Today, climate change and sustainability issues are rising to the top of corporate agendas, and this is good news. Business will need to be deeply engaged in these issues if the efforts of governments are to be successfully leveraged. However, there is an important disconnect that needs to be addressed: a decided lack of clarity when it comes to the future direction of global climate change policy and regulations.
Today, energy pricing and security, natural resource pressures, population growth, lifestyle changes, and consumer preferences are compelling companies to pay attention. They understand that their key stakeholders are already focused on these issues and the need to capitalize on them. As a result, there is a new clarion call for business: leverage sustainability as a strategic lens on business operations – to enhance processes, grow revenue, manage risk, strengthen reporting, optimize costs and spur innovation.
Simply put, business is engaged. And to stay that way, companies need to be able to cut through the complexity of the various arguments, points and counterpoints to understand what the international community’s goals are and how specific milestones will be achieved and measured. There are many questions: Under what policies will business operate going forward? What public policies will come from governments and international accords as the world wrestles to manage energy consumption and institute mandatory reductions in carbon emissions? What reduction levels will be required and how will standards and thresholds be applied from nation to nation, or from one industry sector to the next? As more companies provide their stakeholders with formal periodic reports about their sustainability efforts, what are the standards of measurement on which reporting comparisons can be made?
As they seek answers to these questions, and others, corporate executives continue to keep a watchful eye on governments and policy makers. Many are hoping for a mobilization of public policies on the international, national, and local fronts to help deliver the desired clarity on climate change. Given the magnitude of the challenge – private sector involvement can multiply dramatically the effects that government can realize on its own.
Clearly, business will always do what it does best: find innovative ways to meet demand and foster continued growth of the global economy. And as long as companies can attain a clear handle on the operating environment and expectations of government, meaningful progress on climate change can likely be achieved.