Why General Mills, Dell, Unilever Care About the COP21 Climate Talks


by | Nov 4, 2015

ParisAs the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change in Paris approaches, an increasing number of companies are pledging to reduce their own emissions and carbon footprints — and seeing cost savings from these actions.

Some 90 percent of the world’s countries have submitted climate pledges to facilitate a global agreement that will prevent global warming beyond a 2 degree Celsius increase, Green Builder reports. The remaining 10 percent are expected to follow suit in the next few weeks.

The private sector is stepping up their actions, too.

Doug Kramer, CEO of spray-foam insulation company Lapolla, attended a series of meetings at the White House where the Obama administration asked CEOs “for input about how we, collectively, can expedite the process of finding out what’s practical from a technology and cost standpoint to set deadlines for the phase out of harmful chemicals without jeopardizing business,” Kramer tells Green Builder.

The outcome of the meetings: 81 companies have now joined the White House-led American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Some 68 companies — including Autodesk, Best Buy, Bloomberg, CA Technologies, Dell, eBay, EMC, General Mills, Ikea, Kellogg’s, Levi Strauss & Co., L’Oreal, Mars, Nestle, Nike, PG&E, Starbucks, Unilever and The Walt Disney Company — joined the White House initiative last month, joining 13 company pledges announced in July.

Sustainable Companies Outperform Peers

Climate Action, which establishes partnerships between the businesses and the public sector, says sustainable companies have outperformed their peers by 9.1 percent over the past four years. The organization recommends businesses take action now to engage with COP21 in December, including making online pledges to align their internal policies and targets around carbon reduction with their peers. Companies can also become members of organizations such as Business Social Responsibility (BSR), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Ceres.

“Many companies see climate action as an economic opportunity that can spur new businesses and jobs — while also benefiting consumers,” says Ceres spokesperson Tessa Castellani. “Consumers are increasingly pressing companies on what they are doing to cut their carbon footprints, adopt renewable energy or become more sustainable.”

Climate Change Brings Rising Business Costs

Companies are also seeing their costs rise from extreme weather and other climate-related events, which affect their supply chains and operations Castellani says. “Unilever for example estimates that natural disasters linked to a changing climate — in particular, food price increases, water scarcity and reduced productivity in many parts of the agricultural supply chain — cost the company around $400 million annually,” she says. “Conversely, acting on climate change can help companies save on energy costs, such as by implementing energy efficiency initiatives. Adoption of renewable energy can also shield companies from volatile fossil fuel prices.”

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