Many businesses that supply the goods and services we use every day understand that they have a role to play in keeping global warming in check. Their profits depend on it. The long term rise in global temperatures will change where and how we extract raw materials and produce the many things we take for granted, from the grapes crushed to make wine to the cotton spun to make the shirt you are wearing.
Nearly 400 companies and nonprofits signed a letter last week urging president-elect Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement and support policies that combat global warming. The list covers a wide range of industries and includes Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Sierra Nevada Brewing. It also contains surprising signatories: companies that aren’t known to take part in environmental initiatives, such as Tiffany & Co, Monsanto and Staples.
We asked people from a handful of brands who signed the letter why they voiced support for the Paris agreement, and how they address climate change in their business.
Phil Miller, vice president of global corporate affairs
Climate change has a significant impact on agriculture, and agriculture can be a significant part of the solution to address climate change. Modern agricultural innovations can help with both adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.
With the help of external experts, Monsanto has developed carbon neutral crop production models to share with the broader agriculture and climate modeling communities. These models demonstrate the potential of a crop production approach, which builds soil carbon in amounts equal to or greater than the total amount of carbon emitted to grow and harvest those crops. We signed the recent letter because we believe climate change is real and a potential threat to global food security.
New Belgium Brewing
Jenn Vervier, director of sustainability & strategy
I did not hesitate to sign New Belgium onto the letter urging the incoming administration to honor the Paris climate accord. It’s the planet’s best chance to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. As brewers, we are dependent upon agricultural cycles and so climate change is a direct threat to our industry. Like all businesses, we depend on economic stability.
But most importantly, as humans, climate change imperils our way of life. All the work we’ve done at New Belgium for the past 25 years to be environmental stewards – while at the same time growing our company – seems almost irrelevant given the prospect of US inaction. If the Trump administration walks away from efforts to protect our planet, it will be tantamount to lighting the match that finally sets it fully aflame.
Individuals, businesses, political leaders – we all need to raise our voice loudly on this. Time is running out.
Jake Swenson, director of sustainable products & services
As the climate continues to change, it will affect our direct operations, our customers, our suppliers and ultimately the products we sell. For one example, the forests of landowners who sell wood to our paper product suppliers could be adversely impacted by increasing risks of fires, drought and/or insect damage from rising temperatures.
In 2010, we set a goal of reducing our total carbon emissions by 50% by 2020, and we’re halfway there, with a 28% reduction through 2015. By aggressively pursuing energy efficiency and shifting to renewable and cleaner energy sources, we can save money while reducing our carbon emissions at the same time.
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer
The climate affects most of what we do, from how much rain falls on a farmer’s fields to how much energy it takes to heat and cool our production facilities. And our choices, from how we ship our ingredients to how our suppliers plow their fields, have an impact on the climate. We believe – and scientists agree – that in order to halt or slow climate change, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
We are working toward sustainable emissions levels by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2025. We’re also focusing our efforts on something many of us take for granted, but farmers never do: dirt. Healthy soil is alive – and it works hard for our planet. It contains the nutrition crops and wildlife need. It holds water, even through the drier times. It holds onto gases that would otherwise contribute to climate change. That’s why we’re helping farmers grow good, clean dirt – because that’s where a healthy planet starts.
Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images
Josh Prigge, director of regenerative development
The wine industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change because we depend on specific climates to produce quality grapes for our wines. Any changes in these climates can directly impact the quality and yield of the fruit that we bring to our winery.
We farm all of our nearly 1,000 acres of vineyards in Northern California organically. Not only does this practice – sometimes referred to as regenerative agriculture – help soils retain vital moisture during dry periods, it also retains more carbon in the soil, thus helping mitigate the effects of climate change.
We have been taking concrete steps to implement smart climate practices for decades. We were the first winery in California to operate on 100% renewable energy, in 1999, and the first winery in the world to publicly report and verify our greenhouse gas emissions to the Climate Registry, in 2005.
Saunders Hotel Group
Tedd Saunders, chief sustainability officer
Saunders Hotel Group has already been impacted by carbon-fueled extreme weather. Our hotel in New Haven, Connecticut was pummeled and flooded by Hurricane Sandy and then the blizzard Nemo, which dumped three feet of snow on our property. Both times we lost power for six days and had considerable lost revenue, canceled events and major food spoilage.
We have been helping lead the world’s largest service sector industry – travel and tourism – on sustainable business practices since 1989, but we are ramping up our efforts to meet the internationally agreed upon science-based goals. In addition to installing EV charging stations at our Lenox Hotel and other properties, and a co-gen power plant and CNG (compressed natural gas) vans at our Comfort Inn & Suites Boston/Airport, we have dozens of energy efficiency and water conservation initiatives in place. We also buy local goods to reduce transportation impacts, offer carafes of filtered water in The Lenox guestrooms, encourage guests and team members to use public transit, green cabs and rental bikes.
Amy Hall, director of social consciousness
Climate change is a critical business issue for Eileen Fisher. Water scarcity affects the crops that provide fibers for our clothing and the dye houses that process the fabrics. Energy sources affect our decisions about shipping materials and goods around the globe. These are no longer future risks, but rather present-day concerns. Companies like Eileen Fisher can no longer afford to continue conducting business as usual.
DuPont Industrial Biosciences
Jan Koninckx, global business director for biofuels
DuPont’s belief in the importance of taking prompt, coordinated and strong action to address climate change is why we were a founding member of the US Climate Action Partnership and why we have invested substantial resources in renewable energy, including hundreds of millions of dollars to construct a state-of-the-art commercial cellulosic ethanol facility.
Not only is cellulosic ethanol a critical technology to decarbonizing the transportation sector and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, it has the added benefit of reducing our dependency on foreign oil, revitalizing the rural economy and bringing lasting opportunities to farmers across America.
Photograph: David Paul Morris/Getty Images
Lynelle Cameron, senior director of sustainability
Climate change will affect everything that our millions of customers design and make – from consumer products to cars to buildings and even the design of whole cities.
With the design technology available today, customers now have the ability to understand the energy – and therefore climate – implication of everything that gets made. Customers can use our software to design clean energy solutions that mitigate climate change, including simulating wind turbines and micro hydropower turbines. Beyond working with our customers to address energy concerns, we have also committed to all seven We Mean Business commitments, including our latest effort to power our business with 100% renewable energy.
Anna Walker, senior director of policy and advocacy
Apparel production depends on access to raw materials and natural resources. As a 160-year old American company, we must do our part to combat climate change to allow us to be a successful business for another 160 years. Our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in our direct operations and grow our renewable energy purchases to 20% by 2020.