U.S. businesses schools fail regarding climate change

Coca-Cola, along with Nestle, both recently shut down their facilities, and Starbucks is preparing for the possibility of a global lack of coffee because of the effects of climate change. Climate change has a direct impact on all the resources used by companies: water, agriculture, land, energy, and even employees and economics. Every business will be affected.

I am a scientist and a professor in the field of management for business; I’ve observed that sustainable business programs all over the U.S. do not align with the consensus of science that calls for radical changes to avoid the devastating consequences of climate change.

Future business leaders aren’t adequately ready to meet the climate-related challenges that their businesses will be confronted with.

Coca-Cola was forced to shut down some of its plants because of water shortages and increasing energy costs. Reuters/Beawiharta

Business sustainability

World’s climate researchers have concluded that the best chance we have to limit the most harmful impacts of climate change lies in trying to hold increasing global temperatures to no greater than 2° Celsius. They also concluded that the world requires dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases in order to reach that goal.

California, for example, has implemented rigorous laws regarding emission standards for vehicles, clean air, along with energy efficiency regulations. California also required the state to achieve a 40 % reduction in greenhouse emissions in 2050. California has demonstrated that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved while still sustaining a robust economy.

In the U.S. and worldwide, industries and businesses are the major source of greenhouse gases. They account for between 6 percent and 10 percent for structures to 25 percent of the production of electricity worldwide.

Reduced carbon emissions are the most frequently-repeated sustainable goal of companies. A lot of companies achieve this by improving their energy efficiency and cutting down on waste. But, overall, the sustainability efforts of corporates can be described as business as usual, with tiny, incremental changes being implemented. The companies are not grasping the massive shift that is required.

There is a massive gap between the current path we’re currently on and where the scientific evidence indicates we ought to be. In 2015, the Paris Agreement outlined an international deal to keep the global average temperature increase to a minimum of 2 degrees Celsius. To do this goal, science informs us that we should limit total emissions to not greater than 1 trillion metric tons, which is a reduction of 49-72 percent globally from the levels of 2010. It is estimated that the U.S. agreed to a 26-28 percent national reduction in emissions by 2025. According to certain estimates, there is a chance that the U.S. must double its efforts currently to meet that goal.

Companies must operate within the research-driven “carbon budget.” There is, in fact, only a handful of companies that have set ambitious goals that are compatible with science.

For example, Coca-Cola and Dell have each agreed to reduce emissions by 50 percent in their respective companies in 2020. Likewise, NRG Energy has pledged to achieve 90% reductions in 2050. In contrast, 90 percent of Wal-Mart’s environmental footprint is within the supply chain. Therefore, one of Walmart’s objectives is to leverage its knowledge and expertise to collaborate with suppliers to cut the amount of emissions it emits to one billion tonnes between 2015 and 2030. This is a more than 4,000 percent increase over their previous target, which was 22 million tonnes between 2010 and 2015.

The majority of companies have not yet adopted these ambitious reduction targets.

Research suggests that industry and business are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Andrea M. Costea 

Sustainability education at U.S. business schools

The inconsistency of corporate efforts toward sustainability maybe not be surprising. One factor could be the manner in which corporate executives are educated in business schools.

While sustainability is an increasingly rising theme in the curriculum of business schools, it’s still a relatively new concept and is not widely used. The business schools are slow to adapt and change.

To conduct our study, we examined 51 of the hundreds of business courses within the U.S. We discovered that even when an introductory course in sustainable business is offered in a business school, the system typically is a non-essential part of the curriculum of business schools. A few business schools provide minors, majors, master’s degrees, or certificates in sustainable and sustainable management.

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