THE TIME FOR BUSINESSES TO TAKE CONCRETE CLIMATE ACTION IS NOW: WILLIAM THEISEN, DIRECTOR, ECOACT
NEW YORK: The intention of the US Federal Government to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement “has motivated people to go forward and take more concrete actions to show that they’re taking sustainability seriously,” says William Theisen, Director, EcoAct, in a Climate TV interview filmed during Climate Week NYC.
“Climate Week NYC is important this year because this is the definitive year when people are either taking action and encouraging others to take action,” he underlines. “It has been quite a divisive year in the United States, but what this has spurred is for people to draw a line in the sand and say either ‘we are going to move forward and take sustainability and climate change seriously’, or ‘we are going to step back and wait to see what happens’.”
However, inaction on climate change is costly, not only in terms of protecting the environment, but also – and crucially – for business leaders: “In order to continue to be competitive they actually have to take action,” says William Theisen. “The time to really take concrete action is now.”
EcoAct, a global climate strategy consulting agency, helps businesses to factor in the risks associated with climate change in order to increase their competitiveness, while fostering the transition towards a low carbon economy.
“People are already moving forward,“ he says, “they are already seeing the benefits of taking action in terms of climate change and being more sustainable. If they are not taking action now, whether it’s looking at trying to put an internal carbon price, whether it’s trying to achieve carbon neutrality, they are going to be left behind – and they are just going to have to invest more and try to catch up later.”
One of the areas where climate action shows its economic and environmental potential is the transport sector – the fastest-growing contributor to climate change, accounting for 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. During Climate Week NYC in September, The Climate Group launched the EV100 initiative, which supports forward-thinking businesses who are investing in electric vehicles.
“What we’re seeing with one of our key clients – La Poste Group, the French postal service – is that they have taken action” in this area, comments William Theisen. “So, every time you get a package it’s already carbon neutral because they are offsetting their emissions.” In turn, this has also incentivized La Poste Group to reduce their own emissions: “Buying carbon offsets is not just helping clean development globally, it’s also incentivizing [emissions] reduction at an operational and strategic level for companies,” he says.
The economic case for acting now on climate change is also supported by the increased focus from the finance sector towards reducing climate risk on a global scale. “Investors are looking concretely into whether companies in the private sector are actually taking into account any climate risk and their carbon footprint globally, and making sure they have action to reduce [their emissions],” says William Theisen, “and that opens up doors to new investment.”
EcoAct is also a climate change consultancy partner for CDP, supporting the Science Based Targets campaign. Through this initiative, “we see companies are benefitting from climate action, looking at their supply chain,” he concludes.
“There’s been a lot of uncovering of possibility within supply chain – whether that would be with agriculture, packaging – seeing that there are ways to decrease emissions and be more sustainable, but also improve the return on investment. So, they are actually spending less in the medium and long-term and they are actually getting more back.”