By Jennifer Sant’Anna, Sustainability Coach, REV

Climate change will be receiving a lot of media coverage over the next few weeks as 150 Heads of State meet in Paris at COP21 (the 2015 Paris Climate Conference) to discuss and negotiate their GHG emissions reduction targets, mitigation and adaptation strategies and “for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

COP21You may be surprised to discover however, that if you Google “COP21,” the first two likely search results are not for the webpage for this global UN event with its expected 50,000 participants, but rather for the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015, a business-related side-event of COP21.

Dig deeper and you’ll discover major sponsors of this business forum include: BMW, Avery Dennison, The Coca-Cola Company, Autodesk, Moody’s Investor Services, and numerous banks along with more expected sponsors like the Carbon Trade Exchange (CTX) and CarbonWealth. In addition, the business forum’s agenda includes CEOs, CFOs, city leaders, and governors speaking on increasing efficiency, transforming design, urban mobility, carbon pricing, sustainable agriculture and water use, finance and more.

SIF logoThe presence of Business at UN climate conferences is nothing new. The Sustainable Innovation Forum was established in 2007 and hosts an annual business forum in conjunction with the UN climate conferences. It’s also no surprise that Business has such a large interest in climate summits. After all, businesses – large and small – will both drive change due to new opportunities and have to accommodate changes to both the regulatory and business environments that arise from the agreements negotiated at these summits and promulgated at the local level. Not to mention having to address climate change impacts, locally and globally. Businesses, local governments, and NGOs want to be heard and to be present to discover new opportunities.

Change Breeds Opportunity

Organizations today will need to confront what they will be asked to do while looking ahead for opportunities that arise. The best way to prepare for the changes ahead is with a plan.

How will your organization evaluate climate change risks? Keep in mind the risks may not be only local, but entire supply chains could be at risk. Labor availability may shift. Consumer demand, with increased awareness of and concern about climate change, will evolve.

There is so much media attention on the topic now that even if your business is small and local, your customer base may be worried and want any chance to do business with companies that take sustainability seriously. How will evolving regulations affect your business? Will carbon-pricing increase the cost of doing business? Or will switching to renewables soon pencil out? Will water restrictions affect your bottom line?

All the while, the most optimistic of organizations will be looking for opportunities. New technologies will need to be developed and will certainly be adopted. Some products will go extinct while demand grows for new products. Supply chains may become more local or shift. Operating more efficiently will save organizations money. The risks and opportunities will be unique to each organization and waiting to see instead of planning and acting carries its own risk.

With a plan — especially one that that considers the longer term (at least 3 to 5 years) — organizations, large to small, will be better positioned for the future we want and the future that is inevitable. Additionally, local efforts combine for collective impact that can significantly reduce GHG emissions, conserve water, and reduce waste, often positively impacting the bottom line all while benefiting local communities and environments.

How is your organization planning for climate change?