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Climate Change And Business


In the latter half of the 19th century, long before the current uproar about climate change started, Guy Callendar, a British engineer, used 147 weather records from all over the world and articulated the “Callendar Effect”. This effect was about rising temperatures over the previous century and found a correlation with rising atmospheric CO2 concentration in the same period.

Although this theory was disregarded by meteorologists of the time, talks of human activities exacerbating the greenhouse gas effect were already happening as early as the later part of the 19th century. We are now in the 21st century and none the wiser.

Climate change is a very visible global problem now and its effects are affecting everybody. From the monstrous hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the Atlantic region to the simultaneous twin scourges of drought and flood in India and the recent disappearance of Parali I, an uninhabited island in the Lakshadweep archipelago, climate change is sparing nobody.

Climate change is now understood and accepted by most as can be seen in the path-breaking study called “Climate Optimist” by Futerra. The study explores how people between the ages 16 and 64 regard climate change.[1] However only a handful of individuals and organizations seem to be taking serious action.

The “Climatic Change” magazine of January 2014 citing a report[2] said that 90 large corporations contribute two-thirds of the world’s emissions leading to higher CO2 in the air. When it comes to water, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that climate change will increase the cost of damage to the ocean alone by an additional $322 billion annually by 2050 if no mitigation measures are taken. At the same time a report titled “Better Business Better World” indicates that the UN Sustainable Development Goals present a $12 trillion business opportunity in four key economic areas, energy, cities, food & agriculture and health & well-being, to solve the core issues of mankind by 2030. It is clear that business has a significant role both in the creation and the solution of the problem called climate change.

The root cause of increased emissions and hence the acceleration in climate change in recent times is the carbon-intensive lifestyle of human beings. The road to redemption lies in adopting a low carbon lifestyle path and this can only happen through technology, innovation and sustainable business models. It will also require behavior change but behavior change is best enabled by new effective, accessible and affordable technology.

We all know that emissions from transportation can be sharply reduced by electric mobility. That shift will truly happen when desirable and affordable electric mobility options emerge. Just as the shift to energy efficient lighting such as LED lights got sparked only after the technology became affordable and accessible. Renewable energy generation capacity has seen a sharp uptick as the cost of renewable energy has plummeted. Going forward the use of recycled materials, green buildings, micro-irrigation, augmented reality, 3D printing will all help reduce the carbon footprint of mankind and enable the fight to remain within the limit of 20 temperature rise. Business needs to innovate and ways to make these technologies an effective, affordable reality.

Use of CSR funds to address issues reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals will add to the impact of viable business models in the climate change space. Programs such as integrated watershed development can help mitigate the effect of changes in precipitation patterns, enabling municipal zero waste to landfill programs can rid cities of the scourge of garbage and afforestation programs can help reduce air pollution. The set of sustainable business models for green businesses and impactful CSR can be a winning combination.

The sunrise businesses of the future are most likely to be those that solve problems related to climate change. As these businesses grow and the solutions become ubiquitous in our communities we should see mitigation in the causes and effects of climate change.

Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainanibility Officer, Mahindra and MahindraAnirban Ghosh is the Chief Sustainability Officer at the Mahindra Group. He has been working with Group in Sales, Marketing, and Strategy since 1999 and has been recognized as a distinguished CSO in his current role. A gold medal-winning engineer from Jadavpur University, Calcutta, Ghosh has pursued doctoral studies in Marketing Management at IIM Ahmedabad. He enjoys music, reading, traveling, driving, cricket and tennis. He is an active public speaker and has represented the nation at the Festival of India across multiple nations.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.


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