strategy

Now is the time for business to get out front on climate

Carolyn McMaster | May 13, 2020

Markus Spiske/Unsplash

It really is OK to talk about something besides the pandemic.

Like the climate crisis.

I’ll go out on a (strong) limb and say it’s imperative that businesses (and citizens) start speaking out now. Why? Congress is planning economic stimulus legislation and deciding how to spend the next tranche of pandemic recovery funds—how those mind-boggling sums are spent is going to shape our world for years to come. Also: the election.

The pandemic has made it clear that we need to build a green economy and equitable society that reduces the potential for future shocks and is more resilient when they occur. And economists say this is a make-or-break moment. So, if you’ve dialed down your climate messages, now’s the time to turn them back up.

Businesses are stepping up. Today, more than 300 businesses are meeting virtually with U.S. legislators in the LEAD on Climate 2020 initiative, organized by Ceres with the help of partners like the Climate Collaborative, American Sustainable Business Council and B Lab. A week ago, 10 U.S. mayors joined city leaders from around the world in signing a C40 Cities statement endorsing a healthy, equitable and sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic.

Good for the world, good for you

What is good for our world can also be good for your brand. We recommend engaging in policy advocacy for two reasons: one, it increases the chances you’ll get what you want from government, and two, it gives you a way to gain media attention when you don’t have news of your own. That’s especially true now: politics is the only media theme that comes close to the presence of the pandemic.

Political advocacy isn’t the only option. Mission-first businesses can communicate about the importance of this moment in averting the climate crisis with their customers, stakeholders and the public. Create a social media campaign. Write an op-ed. Or just use your website or blog to tell your story. Let customers and clients know what you do to lessen your impact and illustrate why it matters. Let members of your community know how they can help.

More than ever, people are looking for brands that lead and do the right thing. So getting out in front on climate is likely to strengthen your brand position.

As the economists point out in their working paper, “The recovery packages can either kill these two birds with one stone—setting the global economy on a pathway towards net-zero emissions—or lock us into a fossil system from which it will be nearly impossible to escape.”

There’s no time to waste.

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