Nestle and Coca-Cola have closed down their facilities recently, while Starbucks is facing a worldwide shortage of coffee due to climate change. Every resource that businesses use, including water, energy, and land, is affect by climate change. There will no business left behind.
As a professor of business management and researcher, I’ve found that the U.S. has a lack of sustainable business programs that align with the scientific consensus about the need for radical changes to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change. These business leaders of the future not prepare for the climate change issues their companies will face.
Business Sustainability Climate
According to climate scientists around the world, keeping global temperatures rising below 2 degrees Celsius is the best way to prevent climate change’s most harmful effects. To achieve this goal, the scientists also conclude that drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed.
California has, for example, enacted stringent laws regarding clean air, vehicle emissions, and energy efficiency standards. Required a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. California has shown that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while still maintaining a healthy economy.
The primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and around the world is business and industry. They contribute anywhere from 6 to 25 percent to buildings and as much as 25% to electricity production worldwide.
Companies are most likely to reduce carbon emissions. This is achieve by many companies becoming more efficient with their energy and reducing their waste. Corporate sustainability efforts can be describe as business as usual with little or no improvement. The problem is that businesses are failing to see the need for deep change.
There is a vast gap between where we are now and where science points us to go. The 2015 Paris Agreement established an international agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Science tells us that total emissions must be limit to one trillion tonnes. This would represent a decrease of 49 to 72 per cent globally from 2010. The United States agreed to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent nationally by 2025. Some estimates suggest that the U.S. will need to double its efforts to achieve this target.
Companies Must Work Within The Scientific Carbon Budget Climate
Dell and Coca-Cola have each committed to a 50% reduction in their carbon footprints by 2020. NRG Energy, on the other hand, has pledged to reduce its emissions by 90% by 2050. Wal-Mart’s environmental footprint is 90% in its supply chain, however. Wal-Mart has set a goal to partner with suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions by 1 billion tons between 2015- 2030. This represents a more than 4000 percent increase on their previous target of 22,000,000 tons between 2010-2015. The vast majority of businesses have yet to adopt these bold reduction goals.
U.S. Business Schools Offer Sustainability Education
It is not surprising that corporate commitments to sustainability are so weak. One factor could be the manner in which business schools train corporate leaders. While sustainability is becoming a more prominent theme in business school curricula it’s still quite new and uncommon. The pace of change in business schools has been slow.
Our research involved 51 of the many business programs in the United States. We found that an introductory course in sustainable business is often an elective within the business school curriculum. A few schools offer certificates, minors, majors or graduate degrees in sustainable management or sustainability business.
Our study found that 51 schools are at the forefront in training students in sustainability. This is in contrast to many business schools which don’t offer any sustainability courses. We found that these schools do a poor job in preparing students for the future.
Sustainable Business Climate
The reading lists for 81 courses in sustainable business were analysis. We came up with a list of 88 readings. We found very little overlap between the readings and authors given to students as sustainability education is still a new discipline. There was only 20% overlap across the syllabus, which suggests that there is very little agreement on what should be taught.
The majority of sustainability readings given to business students, 55 percent, took a low sustainability position. These readings focus on a business as usual approach, which makes small incremental improvements. They point to examples like the move by the printing industry to water and soy based inks. This encourages a do more good approach to sustainability. Science says otherwise.
These readings revealed two reasons to adopt sustainability practices: either the benefits for business (i.e. increased innovation, competition and profitability) or the necessity to comply with law (i.e. meeting labour, emission or pollution regulations). Only 29 percent of the studies we conducted acknowledged the scientific necessity for implementing sustainability practices.
Future Leaders In Sustainability For The US
Global temperatures will continue rising for the next 100 years, even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced or stopped. This is due to carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere. Sustainability challenges are certain to confront today’s business students, who will become tomorrow’s business leaders. Future business leaders need to have a scientific understanding of how climate changes are currently affecting business and how they will affect business in the future.
These readings should be assigned by professors to communicate the scientific necessity for businesses to operate in a more sustainable manner to combat climate change. These readings should highlight the need for “substantial” changes in policies, institutions, and practices. This education can shift the focus away from corporate profit and legal compliance to a desire for sustainability.