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March 30, 2010
Climate Isn't Mere 'PR'

Climate change, as we've noted before, is a big enough risk that we should be acting as though it's occurring, whether we can be certain of that or not. It's dismaying, therefore, to see 70 percent of the executive respondents in a new "After Copenhagen – Business and Climate Change" survey maintaining that "carbon reduction policies are primarily driven by public relations."

That's a perversion of PR, which is supposed to be based on genuine goals and objectives, ones that matter for the long run.

Sponsored by 1E, the Carbon Trust, IBM and Hitachi, the new report comes in the context of the less than resounding results of the Copenhagen conference in December and the notorious "Climategate" emails a month earlier. Which no doubt helps account for its muddled tone.

But here we have important business executives saying, as the Green IT Report summarizes, that:

  • Climate change action in business has reached an impasse. Almost one third (32%) of respondents said they do not yet have a coherent strategy in place to address energy consumption issues.
  • More than half (52%) of respondents believe the ‘jury is still out’ on the seriousness of climate change (against 31% who disagree).
  • Companies where executives believe in the science of climate change tend to do far more on the issue. They also seem more likely to reap the benefits; “Far more companies with believers have actually developed new ‘green’ products and services."
  • Seven in ten respondents (71%) maintained that carbon reduction policies are primarily driven by public relations.
  • However, 59% of executives see cutting carbon as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over rivals over and above the PR benefit, and a range of companies have built major businesses on the back of new environmental products and services.
  • Unclear regulation is the biggest barrier to greater climate change action by businesses – who want more direction. But 46% of those polled are now more pessimistic about the ability of their government to deal with climate change, especially in an international context.

Fifty-nine percent of executives do see cutting carbon as providing a competitive advantage, but this isn't merely a tactical arena. Truly effective public relations would counsel taking carbon control actions for their own sake, because they're valid in their own terms and a contribution to a more secure future for us all. Naive? Maybe, but nowhere as dunderheaded as being shown-up on climate issues a few decades from now. 




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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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