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Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Previous articles in this series talked about leading businesses taking bold steps on their own for the common good — because it’s the right thing to do — even if it costs the company financially in the short term.

This time I want to point to the latest wave of businesses working collaboratively on the urgent, common ground issues of renewable energy and climate policy. In America’s history of westward expansion and exploration, pioneer families came together in wagon trains for mutual support. In the same way, the examples below show that businesses are taking action, together, to ensure a more certain future that’s good for all of us and for business.

To start off, a June 2014 clean energy report by Ceres, WWF and Calvert Investments supports the idea that this trend is gaining momentum. The report makes the case that big US companies are already investing in renewable energy as a basic “business as usual” material issue, including UPS, Cisco Systems, PepsiCo, United Continental and General Motors. These and the other companies in the report have already saved a billion dollars in energy costs and upped their business planning certainty. Far from a fringe or boutique concern, renewable energy investment is about knowing where your energy is going to come from tomorrow, and having some sense of how much it will cost.

It’s worth noting that several cross-sector partnerships and multi-stakeholder groups for climate issues have been working on these issues for years. The UK- and EU-focused Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group first convened in 2007. And the US-focused group BICEP has been advocating for energy and climate legislation since 2008, with its Climate Declaration attracting over 700 corporate signatories to date. (For more examples of creative, effective partnerships on climate-impacting issues, take a look at Sustainable Brands’ collaboration and co-creation channel.)

But just in the past three months, there have been several high-profile announcements, as well as one intriguing low-key entry. These are four groups to watch:

1. March 2014 — Business Alliance for the Future Meets for First Time
The Business Alliance for the Future is a new alliance of alliances that’s being organized and supported by about 40 business affiliations including BSR, B Team, Ceres, World Business Academy, SVN, National Association of Women Business Owners, Young Presidents’ Organization and others to “to connect, magnify and exponentially accelerate, business’ role in building a world where business excels, people thrive and nature flourishes.”

The group first met in March in Santa Barbara, CA and it is scheduled to meet again in October at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western University. The Alliance is formulating its strategy around the intention to dramatically impact existing game-changing projects (to the tune of 5x in 5 years) by fostering action-oriented collaboration.

According to Alliance member Jeana Wirtenberg, co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise, who is heading up one of the working groups, “There are several collaborative action team initiatives already well under way, including: amplifying and spreading a new business narrative; creating 100 percent renewable energy economy; participating, aligning around, and designing a grand economic strategy; and developing and implementing a new corporate scorecard and metrics.”

2. May 2014 — We Mean Business Coalition Launches
While we don’t have specifics yet about what this group will tackle, We Mean Business stated goal on their website is to call for “ambitious climate policy and bold climate action.” The group is like a super-pod of business action leadership, with partners from BSR, CERES, CDP, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Climate Group, and the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, in conjunction with Nike and IKEA.

3. June 2014 — Small Business Poll Shows Support for Market-Stabilizing Rules
In late June, the American Sustainable Business Council released poll results showing that US small business owners support climate rules for market stability and predictability.

The survey found that “clear majorities of small business owners are concerned about how climate change will affect their companies, including its impact on energy costs, health care costs and the infrastructure they depend on. Survey respondents voiced strong support for government action to address climate change, specifically, efforts to limit carbon pollution from power plants which produce a third of all U.S. carbon emissions.”

I find this poll interesting because it shows that leaders from small US businesses are on the same page when it comes to wanting business certainty in the face of climate instability as many of their colleagues at global behemoths.

4. July 2014 — Launch of Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles
And on July 11, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced that 12 major companies — spanning communications, manufacturing, consumer goods and tech — are jointly asking utilities and energy suppliers to offer more renewable energy products.

The Buyers’ Principles provide a coordinated starting point for what these companies need in terms of options, financing, contracts and emissions levels. The inaugural signers are Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint, and Walmart. I’m hoping that this will be an unmistakable unmet need signal to the energy market that yes, business wants more renewables and is willing to pay for them.

In my mind, these groups are coming together now for one profound reason. With government paralysis on one side and entrenched lobbying for the fossil fuel status quo on the other, the Cavalry isn’t coming. If renewable energy and climate action are going to be truly become Business as Usual for successful companies — as Ceres’ clean energy report posits — then business has to make it happen.

Together, I see all these efforts leading up to this September’s UN Climate Summit in New York City, where business will be asked to take on larger and more meaningful commitments. Just last week, the UN event’s organizers and partners called for business leaders willing to stand up for carbon pricing “as a necessary and effective measure to tackle climate change.”

And then, it will be time to take all this positive forward momentum to the COP21 meeting in Paris in December 2015. That’s where, once again, the entire world will attempt to agree on climate action and who is going to pay for it. I’m hopeful that, by the time we get there, collaborative efforts like these will have blazed the trail for business to be a major part of the solution.

Here are the things that caught my eye in 2014.

Some are noteworthy but unnoticed. Others soaked up a lot of well-deserved attention and ink.

All contributed to the growing tide of awareness that climate change action is urgently needed now.

