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.