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Titans or Titanics? Understanding the business response to climate change and resource scarcity

This report seeks to understand and explain how large businesses are responding to climate change and resource scarcity today.  Are the unsinkable ships of the business world running full steam ahead into dangerous waters?

Titans or Titanics

Publication date: June 2015

This report seeks to understand and explain how large businesses are responding to climate change and resource scarcity today, incorporating insights from qualitative interviews with industry experts, alongside independent market research into the views of global corporate leaders. It also details the Carbon Trust’s practical framework for assessing and quantifying the long term opportunity and risks related to climate change and resource scarcity.

Since the industrial revolution private enterprise has completely reshaped the world in which we live. Large businesses bring together the productive capacity and access to financial capital which can transform the world at scale and at speed.

Businesses have proven to be highly effective at meeting the needs and wishes of a growing and increasingly affluent global population. However, as a result, our society now faces critical challenges from climate change and resource scarcity.

Businesses will shape and be shaped by the needs and impacts of a sustainable, low carbon future. Will these corporate titans capture commercial opportunities, allowing them  to survive and thrive in a changing climate?  Or much like the Titanic, do the unsinkable ships of the business world only see the tip of the iceberg, and are they running full steam ahead into dangerous waters?

The report finds that businesses are living in two realities: they recognise and accept the risks and opportunities of an environmentally sustainable future, but continue to focus on the short-term. Despite the perception that drivers for change will continue to become stronger in the near future, most businesses appear to have no clear vision on how to manage the transition effectively.

The report reveals:

  • 70 percent of global business leaders confident that action taken by consumers, governments, and investors will force the change to an environmentally sustainable future.
  • 76 percent see bottom line risks from direct impacts of climate change, and 84 percent see business opportunity in an environmentally sustainable future.
  • Half believe they would have to fundamentally change products, services, or business models if drivers for environmental sustainability become strong.
  • Of those that claim to be aware of how they compare with competitors on environmental sustainability, 99 percent believe they are at least average for their sector, with half seeing themselves as leaders.

Insights are based on six months of in-depth interviews with a range of experts from business, finance, government, academia, and civil society. The Carbon Trust also commissioned independent market research interviews with 229 board-level executive decision-makers across five regions: the UK, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the USA.

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31 page report, published June 2015.

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