Motivations for businesses to support strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions–

“Do Well Doing Good: Profiting in a Sustainable World”

by scientist/businessman Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics


Since investors are demanding climate risk disclosures, support needs to be given by businesses to strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions, legislation that will establish a framework for defining industry standards for equitable treatment of competitors as well as reduce concern among shareholders about the uncertainty and risk that currently surround planning regarding climate change and emission reduction.

Businesses can do well doing good by learning how to profit in a sustainable world. For example, since waste streams are money down the drain, companies can make even more effective usage of raw materials. Furthermore, tremendous need for change is creating tremendous business opportunities, with “climate change conscious consumers” leading market change. Growing markets mean growing businesses creating hundreds of billions of dollars in products and services. Therefore businesses can do well doing good for the climate, with a priority given to supporting strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions to reduce risk.

Challenges to capitalism keys to thriving

Capitalism is facing climate change, terrorism, and a backlash against globalization. Finding new strategies for profitable growth has never been more challenging. But the challenges themselves provide the basis for re-igniting innovation, growth, and profitability.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Industry standards and energy independence reduce risk

Major conventional businesses are urging strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions. The Climate Action Partnership is an alliance of environmental groups and businesses that have come together to call on the federal government to enact legislation, businesses such as Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, DuPont, General Electric, and Lehman Brothers investment bankers. Why are they taking this initiative?

Institutional investors in businesses are demanding climate risk disclosures, providing concrete motivation for businesses to act to reduce risk. To establish a framework for defining industry standards for equitable treatment of competitors, businesses need to support strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions with a well-defined timeline for goals. Such legislation is discussed in an article on this website at Article, Carbon Cap/Trade and Offsets Ineffectual Compared to Carbon Tax. Industry standards will reduce the concern among shareholders about the uncertainty and risk that currently surround planning regarding climate change.

Scientists’ published predictions are based on the more conservative results of computer modeling, but modeling is extremely difficult for ice sheet crumbling, methane release from decomposition of melting permafrost tundra and from methane hydrates. Impacts will possibly accelerate more rapidly and with more severity than predicted. Even meeting the 80% goal advocated in bills mentioned in the above-referenced article, the world will be fortunate if the damages are as conservative as published predictions. Therefore it’s imperative to enact laws that have not been compromised from the 80% goal.

Energy cost volatility hampers strategic planning. Businesses can simultaneously increase their own energy independence and that of the USA by improving energy efficiencies and installing renewable energy sources, reducing energy cost volatility for improved cost control.

Business investments to reduce the carbon footprint can pay for themselves over time, then pay dividends in energy savings, investments such as improving facilities performance efficiency of the furnace, insulation, and reducing air infiltration. By complementing fossil fuel with renewable energy sources, companies can use the same or more power. Governmental rebates, low interest loans, and tax incentives are often available for installing renewables.

“Smokestack” carbon capture, not atmospheric carbon capture

Taking action to capture concentrated emissions of carbon dioxide before they get emitted from the smokestack is far more practical than attempting to filter highly diffuse carbon dioxide from the vast atmosphere. Savvy utilities are building coal-fired power stations “carbon capture ready”, with supercritical steam technology enhancing efficiency. Such enhanced efficiency technology not only increases energy output relative to fuel cost, but also is necessary for capture and storage of “smokestack” carbon dioxide.

Enhancing the global economy

Fierce protests against globalization threaten the global economy. In enlightened self-interest, businesses need to support an international agreement to improve working conditions, fire and other safety hazards. Such an agreement would allow enterprises to invest in improved facilities in concert, keeping the playing field level. Respect for workers’ needs promotes continuous improvement of manufacturing processes by empowering more highly motivated workers to contribute to the improvement of their work processes rather than blindly following prescribed procedures. Improving working conditions also reduces the motivation to protest, enhancing the global economy.

Reigniting innovation, growth, and profitability

Businesses have the technological capability, resources, and capacity required to meet the challenges. The profit motive can accelerate the transition toward sustainability. Instead of merely paying to clean up wastes in compliance with regulations, companies can profit from breakthroughs in manufacturing efficiency preventing pollution, finding substitutes for toxic components, making even more effective usage of raw materials, reducing waste and cost, and finding new uses for at least part of the remaining waste products. An example of meeting the challenge to reduce waste is the manufacture of carpets from 100% recycled materials, with improved indoor air quality due to less toxic off-gassing of volatile organic compounds than carpets made from raw materials. Waste streams are money down the drain.

Growing markets grow businesses

New markets are emerging for renewables. Over two billion people remain without electricity, so companies are selling them one watt solar photovoltaic panels with 95% energy–efficient LEDs for about $50. The cost per kW-hour is far less over several years than the fuel for kerosene lamps that are also fire hazards. Marketing such useful products to those at the bottom of the income pyramid can help support their rise from poverty while reducing heat-trapping emissions.

In industrialized countries, consumers are leading market change. Growing numbers of consumers are paying a reasonable premium for renewables to support the transition to sustainable energy sources, demonstrating that the market is growing. As the market grows, more businesses are investing in production of renewables, with larger scale production increasing efficiency and reducing cost for even greater numbers of further consumers. Growing markets mean growing businesses, in both production and installation of renewables.

Outside of the energy field, companies are marketing reduced “carbon-content” products to the climate change conscious consumer by printing the carbon footprint label on the product packaging. This strategy not only increases sales, it also motivates the company and employees to seek innovations to reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing.

Capitalism can thrive

Meeting the challenge of climate change means the creation of hundreds of billions of dollars in products and services. To facilitate the successful commercialization of next-generation, inherently clean and sustainable technologies, companies need to reward improvements on standard operating procedures, rather than resisting changes. Tremendous need for change is creating tremendous business opportunities to do well doing good, prospering by marketing innovative products and services related to climate change, from breakthroughs in efficiencies, by increasing energy independence and cost control through transitioning to renewables, and prospering by supporting strong legislation to limit heat-trapping emissions to define industry standards for equitable treatment among competitors and to reduce risk.

Capitalism is at a crossroads. Capitalism can thrive by meeting the challenges.

Dr. Johnson can be contacted through the non-profit website

About the author

Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics is a businessman/scientist who gives presentations in association with the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution of Cornell University on the subjects covered in this article as well as “Climate Change: The New Urgency of Emission Reduction, and How to Make a Differencewithout charging a speaker’s fee for this public service.

He’s managed companies bringing products to the market ranging from glassy sugars for long-term preservation of biological materials such as enzymes, to computer hardware.

Further information and presentations

For free access to more information about how to make a difference and the personal, political and business opportunities driven by the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for over 150 free slides taken from Dr. Johnson’s donated presentations, his resumé, and to contact him, please see his non-profit website (no pop-up ads, no solicitations).

For a listing of the contents of this website: Site Map.


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