Reprinted from Drawdown Georgia's Weekly Blog
Recent history tells us that achieving sustainability requires audacious goals, stair-step improvement, and collaboration with others to drive lasting change. This applies to the Drawdown Georgia goal to reduce carbon emissions by one third by 2030 as well. Share owners of private and public companies should make sure to use our investment dollars to help ensure these much-needed and highly vetted climate solutions can scale to meet Georgia’s audacious goals.
A company serves many masters. The Board and management team must respond to the interests of all stakeholders, whether internal, such as owners and employees, or external, such as customers, suppliers, government agencies, and communities. The events of 2020 have shown us that, to overcome daunting obstacles, the illusion of self-reliance and individualism must yield to collective solutions.
That is why companies should step forward to help solve for global warming. Because every business operates within multiple relationships, businesses are in a unique position to have a multiplier effect. One company can move many others. To do that, it must integrate sustainability goals into its near and long term strategic objectives.
Most companies draw employees from their closest communities and depend on talent from the surrounding area. These employees, in turn, want their communities to be prosperous places in which to live, shop, and educate their children. Companies should partner with local businesses to promote recycling events, beautification efforts, and green energy adoption. They can plant trees and adopt green spaces. Partnerships at the local level enhance engagement between companies and their communities, benefitting all.
More broadly, a Georgia company should partner with state academic institutions by participating in a technology or incubation lab, and by employing newly minted graduates. The company benefits from access to leading-edge innovation and research, and a pipeline of new talent. Similarly, a company can partner with one of the many Georgia nonprofits that lead specific environmental initiatives: coastline and wetlands protection, land conservation, and river cleanups. That kind of collaboration allows for innovation and thought sharing on both sides. Every Georgia environmental organization would welcome partnership with a like-minded company strategically focused on improving the environment.
More broadly still, companies should look beyond Georgia at opportunities to implement carbon reduction goals and spur further innovation with supply chain business partners. Large and small companies can co-invest in solar installations, encourage employee adoption of electric vehicles, and reach out to utility providers for grid modernization and renewable generation solutions. Companies can also direct R&D dollars toward restyling their products and packaging, adopting lighter weight materials with a smaller carbon footprint, and using more recycled content.
Georgia companies are not alone. China and Europe are moving aggressively to reduce carbon emissions. Georgia companies can become part of the global answer by signing on with other global leaders. They can also eliminate or reduce hazardous substances within their industries and decrease the potential environmental impact of their products by embracing a circular economy concept. This kind of corporate leadership in saving the planet is something all shareholders should facilitate with our investment dollars.
There are many ‘should’s in this little tract, but global warming tells us every day that we should act. Indeed, the science is settled, and almost every signal we get from the natural world tells us that we must act. Corporate leadership, spurred both by alarmed shareowners and CEOs who truly care about their communities, is now making a difference. Now is the time for traction… and acceleration.
Roy Richards, Jr. is a private and public company shareholder, and co-chair of the Leadership Council of Drawdown Georgia