Our ability to provide food, energy, and other resources to more people around the world has come at the expense of our future. Changes to our climate and environment, unsustainable land and natural-resource use, pollution, and other factors are all major threats to the critical ecosystem services that we rely on.
Taking action is a business issue. Imperatives like ocean conservation, mitigating the effect of wildfires, and ensuring access to clean water have never been more important. Organizations that embed sustainability into their business models and governance processes, with a particular focus on our changing climate and environment, will drive lasting competitive advantage.
The Current State of Our Climate and Environment
Protecting our climate and environment is an urgent challenge. No matter the industry or region, now is the time to prioritize and proactively invest in transformational action that will reduce plastic waste, limit global warming, and set organizations on a path to success in a decarbonized world. With innovative and strategic approaches, companies can ensure that the planet’s needs—as well as humanity’s—are met.
Global temperature has increased by about 1°C above preindustrial levels, a change that is correlated with an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Even if warming is contained to 2°C—as prescribed by the Paris climate agreement—increasingly destructive events, such as fires, droughts, hurricanes, rising seas, and forced migration, will likely materialize. Current policies and pledges are not enough to get the world on track. We need to act now in order to reverse emissions and ensure we are on a clear downward trend in the coming decade.
It’s not going to be easy, but the good news is that we can use existing technology to achieve most of the required transition to a low-carbon economy in energy, industry, transportation, land use, and infrastructure—and we can do so in an economically viable way. That’s where BCG’s climate and environmental consulting team can help.
The Sustainability Imperative
Today’s climate and environment conditions compound many other environmental challenges. Take ocean conservation, for example. Our oceans are threatened by rising temperatures, acidification, and the increasing damage associated with storms and high tides. But there’s also the overexploitation of resources like fish stocks; the erosion of critical habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves; and damage from pollution and single-use plastics.
Corporate leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the business and societal value of strategies that reuse and recycle resources and are thus moving toward what’s known as a circular economy. BCG employs this approach and helps clients rethink the traditional take-make-dispose economic model and envision a new one that is regenerative by design.
We have to view the relationship between business and the environment from a fresh perspective. Those that do so will be in the best position to combat the impact of climate change and ecosystem degradation while also capturing valuable new business opportunities.