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Climate Corner: Taking Action on Climate Change is Good for Business

by Roy Thilly

While some may assume that businesses will shy away from taking a position on climate change for fear of offending customers, that has not been the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s experience. On June 30, the Pulse printed a half-page advertisement thanking the 124 Door County businesses that have signed the CERES Climate Change Declaration, recognizing that climate change is real, driven primarily by burning fossil fuels and that action needs to be taken. Of all the businesses approached, only six have declined to sign.

The Declaration signatories include two of the 10 largest employers in the county and many small- and medium-sized businesses. More are likely to join over the next year. If you don’t see the name of a business you are fond of on the Declaration page of the Climate Change Coalition’s webpage at climatechangedoorcounty.com/climate-declaration, please ask that business to sign on.

The Door County Climate Change Declaration signers are part of a much larger movement by highly successful businesses across Wisconsin and the U.S. that respect climate science and understand that prudence, risk management and stewardship require action.

In Wisconsin:

Kohler Company has adopted a goal of “Net Zero by 2035” which includes sending no solid waste to landfills, reducing or offsetting 100 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reducing water usage.

MillerCoors assesses the carbon footprint of its entire value chain, including GHG emissions from its breweries, as well as emissions from upstream activities such as growing barley and hops, malting and sugar processing, and downstream activities such as the manufacturing of packaging, distribution to retailers, and recycling or disposal of empty bottles and cans at end of life. The company has reduced GHG emissions by 22 percent since 2010 and has a 2020 goal to reduce its value chain carbon footprint per barrel of beer by 25 percent compared to 2010.

Gundersen Health Systems in western Wisconsin became the first major healthcare provider in the country to offset 100 percent of its fossil fuel use with locally produced renewable energy and conservation measures.

SC Johnson Corporation in 2013 received a Climate Leadership Award for Aggressive Goal Setting from the EPA and in 2016 was one of only seven organizations nationwide to receive an Excellence in Green Power Use Award. Through 2015, SC Johnson had cut greenhouse gas emissions for its global manufacturing sites 51.7 percent versus 2000 (indexed to production).

Menasha Corporation’s goal is to achieve a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions, water consumption and waste by 2020.

SCA (Tissue) at year-end 2016 had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 18.4 percent from 2005. Going further, SCA has committed to setting a science-based target in 2017 for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in its hygiene operations. Reduction targets are considered science-based if they are in line with what is needed in order to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, as agreed by world leaders at the UN climate change conference (COP 21) in Paris in 2015.

And there are many more, including Weyerhaeuser, Madison Gas and Electric, Johnson Controls, Xcel Energy (NSP), American Family, CUNA Mutual, Organic Valley Coop, Kimberly-Clark, Proctor and Gamble, Quad/Graphics.

There is a reason that Wisconsin’s and our nation’s most successful companies are publicly committed to dramatically reducing their carbon footprints and moving toward using 100 percent renewable energy in their operations. Nationally, climate leaders include Walmart, Google, Bank of America, Coca Cola, Best Buy, Allstate, Walt Disney, and Mars. Many others are also tracking and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and moving to clean energy sources. A short list includes Goldman Sachs, Colgate, General Mills, Kellogg, UPS, Lockheed Martin, Levi Strauss, CVS Health, Wells Fargo and Nike.

The websites of these companies show that none are shy about supporting the need for climate change action. They are science-based and it’s good for business. Using less energy and water, relying long term on energy sources with no fuel costs, and reducing waste saves a lot of money. A clear commitment to a clean and healthy environment is what customers want and is critical to attracting a talented workforce for the coming decades.

At some point, our state and federal government leaders will catch up with our business leaders and figure out that prudence in the face of scientific consensus, economics and stewardship, all demand a transition to a clean energy and natural resource conservation economy. What needs to be done will improve, not harm, quality of life.

Adressing Climate Change and Saving Money through Passive-Design, High-Efficiency Homes

Speaker:  Madison Architect Christi Weber

Date:  Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017

Time:  7 pm

Place:  Sevastopol Town Hall, 4528 Hwy. 57

Roy Thilly is a member of the steering committee of the Climate Change Coalition, a former utility executive and resident of Baileys Harbor.

The Climate Corner is a monthly column featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. The column is sponsored by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, which is dedicated to “helping to keep our planet a cool place to live.” The Coalition is always open to new members and ideas. Contact the Coalition at [email protected]

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