Leading article: Invest in the planet and clean up

Share
Related Topics

Reading, as we know, is not George Bush's strongest suit, but he should at least glance at the graphs of a new report before his latest initiative on global warming opens in Hawaii this week. They show that his whole approach to tackling global warming – by relying on voluntary initiatives from industry to come up with technological breakthroughs – is doomed to failure. That may be just what he intends – so Gordon Brown and the other leaders of the major developed and developing economies represented at the mid-Pacific meeting should read the report, too.

The rest of the world almost boycotted the get-together in the face of United States's intransigence at the crucial international negotiations in Bali last month, suspecting, quite rightly, that it is a diversionary tactic intended to impede progress towards agreement on worldwide mandatory targets for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. Now they should dismiss it as a palpable waste of time.

For the survey of 500 top companies by the consultancy, Accenture, makes it clear that they have no intention of taking the lead. Only 5 per cent describe climate change as their top priority, with not a single business in China doing so. Only 11 per cent even put it second or third. It ranks far below such concerns as increasing sales and competing for talented staff. More than two-thirds see measures to tackle global warming as a burden, imposing costs on operations – around twice as many as understand that it presents opportunities for increasing business.

Their attitude is understandable, though short-sighted. It is hard to criticise top executives for being preoccupied with increasing sales and recruiting the best people. But it is sad that more have not realised that being seen to tackle climate change helps them to achieve both aims, and boosts the bottom line. As the report itself makes clear, consumers are increasingly attracted to greener companies: "Environmental responsibility is quickly becoming an important factor in a buyer's decision to purchase a particular product or service," it concludes, "and this trend will only accelerate."

Most strikingly it found that 97 per cent of consumers in China are concerned about climate change, well above the already high global average of 85 per cent. And a survey by the US National Marketing Institute has shown that half of Americans say they would be more likely to buy shares in relatively environmentally friendly companies, and that investment in green and ethical funds has mushroomed.

Another study found that three-quarters of MBA students at top business schools said they would be willing to accept a pay cut of 10 to 20 per cent to work for a socially responsible company. Whether or not they would actually do so, when it came to it, there is no doubt that pioneering green companies such as Google and BSkyB find their environmental stances and practices invaluable when it comes to recruiting young staffs – particularly so for the most talented top few per cent, on whom the future of any business depends.

Even more important, climate change – and the measures brought in to address it – is going to fundamentally change the world economy, create a need for new products, and open up new markets. The companies that see, and seize, the opportunities first stand to clean up. Prophets will make the big profits.

The main thing stopping most companies from taking the plunge is uncertainty about what governments will do. While two-thirds of those surveyed accept that they have a role to play in tackling climate change, only 42 per cent worldwide – and 14 per cent in China – feel well-placed to do so. As the heads of blue-chip firms from Tesco to Dupont, BP to General Electric have repeatedly told the Bush administration and other governments, they need a clear framework of targets for increasing reductions in carbon dioxide to be able to plan for the future and commit the necessary investment. In this, they have been as vocal as any environmental group.

This is where President Bush's recalcitrant attitude has been so devastating. By taking every opportunity to impede progress, he has allowed the uncertainty to continue, thus putting in peril the economic objectives he claims to serve. The time has come for this to stop. The Hawaii meeting is as good an opportunity as any to make a stand. Whenever the rest of the world has united against him on global warming he has shifted ground, one reason why Tony Blair's repeated efforts to cuddle close to him were so damaging.

The negotiations in Bali were rescued because the other participants told the US to change its stance or "get out of the way". They should start in Hawaii, where they left off on the "island of the gods".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high