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To fix the climate, think like a business

Mike Ward
The innovations of the past century have helped drive growth and improve the livelihoods of many millions of people, but the result is a long way from a sustainable society.

For most of human history, resources seemed unlimited. From forests to fisheries to fuel, we lived in a land of plenty. But today, society is currently using resources at a rate that requires 1.5 planets. If Earth were a business, you might begin to question its management.

The innovations of the past century have helped drive growth and improve the livelihoods of many millions of people, but the result is a long way from a sustainable society. In fact, the world is now on track to warm by four degrees Celsius by the end of this century, which will have a severe effect on weather patterns, water availability and agriculture.

Over the past year, we have already seen these changes manifest themselves in the strong storms, drought and other extreme weather that have swept the United States. Climate change is a reality, and it requires a strong response from individuals, businesses and policymakers alike.

We can’t ignore this challenge. To maintain our way of life and improve our economy, we must tackle it. That’s why IKEA has joined 33 American business leaders in signing the Climate Declaration, a call to action for U.S. policymakers to seize the economic opportunities of addressing climate change.

Coordinated by Ceres and its Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition, the Declaration is framed around a single statement: “Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.” Each of the Declaration signatories of has taken steps to limit our impact on the climate, and we see clear benefits to our businesses. At IKEA we not only agree with the sentiment; we also agree in practice. We call our approach People & Planet Positive.

IKEA has always been extremely economical in our use of resources, and the reason is that in order to deliver low prices, we have to be efficient. IKEA is currently the second largest private commercial solar owner-user in the U.S. and is in the midst of investing $150 million in photovoltaic solar power systems, which will eventually cover 39 of 44 store and non-store locations across the country.

We also know we can help our customers save money — and energy — through better product design. By switching over to LED lights in our lamps and selling only LED bulbs, we found we can reduce our customers’ operating expenses by 30 percent. And we can help people save water in a meaningful way through more efficient fixtures and appliances.

Policymakers also have the same opportunity to put money back in people’s pockets and create even greater benefits for citizens and the climate. They should embrace it.

So what can government leaders do to address climate change? As some political leaders already have, they can start by looking to the business world for inspiration.

The very same policies that can move the needle on climate change — improving energy efficiency, investing in clean energy, putting a stop to harmful emissions — are the hallmarks of good management at companies across America. And these internal policies are not breaking the backs of businesses; they’re making them stronger. As IKEA has whittled away at our carbon footprint, our global comp sales grew 4.6% (last fiscal year) and our global workforce grew to 139,000.

To address climate change, Congress should take a note from corporate America, because even if concerns about sustainability or climate change are put to one side, being careful with resources, managing costs for the future, controlling energy use and looking after your people is good for business.

And that’s a message the business world should be proud to declare.

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