By Thomas Perna
Irrefutable, undeniable evidence shows climate change is happening, and it’s costing you money. The scientific data paint a clear picture that human activities and the emission of greenhouse gases are not only correlated but are a direct cause.
Climate action should be important to everyone regardless of political views, gender, religion, societal class or whatever other polarizing topic of the day. Ultimately, taking action to mitigate climate change has tangible and direct implications to both individuals and businesses alike.
Due to climate change, we have seen increasingly frequent severe weather events, including hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. Down to the individual level, we have already begun to see, and feel, the financial impacts of these events through increased insurance premiums, increased health care costs and property damage. At the corporate level, businesses face challenges with managing supply chains and sustaining infrastructure, which have a direct relationship to the overall costs associated with goods and services, which often get passed down to the consumer.
Although changes will not happen overnight to reverse the impacts of climate change, taking individual actions today goes a long way in heading toward that goal. It can be easy to discount individual actions and decisions when discussing large scale complexities such as climate change, but consumers drive the market economy — collectively, we as consumers have significant influence.
Informed and intentional consumer actions will drive industry to change. Simple actions such as purchasing energy efficient resources (LED lights, Energy Star appliances, etc.) and supporting companies that are “climate-minded” not only saves the individual consumer money over time and decreases the energy demand on the grid, it also sends a message to corporations that sustainability is a priority and if they don’t adjust their business practices, they run the risk of losing market share to more sustainable companies.
At the corporate level, investments and improvements made now, although perhaps costly, can save money in the long run and promote a corporation’s values to its consumers. Profitability index is a key metric used for companies to decide if an investment is worthwhile. It factors in initial cost of a project or improvement as well as potential return over a given time.
One critical aspect that companies need to account for in their profitability index modeling is the cost of inaction. Inaction now will have higher costs later, such as higher operational expenses; taxes, legal and regulatory fees; and a loss of competitive advantage against similar companies that choose a more sustainable path. If companies want to survive increased expenses, changing consumer perceptions and the transition to the new era, they must take action now and factor sustainability into their future business modeling and analyses.
The symbiotic relationship between the consumer and the corporations can be leveraged for the benefit of our environment.
From the bottom-up, supply and demand drives market prices and the impact that consumers can have on the overall economy cannot be understated. As consumers, our choices influence the business landscape. We must demand more from companies and be willing to make procurement decisions with sustainability in mind.
As businesses, our actions influence the trajectory of climate change. From the top-down, companies need to take a leadership role in the sustainability movement and advance how we consume resources moving toward efficiency and sustainability.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it’s a complex economic challenge that affects both businesses and consumers alike. Inaction has a cost. The economic imperative of environmental stewardship goes beyond protecting our environment; the decisions you make today are about protecting our businesses, our families and the economic prosperity of generations to come. So, the next time you are making a purchase or investment, I urge you to do so with the intention of forcing our economy toward climate action.
Thomas Perna is a U.S. Marine Corps officer with 13 years of service who received his undergraduate degree in environmental science from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in environmental engineering from Lehigh University. This opinion piece was originally published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which is a media partner of The Invading Sea.