Leading companies are taking action both inside and outside their fence lines to reduce their own emissions and become more resilient to inevitable climate impacts. C2ES has found that, internally, companies are seeking a deeper understanding of the risks and opportunities of a changing climate, and are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints (the emissions from producing their products) and their handprints (emissions from the sales and use of their products). Externally, they are engaging suppliers, customers, key stakeholders and policymakers, and are publicly reporting emissions and energy-usage data, climate-related risks and management strategies. Companies are also demonstrating their commitment to climate action by partnering with other companies and stakeholders on solutions and by publicly supporting policies like the Paris Agreement.
Climate Action Plans
The first step for many companies is to develop climate action plans across the company and for individual business units. The components of a climate action plan depend on the type of company and the goals it wants to achieve, but every company faces a few general decisions, such as:
- whether the plan is designed through a “top-down” or “bottom-up” process
- whether to establish one or more targets – and if so, of what type and how
- how targets fit in with other environmental management activities
- to what extent the plan features market mechanisms such as internal carbon price and/or and external carbon offsets
- how to use research and development resources and other means to drive innovation.
Once targets are established, they can drive innovation within the company, spurring internal programs and products that can help the company meet its goals. Sometimes the mere existence of emissions or energy use data generates interest and ideas for improvements that turn out to be profitable on their own.
Goals and Targets
A growing number of companies have voluntarily adopted climate-related targets. The type of target an individual company chooses depends on its products and production methods, policy environment, and business models. Some targets focus on reducing greenhouse gases, and others on energy use. Some serve as absolute limits, and others are relative to production levels and revenues. Goals and targets can also apply to supply chain purchases or use of company products.
Nearly 300 companies have set a greenhouse gas emission reduction target “in line with climate science.” More than 100 have set goals to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are adopting operational carbon neutrality goals. Some companies purchase carbon offsets from projects such as reduced deforestation to help achieve their emission goals more cost-effectively.
Companies have found that addressing climate also makes good business sense. Greenhouse gas targets have helped them save money, generally through improvements in energy and operational efficiency. They have also seen reduced production costs and enhanced product sales, making them more competitive.
Companies have also found these internal policies help prepare them for future regulation by investing in emissions reductions now. They’ve also protected and enhanced their reputation with customers and shareholders.
Internal Carbon Pricing
One business strategy gaining traction among leading businesses is internal carbon pricing, which assigns a price to carbon emissions attributable to the business. More than 1,200 companies worldwide are either pursuing internal carbon pricing or preparing to do so in the coming two years—up 23 percent from 2015.
Companies that establish a corporate carbon price assign a monetary value to CO2 emissions associated with a business activity. This price signal is factored into investment decisions, providing an incentive for the company to move from emissions-intensive programs and products to low-carbon, climate-resilient alternatives.