3 Ways Businesses Can Be Climate Superheroes

September 15, 2015

Climate change is a problem that calls on all of us to get involved. The efforts of iconic leaders like Bill McKibben to mobilize a huge wave of people power have helped shift public and political opinion. On the other end of the spectrum from individual and collective activism, you’ve got businesses— in just the past year, we’ve seen the world’s largest brands, including Ben & Jerry’s make public commitments to help solve climate change.

Woody dusting off the world

What is a business’s stake in the fight to prevent the worst impacts of climate change? On one level it’s all about the bottom line. Analysis after analysis on the price of continuing to emit carbon are adding up— a recent Citigroup analysis put the global cost of climate change in the 21st century at $72 trillion. Economic growth is hard to imagine in a future where natural disasters take up every dollar. Secondly, climate change is also an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and sustainable development: major changes are already taking place, and businesses that don’t get on board early will be left far behind.

Last, but not least, many business leaders believe that climate change really is the moonshot of our generation. For us, and for the future, it’s simply something we’ve got to get right. Here’s how businesses can step out of the boardroom, toss on a cape, and become climate superheroes. 

1. Get Behind Government Regulations.

Standard capitalist fare would have it that government regulations hold back businesses from growth and development. But that’s a shortsighted perspective, especially with a problem as widespread, and long-term, as climate change. The only way we’re going to solve it is with an international agreement to curb emissions on a scale we’ve never seen before— just what we hope the December UN Climate Summit in Paris will yield. Now, 13 US businesses worth a combined $2.5 trillion have agreed to support President Obama as he works on his climate agenda here in the US, and aims toward a global resolution in Paris. When you look deeper, the most successful regulations on carbon emissions will actually level the playing field and set the stage for the next wave in sustainable business growth and technological development.

2. Lead on Innovation and Invention.

The really super thing about businesses is that they are ready and able to invest in these changes, now. Part of the pledge those 13 businesses made included $140 billion in sustainable and green investments. Already, businesses across the US are ramping up their commitments to energy efficiency, cleaner technologies and other solutions to minimizing emissions.

Supporting government policy is a first step, but most experts are expecting the private sector to do the heavy lifting when it comes to inventing and implementing the actual solutions. This is where the superhero cape really comes into action— firms like Tesla are already reinventing energy and transportation, and brands including Ben & Jerry’s are pushing ahead by instituting an internal price on carbon.

3. Inspire Fans and Followers.

Inspiration begins behind a business’s doors. Empowering employees to do what feels right to them is just part of Ben & Jerry’s DNA— a workplace atmosphere that’s fast becoming a basic tenant for new businesses.

Add in a brand’s influence on its customers and fans, and businesses can reach a pretty big audience. And as Ben Parker said to Peter Parker just after he became Spider Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But while brands are taking public stances on more and more social issues, there’s more they could do to inspire awareness about climate change, and participation in the solutions. Ultimately, we know that there’s only so much businesses can achieve on their own— the real change needs to be public and collaborative.

That’s why we think businesses can become the best kind of superheroes— ones that work collaboratively with their fans to solve climate change. Whew. We can’t wait to get out our masks and capes!