Business Has Much to Do If It Wants to Be a Climate Leader

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Business Has Much to Do If It Wants to Be a Climate Leader

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Businesses have a long way to go to become truly #sustainable http://myumi.ch/aGdz0 @GlobeBusiness @DecisionLab #ParisAgreement

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Thursday, July 6, 2017 - 10:00am

Joseph Árvai is the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. He can be reached on Twitter at @DecisionLab.

If there’s one group that’s basking in the long shadow cast by Donald Trump’s ill-fated decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, it’s business. In story after story, reporters and pundits are hailing businesses – large and small – as the would-be saviours of much needed progress in the efforts to curb the risks associated with climate change.

Shortly after Mr. Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a host of multinational companies –AppleDisneyGeneral ElectricTeslaMars, among others – moved to cement their positions on the reality of climate change by committing to the Paris accord with or without support for the deal from the White House.

It’s true that many corporations have been walking the talk on climate change for a while now. For instance, many companies now find themselves in a position to power their manufacturing facilities and shops with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar; others are creatively combining on-site renewables with purchased offsets to meet their 100-per-cent renewable energy targets. Not to be outdone, utilities around the world – including DTE in Michigan and Appalachian Power in West Virginia coal country – are either reducing their reliance on coal as an energy source, or are phasing it out altogether.

But here’s the thing: It’s relatively easy and painless for businesses to pledge their allegiance to the Paris climate accord. For one thing, the agreement is non-binding, and has no enforcement mechanism, so talk can be sold on the cheap. We also live in a time when it makes decreasing economic sense for companies, especially utilities, to rely on greenhouse gas-intense fuel sources such as coal when more climate-friendly options – such as natural gas and renewables – are cheaper.

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Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals | Climate Action | Erb Institute | Joe Arvai | Paris Agreement | Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | Sustainable Business | Sustainable Finance & Socially Responsible Investment | globe and mail | university of michigan