By Joachim Marc Christensen
The election of self-proclaimed climate change skeptic Donald Trump as the next US president has sparked uncertainty regarding the future of our climate. However, the business world is not willing to give up the fight for a sustainable future.
We are still yet to fully understand the impact of the US presidential election, but one thing is clear – those who care about our changing climate are concerned about the appointment of President-elect Trump, a man who is a self-proclaimed climate change skeptic. Even though Donald Trump hasn’t put forward any concrete plans to dismantle the US commitment to the Paris Agreement, he has shown signs that climate action will be far from the top of the White House agenda. Last week, Trump appointed the long-time fossil fuel lobbyist Myron Ebell to lead the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency, and recently Trump’s transition team released statements on “energy independence” that unambiguously favor the extractive industries and in which the team promises to “conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations”. Add to that a Republican majority in Congress, and Trump’s possibilities to wreak havoc on the green path paved by the Obama administration seem ample.
Yet many American businesses do not share Trump’s environmental laissez-faire attitude, and in the aftermath of the election, 365 of them signed a letter calling on Trump and the US Congress not to abandon the Paris Agreement, which was ratified by almost 200 nations just a few days before Trump was elected. The companies, which included giants such as Nike, Hewlett Packard and Starbucks, stated that a “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” and most of them have established their own ambitious targets. Mars, for example, has promised that their factories will emit zero greenhouse gases by 2040.
The letter sends a strong message that the American business community is poised to keep fighting for a low-carbon future even if the US government won’t. But it also corresponds to one of the key messages from previous Global Opportunity Reports: That business leaders embrace the shared value in solving some of the world’s biggest problems.
A global green business mindset
A survey of more than 5,500 business leaders from all over the world from the 2016 Global Opportunity Report revealed widespread support of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals, including the ones relating directly to climate change (SDG 7, 11 and 13). Moreover, the respondents exhibited a strong belief that solving every one of the 17 goals provides value to both business and society. In fact, the survey found that the business sector in general is one of the top advocates for sustainable change, almost on the level of civil society. Finally, energy autonomy was rated as one of the opportunities that benefits business the most, in the 2015 Global Opportunity Report, which also is a clear indication of a global business environment that welcomes renewable energy.
In the light of the recent US election, one of the more interesting findings from the Global
Opportunity Report 2016 was a lack of trust from North American businesses in the political system to take on the task of pursuing sustainable goals. Of all the global regions, the North American respondents had the lowest confidence in the governmental sector to advocate for sustainable change.
All of these findings support the notion that business is the new activist, and that regardless of political systems – and the Presidents we do and don’t elect – companies are ready to fight for our climate and for a greener future.