According to a major new research report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, two-thirds (67%) of firms polled think climate change will fall down the corporate agenda list as the global economic crisis continues.  However, the global recession is having a mixed effect  Almost three-quarters (73%) of firms polled will make energy efficiency a high or moderate priority over the next two years in a bid to cut costs.  Forty percent of executives surveyed also say their firms have developed new products or services in the last two years in order to reduce or prevent environmental problems.

The report, entitled Countdown to Copenhagen: Climate change and the implications for policy and corporate strategy. It was prepared for the 2009 Sustainability Summit in London, which took place last week and  investigates the current policy outlook within key regions of the world and the prospects for change within the marketplace. The research is based on a policy overview from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Analysis division, a global survey of 538 senior business executives, and 18 in-depth interviews with relevant executives and experts. The current global recession has caused executives to increasingly see carbon emissions as a new indicator of inefficiency.   A sharp drop in business activity will also reduce demand for energy, thereby cutting emissions in the short term.

“This report shows that, although businesses will necessarily switch focus to survival mode, many firms are starting to embrace some of the short-term cost benefits of energy efficiency. A significant minority are also discovering longer-term business opportunities relating to climate change,” said Robin Bew, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Part I of this report considers the prospects for Copenhagen, and gives a more detailed overview of the specific policy and regulatory initiatives under discussion within key countries, including the US, EU, Japan, China and India, which collectively account for the lion’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Whatever policymakers in these various regions decide, the impact of regulation will fall primarily on the corporate sector, which is directly responsible for at least 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Part II of this report considers the current attitudes within business regarding climate change, the actions that are being taken and the impact of the global economic outlook on the efforts being made. It also poses questions about whether new environmental policies and strategies will blunt competitiveness within business.

Key findings from the research include:

•    More than one-half of companies polled have established some kind of climate-change strategy, although most simply consider energy efficiency.
•    Real adaptation to climate change is out of the sights of most firms right now. Seventy-five percent of respondents agree that companies as a whole have been slow to prepare for the long-term impact of global warming on their business
•    A significant minority of firms are discovering new market opportunities. Overall, 40% of respondents say their firms have developed new products or services in the last two years that help to reduce or prevent environmental problems—and 30% say such development will be a high priority in the coming years.
•    A growing number of companies favor more environmental regulation—providing there is a level playing field. More than one-half (56%) of surveyed companies believe that more government regulation is necessary in this sector.

Other highlights within the 48-page report include a detailed analysis of the policy outlook within the EU, the US, Japan, China and India.

A transcript of the presentation made at the 2009 Sustainability Summit is available on the Economist Intelligence Unit website.  You can also view the Countdown to Copenhagen video webcast of the report and events highlights. Visit the Economist Intelligence Unit to view last year’s report, Doing Good: Business and the sustainability challenge.

© 2009, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine,, Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine,, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.

  • Yeves Perez

    I would sincerely disagree! I represent a class of educators that are striving to increase the ROI message to Senior level execs and the fact is that they are not just listening, they are seeking our certification!

    My social media name is amusing to those who don’t know me, but my real name is Yeves Perez and I recognize that a ‘leadership deficit’ has partially contributed to the current economic crisis.

    So, here’s how I intend to help:

    I founded an for-profit, educational group called Eco Investment Club back in 2007 as a means to encourage eco investing and forward the progression of the green movement. After founded the company, we decided to establish long-term sustainability initiatives and a I was elected the Chief Green Officer, which I wrote the scope of work for and published it on Wikipedia!

    Over time I proposed the companies would see greater progress by electing such position, and I even polled a small group of consumer if they would support companies with Chief Green Officers… 57% said Yes, 35% said Maybe, and 9% said No.

    Then, we went to the drawing board. So, with the strong support of our community partner, UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Rady School of Management and following in the footsteps of the highly-regarded LEED AP™ designation, the Eco Investment Club has created a new certification for Green Leaders! Our aim is to award ClimateChanger™ (CC) status to business andinvestment professionals who have embraced sustainability through the acquisition of knowledge, from approved courses, and the successful implementation of an action plan. And, I’m asking you, the WiserEarth family, to support my suggestion to recognize it amongst the other certifications. The first approved course is “Climate Change and Business – The ROI for Going Green” in May 2009.

    In efforts to make my case in efforts to gain your support, I received the following commentary from Glenn Croston, P.h.D., Author of 75 Green Businesses (Entrepreneur Press) in an article he wrote called,

    “A Changing Climate for Green Leaders” (Click Here To Read)

    One benefit of the ClimateChanger designation is avoiding confusion. As the green business world grows rapidly, sorting out the true greens from the wannabees can be confusing. Having certification standards for green business leaders may help to cut through confusion and provide solid value, just as it is doing for green products and green businesses.
    Climate change remains an immense problem, which makes the opportunity to address climate change with profitable businesses all the greater. With ClimateChangers like Bob Noble and others, we’ll effectively address climate change and other environmental challenges while building a stronger and more sustainable economy in the process. – Glenn Croston

    Do you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions you’d like to lend to our efforts?