3 Ways Businesses Can Address Climate Change and Support Sustainability

Energy innovation and sustainability experts shared how businesses can work together to address climate change.

Air Date: September 21, 2021

Moderator: Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gary Litman, Senior Vice President, Global Initiatives

Featured Guests: Elliot Diringer, Senior Advisor, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, U.S. State Department, Karen Fang, Head of Global Sustainable Finance, Bank of America, Katherine Neebe, VP of National Engagement and Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer, Duke Energy, Rich Voorberg, President, North America, Siemens Energy, Mary Draves, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of Environment, Health and Safety, Dow, Glenn Wright, VP, Renewables and Energy Solutions, Americas, Shell, Warwick King, VP, Low Carbon Technologies, Conoco Phillips, Sharon Tomkins, VP, Sustainability, Sempra, Gregory Barker, Lord Barker of Battle, Former UK Energy and Climate Change Minister

Climate change has been an ongoing issue for years and recently, many people have joined the conversation. While it’s difficult to convince everyone of the growing concern for climate change, it is no longer a political issue; rather, it is a visible threat across the globe.

To make real progress in our energy innovation and sustainability efforts, both public and private sectors must cooperate and work together with a common goal in mind. To help facilitate cooperation, experts recently shared ways businesses can work with the rest of the world to slow the impact of climate change during a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce webinar.

Energy Innovation Requires Short-Term Investments and Actions Toward Long-Term Sustainability Goals

Elliot Diringer, a senior advisor in the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, applauded many corporations for their continued commitment to addressing the climate crisis even throughout the pandemic when stakes are high in other areas of business.

“At a time when it might've been easy to step away, a remarkable number of companies have instead taken on ambitious net-zero targets,” he said. “Now we need companies to translate those ambitious long-term goals into ambitious near-term investments and action.”

He noted that his organization is working on a number of initiatives to provide opportunities for companies to continue their ambitious work toward sustainability. These initiatives include helping businesses reach decarbonization through existing and next-generation technology, as well as focusing on technology that isn’t currently viable but will be helpful in achieving net-zero emissions in sectors like steel, cement, aviation, and shipping.

“The idea is to align up procurement commitments to send early demand signals that will help advance these technologies,” Diringer added.

The Finance Sector Must Take Responsibility in the Fight Against Climate Change

Karen Fang, the global head of sustainable finance at Bank of America, noted that climate change is not a political issue; it’s real and visible across the world. However, to take measurable steps toward our goals, every sector — especially the finance sector — must be willing to do its part.

“We have a transition to do, and the finance sector … has a tremendous amount of responsibility to play,” she said. “Every project does run on capital. Every investor, company, [and] organization does need capital to run.”

Without capital allotted to these innovative initiatives and organizations, it’s nearly impossible to make the necessary changes.

“We have a tremendous amount of responsibility to actually ensure this energy transition is done in a very sustainable manner, and we take into account climate equity and environmental justice and do it the right way,” Fang added.

Public and Private Collaboration Will Help Slow Down Climate Change

Glenn Wright, VP of renewables and energy solutions at Shell Energy Americas, said Shell supports bold action on climate but it’s something that needs to be done at a more cooperative and greater level.

“We need to take a sectoral approach through public and private collaboration — that's key for us,” he said.

However, Wright added, the world isn’t moving fast enough toward climate change. If we don’t increase our efforts and collaboration soon, we might see a temperature rise above 1.5 degrees C, or 34.7 F — a dangerous increase that will have serious long-term consequences.

“Climate change is already causing more frequent and severe weather events across the world today than we've ever seen, and I think many of us have experienced them firsthand,” added Mary Draves, chief sustainability officer and VP of Environment, Health and Safety at Dow.

“We believe that countries and industries need to pursue a series of international sectoral decarbonization agreements to address energy use alongside energy supply,” Wright said. “We need more action [and] more cooperation. It needs to be a more concerted effort.”

“Climate doesn't know borders or languages,” Draves added. “No company [and] no country can do anything alone. This is about us working together, and only by working together can we solve this most challenging … crisis we're facing.”

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