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February 6, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (1) | Post A Comment

What is a Climate Strategy?

After last week’s big scientific announcements on climate change, many in the business world may be thinking, ok, we get it, but now what? Many companies now talk about having a climate strategy. But it raises an obvious question: What is a climate change strategy?

It’s not a trivial question but it’s very hard to answer. How do you have an individual corporate strategy for a global problem? (The terms are a bit odd, somewhat like a “war on terrorism”, which is a tactic, not an entity — but that’s for a completely different kind of blog). A very good take on climate strategy comes recently from the always thoughtful Andrew Hoffman at University of Michigan and his study with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

I will come back to this topic over and over I’m sure, but a few topline blog-length thoughts on some key elements of a climate strategy:

  • a sense of responsibility (as they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem)

  • very broad view on your footprint up and down the value chain

  • detailed, data-driven understanding of your contribution to the problem (basically your emissions)…and given step #1, those of your suppliers and customers as well

  • concrete goals and steps to offset, mitigate, and, most importantly, reduce that footprint (and on this issue, ideally goals should be in absolute, not relative, terms)

  • plan for how to talk about what you’re doing, both internally and externally…and a plan for listening to the same groups for perspectives on how you might do better

  • incentives in place to help employees and senior management find innovative solutions

  • ideas for driving new business or revenues — how can you help customers with their “climate strategy” (even if that’s just a consumer’s desire to use less energy or gas).

As I lay these out, I’m struck by two things: (1) it’s a heck of a lot like the list of actions and ideas in Green to Gold for a general green strategy (which indicates it’s no different really, or that I have a one-track mind), and (2) it’s not so different from any strategy — a combination of vision and execution backed by metrics and culture.

But what’s critically different is the larger global and value chain view. And climate change is inescapably an issue of “the commons” so the value of acting on it (lacking for the moment a global carbon market) is at times hard to measure. That makes it difficult to fit into the normal style of corporate decision-making. But somehow leading companies — as Tesco’s recent announcement [link] of a pretty thorough plan shows — are finding a way.




On February 14, 2007, nick said:

The climate strategy for the business world should be greater use of renewable energy.

Has anyone heard about ACORE POWER-GEN renewables conference? I heard that it is really cool and that there will be a ton of important speakers and exhibitors there. You can check it out here at:


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