The Urgent Business Imperative of Sustainability

High carbon, resource-intensive approaches to business operations are heating up the planet, contributing to the pollution of air, land and sea and helping to create an ongoing climate crisis.

The devastating effects of climate change, including destructive storms, floods, heatwaves, and fires, point to the urgent need for businesses to embed sustainable practices into every aspect of their operations, accelerating the shift to a resource-efficient, circular economy. Sustainability, once considered a trend in the business landscape, is now an operational imperative as climate change continues to weaken the resiliency of our planet.

Consider the costly impacts of climate change to our environment, our health and our economy:

The extraction of raw materials worldwide has more than doubled since 1990 and could double again by 2060 in the absence of corrective policies. This resource extraction and processing account for 90% of global biodiversity loss and water stress impacts, and half of total greenhouse (GHG) emissions.

Global sea level rise accelerated since 2013 to a new high in 2021, with continued ocean warming and ocean acidification.

The world lost about 14% of its coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, which is more than all the coral currently living on Australia’s coral reefs.

A new study shows that climate change is the main driver of more intense and frequent wildfires in the western United States. 

According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity and is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, from issues such as malnutrition and heat stress.

The U.S. has sustained 308 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 308 events exceeds $2.085 trillion.

Estimates suggest that the global economic costs to cities, from rising seas and inland flooding, could amount to $1 trillion by mid-century.

Studies estimate that by the end of this century, the negative impacts on the United States from climate change will amount to about 1.2 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP) for every 1-degree Celsius increase. This is roughly the equivalent of wiping out nearly half of average annual GDP growth rates in recent years

Even as the world continues to suffer the damaging effects of climate change, concentrations of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that the world will probably reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming within the next two decades.  It will take ambitious global emissions cuts to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C, the limit scientists say is necessary for preventing the worst climate impacts.

World leaders recently met at the UN Climate Summit (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland to accelerate the fight against climate change. Even as new promises for climate change action came out of this summit, the reality is that government pledges will not reduce emissions fast enough to keep the world within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit by 2100 as set out in the Paris Agreement.

Failing to halt global warming is not an option. Businesses across the globe need to step up efforts to reduce GHGs and accelerate the shift to a circular economy.

In an effort to be a catalyst for change, Kingspan launched Planet Passionate in 2020, a ten-year global sustainability program aimed at moving to a clean energy future, managing the earth’s resources more sustainably and protecting our natural environment. Under this initiative, we are embedding sustainability into our DNA, decarbonizing operations and integrating circularity into all aspects of our business.

The environmental, health and economic benefits make a compelling business case for corporate sustainability. So to do the bottom-line benefits of sustainability. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a shift to a circular economy “is a trillion-dollar opportunity, with huge potential for innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

It is clear - creating a cleaner, safer, healthier, more resilient planet is an imperative no company can afford to ignore.

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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