A thorough understanding of climate change generally spurs long-term investors to make serious adjustments to their risk assumptions for particular companies and industries. This is absolutely appropriate, but it’s also just one side of the coin. On the other side, there’s a whole world of fascinating solutions helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Investors who get this and make it a part of their overall strategy could have a serious leg up.
The Motley Fool recently hosted a summit on climate change and business, and one expert after another pointed us toward solutions providers who are working to head off the colossal disruption that a warmer planet presents. The topic of climate change so often elicits doom and gloom and can leave people feeling defeated. After the summit, investors left empowered to use the solid science of climate change to inform their investment decisions.
Stu Dalheim, vice president of shareholder advocacy at Calvert Investments, offered several illustrative examples to help guide our thinking. He highlighted Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) and its laudable initiatives to prepare for the particular threat that rising temperatures pose to coffee crops.
Back in 2011, Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) began a significant public dialogue about the threats it saw to its primary input. Coffee, the very essence of Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX)’ business, is a finicky crop that thrives under narrow conditions. Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX)’ suppliers, who are mainly in Central America, are already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe pest infestations. Even mature farms are seeing declining crop yields, and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) is concerned that this could dissuade growers from cultivating coffee in the future, further constricting supply. The company is working with farmers on adaptation techniques and aggressively lobbying the Obama administration to get serious about climate change.
Dalheim also pointed to the growing importance of water delivery and conservation, as climate change puts fresh water supplies under stress. Ecolab Inc. (NYSE:ECL) offers a wide range of water safety and treatment services and generally helps industrial firms develop more efficient processes. The company has enjoyed significant recognition for its fully integrated climate-change strategy.
Todd Larsen, corporate responsibility programs director for Green America, raised the cautionary tale of The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) to highlight the cost of failure to prepare for climate-change risks. Drought reduced The Southern Company (NYSE:SO)’s 2008 hydroelectric power generation by roughly 50%, forcing the company to meet demand from other generating sources at a replacement cost of about $200 million. Dalheim pointed out, though, that The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is making progress. The company just announced major solar purchases in the southwest, and it will be one of the United States’ largest renewable energy producers when the transactions close.