Global Warming: Management Will Make the Difference. (Upfront: News, Trends, People)

Article excerpt

Private enterprise in the US is leading the charge to eliminate global dependence on fossil fuels, according to Eileen Claussen, president of the PEW Centre On Global Climate Change.

A not-for-profit trust, the PEW Centre works with 37 Fortune 500 companies--including Weyerhaeuser, Intel, Boeing, Dupont, Shell and Alcoa--committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. Their commitment reflects the overwhelming global consensus that the earth is warming; that this trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead, and that human activity is largely to blame.

The companies involved believe that the science of climate change is compelling, and that over the long-term, their climate-friendly investments will pay off. They also believe that by taking the initiative, they can help government create climate change policies that work well for business.

Another important motivation cited by these companies is to improve their competitive position in the marketplace. And that, according to Claussen, has been the result. Each is on track to meet or exceed its greenhouse gas goal and all are finding that their efforts are helping to reduce production costs and enhance product sales.

In each of these companies it's the focus of management, starting at the top with the chief executive, that makes the difference. Management has to be informed, concerned and motivated to act, to push through the changes and to get staff buy-in of them.

In business, greenhouse gas emission comes from the use of fossil fuels as a an energy source. Reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas usage is reduced concurrently. A two-pronged approach to energy reduction is needed. Firstly, reduce energy use by taking notice of it, (turning off lights, turning off computers at night, turning down the heating, making sure vehicles are tuned regularly and running efficiently). Secondly, reengineer systems to use less energy in the production process, and ultimately produce goods that are less energy consumptive.

"This involves all the individuals in the company doing their bit," says Claussen. "You can't make them. They have to want to. To get full company buy-in management must ensure that the issue of climate change, and what the company intends to do about it, is understood by everyone. It's the cumulative effect of little things that individuals do that matter.

"The best way to recruit and retain the best employees is to be environmentally responsible and to make it known--that includes dealing with the climate change issue. …