Top US companies building climate change into their business plans to stay ahead

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 3 minutes
10 June 2014

NEW YORK: Major public companies in the US are embedding climate change and clean technology in their business plans to remain globally competitive, new research shows.

A report by CDP comparing business responses to climate change across 9 US states, has found global warming is being integrated into strategies to give top companies the commercial edge in America and beyond.

Analyzing responses from 172 leading businesses in California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia, CDP says many are innovating to feed growing demand for greener, more energy efficient products, as well as to adapt to changing climate laws.

California-based IT corporation and member of The Climate Group, Hewlett-Packard (HP), has seen fast growth in its low carbon products and is innovating to reduce emissions across the business. Like many companies the company also sees new climate regulation as an opportunity.

Quoted in the report, HP says: “[…] we are betting on game changing technologies that have the potential to drastically reduce the environmental footprint of large-scale computing. Any changes in fuel or energy regulation, carbon taxes or product efficiency standards that result in an increased cost to doing business, either directly (carbon tax) or indirectly (energy tax), will present an opportunity for HP through our ability to help our customers reduce and manage their IT related energy demand.”

But regulatory uncertainty has also limited companies’ abilities to plan effectively, which has cost them in the past. Bank of America, for example, reports this uncertainty is holding the company back from low carbon investments.

Perhaps owing to consistently strong goverment support for green growth, standing out in the report is the state of California, which boasts clear progress toward its low carbon economy. An impressive 86% of the businesses reviewed say climate change is factored into their business strategy, and 90% say they’re engaged in activities that influence energy efficiency and climate policy.

Reporting on its renewables investments as a lucrative means to becoming more resilient to climate risk, another Californian tech-giant, Google, says: “Google’s long term strategy has been to help encourage the development and deployment of more renewable energy through policy advocacy… investments in early stage companies, and investments in large scale renewable energy projects. In 2012, our investments in large scale renewable energy projects included an additional commitment of US$275 million to two large wind projects, bringing our total commitments to renewable energy projects to over US$1 billion.

“This gains us strategic advantage over our competitors by providing stable electricity prices over the long term, lowering our operational costs, and helping to protect us from risks.”

Boosting renewables is a key element in many of the companies' strategies across the states analyzed, with almost all Texan businesses in the report listing that natural gas, wind or solar power is now part of their energy mix.

Tom Carnac, President, CDP in North America, commented in a statement: "Managing global warming impacts delivers competitive advantage to US companies. We are moving from a world that's projecting future climate risks to one that's experiencing those risks now. Regulation can help level the playing field, allowing more companies to benefit from mitigating the risks, while speeding up the shift to a profitable low carbon economy."

By Clare Saxon

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