Companies Must Play a Role in Climate Change Collaboration
The big buzz in China over the past few weeks has been around US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit, largely focused on fostering a stronger partnership between the two countries to combat global warming. In message and intent, Clinton was very clear: in order to realize a more sustainable future, the governments of the US and China, as the two biggest carbon emitters, need to engage in meaningful dialogue and purposeful collaboration – the clock is ticking, and action needs to start now.
Calls for sincere discussion are good – only the need is much bigger than the governments of these two powerhouses uniting in terms of caps and standards and guidelines. For all the good a post-Kyoto agreement will do among countries, there has to be similar thinking among the private sector in both countries about how we can most effectively control and reduce our emissions together.
We need to ask businesses to not only take responsibility for the impact of their own physical locations and transport of goods, but that of their entire network –including producers and suppliers of raw and finished goods. And, we need to ask these businesses (some of whom are competitors) to work together to share best practices and ideas. When addressing the economic crisis during her China visit, Clinton said: “We are in the same boat and thankfully we are rowing in the same direction.” We are also in the same boat when it comes to climate change. It’s going to take this business-to-business level of collaboration to make the post-Kyoto treaty a successful reality.
Just imagine if a corporation like Timberland was able to implement some of the same initiatives at a contract factory in China that we have in our owned-operations, like the installation of energy-efficient lighting or exploring the use of alternative energy. Not only do we lessen the impact we’re making through the manufacture of our own products, but a factory that makes a change on behalf of Timberland makes a change for all the brands they represent. It helps improve the environment in China and contributes to the larger battle against climate change. And if other companies and factories across the world did the same thing, the impact would be exponential.
To be fair, factory management is challenged on many fronts these days, and coping with other critical issues like the economy and working conditions for their employees – it isn’t realistic to think the environment will easily become a priority. However, if we challenge companies to do the right thing by acknowledging the extension of their footprint, engage genuinely with their contractor partners and try to help them lighten their carbon footprint, we open the door to enormous potential.