September 23, 2019

Study: Large companies are addressing climate change

Reducing carbon emissions makes business sense because climate change impacts supply chains and disrupts operations.

Solar panels atop the parking garage at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.

As global activists, scientists, and policymakers gather in New York City for Climate Week, new research highlights the critical role the private sector is playing in the effort to mitigate climate change.

A report published September 23, “Towards Net Zero: How business is rising to the challenge,” reveals the extent to which businesses already are feeling climate impacts. It also underscores the overwhelming consensus that sustainable corporate practices are not only crucial to the health of the planet, but also make smart business sense.

The report, authored by Newsweek and underwritten in part by Kaiser Permanente, is based on an anonymous survey of more than 300 senior executives from companies with annual earnings of more than $500 million.

Among the top findings:

  • 7 out of 10 (72%) companies surveyed indicated climate change has impacted their supply chains.
  • More than 6 out of 10 respondents (66%) have experienced climate-related disruptions to their own operations in the past year.
  • Of the three-quarters of companies with “net zero” carbon emissions goals, 82% expect a return on related investments within an average of 6 years.
  • Of the actions being taken to meet net-zero goals, renewable energy investments top the list with 82% of companies surveyed indicating renewable energy investments are a top priority. Companies are increasingly investing directly in new energy through power purchase agreements. 
  • More than 6 out of 10 respondents said they will require key suppliers to invest in renewable energy, demonstrating increased scrutiny on indirect emissions.

“The climate crisis is a human health crisis being felt today around the world and here in our own communities,” said Kaiser Permanente environmental stewardship officer Kathy Gerwig, who was interviewed for the report. “Avoiding the worst impacts requires taking aggressive actions now to drastically cut carbon emissions. As this research underscores, large companies are at the forefront of driving positive change throughout the global economy.”

Survey respondents came from the food and agriculture, industrials, consumer goods, transport, technology, and health care sectors. For more information, read the full report.