in this. There’s now voices coming to the table that are from unusual places. You know former U.S. Treasury Secretaries have put out a report called Risky Business that talks about how expensive this has become just for the economy and for all of our cities and how expensive it will be, how dangerous it is.
They call it an existential threat. I mean these are aggressive statements. And so you’re seeing people starting to create a bigger social movement because we need that too. For a change this big it isn’t just business or government but citizens need to be involved. Recently in New York City there was a very large climate march. I took part with my family and me and 400,000 of my closest friends. And it got very little attention in the press. There’s a very strange thing that’s happened where, I don’t know, climate change is boring, it’s not sexy, it doesn’t seem exciting and so it doesn’t get the coverage it needs.