Feb 28
Shell Bets on solar as dominant energy source by 2100, in little-noticed report

Carbon Brief

Mar 19
Pope Francis assumes the Papacy and chooses the patron saint of the environment
as his name
Pope Francis carpools, downsizes, blesses, kisses, lives modestly, and reminds the world to care for the world’s poorest people. In his homily, Francis described the church’s mission as “respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”
The Guardian

April 10
Ceres’ Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) launches the Climate Declaration
Climate Counts

April 18
Carbon Tracker releases its Unburnable Carbon report
New York Times

April 18
Bill McKibben’s 350.org’s fossil fuel divestment group releases “Do the Math”
Good

May 10
Climate hits 400ppm of CO2 for first time in 3 million years
Treehugger

June 25
President Obama announces his Climate Plan
The White House

Aug 19
IPPC report predicts near certainty on human-caused climate change
New York Times

Oct 10
LA Times announces it won’t public climate denier letters
Grist

Oct 24
Acknowleging reality and poking the bear, investors ask oil, coal and power companies for climate risk information
Forbes
Ceres

Nov 7
Super Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall in the Phillippines
Wikipedia

Nov 11
Yeb Sano pleads for climate action at the UN meeting in Warsaw
Youtube

Nov 21
Civil society and environmental groups walk out of UN Climate meeting talks to protest inaction
The Guardian

Dec 6
Signaling a foregone conclusion, 29 companies reveal they are already factoring a carbon price into their finances
Carbon Disclosure Project

Dec 16
Demonstrating momentum for pro-science climate action, Reddit science forum bans climate deniers

Grist

So what are we going to do about Climate Change?

We’re going to tell the truth about it. Until people hear it. And then join us in doing something about it.

I’m hearing a lot more truth-telling. Calling out of deniers. Naming names.

Three recent links.

1) Bill McKibben and 350.org. This Salon interview about his Climate Change activism captures some of what I’m feeling.

Via Salon.com:

Bill McKibben: “Being green won’t solve the problem”

But this [Climate Change] is a systemic problem. It’s going to be solved or not solved by a systemic solution. It’s past the point where we’re going to manage to do it one light bulb at a time.

Right. Climate Change is a systemic, global, planetary, issue. Not one or a million of our individual dollars or works will solve it.

Including business.

2) The Guardian newspaper has been knocking it out of the park with dead-on Climate Change coverage. Last week, journalist Jo Cofino covered the Carbon Disclosure Project’s surprising move to call out the names of blue-chip non-reporters. See, CDP can only report on global emissions if the business world give them the information. And if they won’t, how can we know if they are really doing what they say they are doing?

Via TheGuardian.com:

Shame on you, Apple, Facebook and Amazon

There comes a time when naming and shaming is the only way to get some businesses to start taking their responsibilities seriously.

This is why CDP, the respected global NGO, has for the first time compiled and published a list of major companies around the world that are refusing to disclose details of their carbon emissions.

In the US, that includes household names such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Caterpillar and General Dynamics.

Shame on all of you and the other 90 of the 500 largest listed companies in the world that chose not to give CDP the data it requested.

3) There’s been some terrific individual-action climate change coverage on the Daily Kos site recently, including the outstanding Hummingbird blogathon series.

Via DailyKos.com:

Hummingbirds – Hopeful Voices in Our Midst

The “Hummingbirds” Blogathon held this past week was our humble attempt to accentuate the positive and explore what all of us can do as individuals.  After all, successful collective efforts are so deemed because the whole ends being greater than the sum of its parts.  The diaries posted this week were not only inspiring and uplifting, but based on several diary comments I read, opened many eyes.

Why did the blogathon’s writers, journalists, and activists choose a hummingbird?

This is why.

On a visit to Japan, Wangari Maathai learned the story of the hummingbird and the forest fire. While the other animals run in fear or hang their heads in despair, the hummingbird flies above the fire time and again, releasing a few drops of water from its tiny beak.

“Why do you bother?” the other animals shout at the hummingbird. “I’m doing the best that I can,” the hummingbird replies.

That’s all, and everything, we each must do.

Investors aren’t buying it.

Sustainability, that is.

Even though Sustainability-driven companies can compete and even perform their competitors and return value to their shareholders.

Here’s how BrownFlynn senior consultant Christopher Thomas put it in Greenbiz.com

“The vast majority of investment capital is still directed to assets judged best to deliver risk-adjusted appreciation rapidly with little direct concern for the environmental and social impacts core to the CDP and other ESG disclosures. “

Allow me to translate.

Most investment money gets placed on bets that deliver short-term monetary gains. Without concern for how a company hurts the planet or people.

That’s a problem. Because we need the investor community to start pouring money–on a global scale–into Sustainability-minded companies so that environmental and energy solutions get to scale.

Here’s the full article via Greenbiz.com:

Do investors care about companies’ climate change disclosure?

Taken at face value, more evidence surfaced this month supporting a close relationship between company market performance and the disclosure of environmental, social and governance criteria. Less clear is when more investors will reward ESG disclosure and inspire nondisclosing companies to get on board.

The sky’s not entirely bleak, though. I see breaks in the clouds from maturing and incipient reporting structures (CDP & GRI & SASB), disclosure requirements and shareholder involvement.

A few to check out:

Deloitte: Finding the Value in Environmental, Social, and Governance Performance

Carbon Disclosure Project: A third of the world’s invested capital calls for corporate environmental data through the Carbon Disclosure Project

ProxyPreview: Helping Shareholders Vote Their Values

Ceres: 2013 Shareholder Resolutions

I believe that the investor community can be encouraged to shift the status quo of short-term gains towards a longer-term Sustainability-driven approach. I take heart from the growing evidence that pressure–positive or otherwise–from shareholder resolutions concerned with climate change and energy gets results.

I just hope the shift happens soon enough to make a difference.