Beyond the well-being of polar bears and state of melted glacial caps, the effects of climate change range far and wide. They touch all corners of the globe. They shift weather patterns, affect human health and diminish freshwater supplies.
How does climate change, that shift in global weather patterns that began in the mid 20th century, affect the way we do – or should do – business?
Climate plays an integral role in the ecosystems that occur naturally worldwide. Culture and human economy also rely on the average weather of a place. No matter what convention you go by when it comes to the source of climate change, if you're in business in 2013, it affects you.
How though? How does climate change alter the business you operate, work for, or rely on?
No company, regardless of Leeds certification status or green initiatives or global consciousness, can reverse climate change on their own. They can, however, delve into actions and behavioral changes that impact how they conduct business.
Here, are three companies who get it – and who get it done as they manage risks.
IBM's eco-friendly awareness began well before most of ours did, more than 40 years ago. IBM, a global consulting and technology corporation, takes its heft as a world player to enact programs such as the Green Sigma Coalition, which seeks to reduce operating costs and construct efficient supply chains.
IBM's sustainability approach is two-pronged: To attune its products and processes to efficient standards, and to create technology to aid a global effort for better accountability and environmental influence. The company keys on energy efficiency, manufacturing and distribution.
IBM's efforts remind us that every business – regardless of industry or scope – is part of a global strategy of sustainability. This applies to everything from production to distribution to innovation.
Erosion and pest infestation threatens coffee farm lands. Rainfall shifts and evolving harvest patterns in coffee-growing bioregions take a toll not only on available land, but also the economic communities nearby. Starbucks also is concerned with emissions from retail stores and roasting operations.
Starbucks supports progressive climate-change policy, and assists conservation and restoration efforts in places such as Chiapas, Mexico; Minas Gerais, Brazil; and Sumatra, Indonesia. Starbucks connects farmers in these regions to government incentive packages for forest preservation and restoration.
Starbucks, through work with Conservation International, recognizes the shifting landscape of climate change, and how it can adapt its strategy to fit those changes.
Energy conservation is paramount. Verizon, a broadband and telecommunications company, operates a fiber Internet network that reduces much of the infrastructure of the past. Carbon intensity reduction is important; Verizon also wants to ensure its top suppliers share its vision for maximum sustainability.
Verizon customers can turn in old devices for new ones as part of a recycling program. Verizon Recycling Rallies have amassed more than a million points of e-waste. A 2009 initiative to reduce carbon intensity at cell sites and facilities and a 35,837-vehicle fleet by 50 percent by 2020 has reached 37.48 percent.
Internally, Verizon's green efforts are admirable, but it's the standards they set for top suppliers to also report on sustainability that go above and beyond. When industry heavy-hitters set those parameters, sustainable practice becomes a competitive advantage to those who participate.
About the Author: Christopher Beck is a sustainability consultant. Originally from Asheville, NC, he graduated with a degree from the University of South Carolina and is now pursuing a career trying to make the world a better, cleaner place.