Consumer education is another important element. Whirlpool, which led the industry in introducing energy-efficient appliances, educated consumers by educating the retailers. It also convinced Consumer Reports to include energy efficiency in the rankings of appliances, and worked closely with the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Alliance to Save Energy in a successful push for legislation to give tax credits for efficient appliances.
Investors have become increasingly interested in climate change, as evidenced by the mounting number of shareholder resolutions and direct requests from investor groups. Recognizing this, Exelon Corporation, the largest nuclear operator in the U.S., added a global climate change section to its 10-K for the first time in 2004.
Time and again, executives who participated in the study declared that the question was not whether they should take action on climate change, but when. David Bresch, head of the atmospheric perils group for Swiss Re, says: “You should always remain one step ahead of the competition. But if you are two steps ahead, you lose the crowd. The ideal is for you to be the leader of the pack and [have] everyone pulling in the same direction.” At the same time, Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, warns that laggards are at risk: “There will be winners and losers,” she notes. “Prudent steps taken now to address climate change can improve a company’s competitive position relative to its peers and earn it a seat at the table to influence climate policy.”
Suzanne Charlé ([email protected]) is a journalist based in New York City.