“Climate for the Rest of Us” by Amanda North

When personal computers first emerged they were regarded as specialized tools for experts hired for that function. Apple Computer’s breakthrough was introducing a “Computer for the Rest of Us”– an approachable extension of human capabilities. The Macintosh enabled ordinary people to use computers as readily as they would pencil and paper. I supported that revolution as a leader of Apple’s Desktop Publishing group.

What we urgently need is “Climate for the Rest of Us”–applicable information presented in laymen’s terms, decision-making frameworks, and diagnostics that enable Board members and business executives to factor climate impacts into their strategic decision making and embed this topic across their organizations. This is our mission at Plan C Advisors.

On July 23, 28 companies representing over 1 million employees in 16 countries and across 17 industry sectors committed to the new climate targets released by the UN–containing global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and achieving net zero emissions no later than 2050. These corporate leaders include global powerhouses such as Levi Strauss, HP, British Telecom and SAP and are part of an industry coalition called We Mean Business.

That’s the good news.

On July 9, Reuters reported that “only one in eight of the world’s most-polluting companies are on track to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with global temperature goals.” Indeed, most companies have done little to prepare for and prevent the impacts of climate on their organizations, or the communities they serve.

Given the consensus of the global scientific community, reflected through the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and mounting tangible evidence of climate change, why have businesses been slow to focus on this topic? Company leaders certainly have competing priorities–the number one issue for Board Directors is cyber security, according to the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). And there are a number of misconceptions preventing climate impacts from becoming a top concern, including:

  1. Climate change isn’t a significant threat
  2. This is a future problem
  3. It doesn’t affect the regions where my company operates
  4. My kind of business won’t be affected
  5. Any action would be expensive; there is nothing I can do

The truth is a warming planet affects all of us through impacts that may seem isolated now, such as extreme weather events, but are interconnected and systemic. Climate is impacting businesses NOW, in every region and every industry sector.

Part of the problem is that information around each of these misconceptions often is presented piece-meal, accompanied by a plethora of scientific facts and figures. The majority of organizations will only take action if vital information is presented in a way that is digestible, actionable and relevant to their businesses.

Only by all of us working together can we mitigate and reverse the impacts of climate change. In doing so, we can uncover new possibilities for innovation and collaboration so that our businesses, and our planet, may thrive.