All posts by: Caroline Carson

CEOs Speak Up During Climate Week

by Caroline Carson on 3 October 2014 at 4:18

Imagine you’re a multinational corporation. A progressive one that has accepted the reality of climate change and has a strategy to reduce emissions as well as getting customers to take action on the problem.  The UN Climate Summit comes along and you want to use this big event to add your influence to the debate.

Well you’d be right to.

Image by United Nations Photo, licensed under flickr creative commons

Between the 22nd and the 25th September the UN Climate Summit received more than 100,000 mentions across social media, blogs and mainstream news.  Tweets from Leonardo DiCaprio (retweeted 1,200 times) and Stella McCartney (470 times) added celebrity influence to the social dialogue of the event, but some companies also made bold commitments and actions to connect themselves to the cause.

320 people tweeted and 59 blogs including Fast Company, the Guardian and New York Times journalist Gene Marks talked about Patagonia closing its New York stores to allow employees, including CEO Rose Marcario to attend the People’s Climate March.

117 people talked about or shared a Forbes article about IKEA Group’s CEO joining the march.

Even Apple, who typically stay out of the sustainability mainstream, used the opportunity of the opening spot of Climate Week for CEO Tim Cook to communicate the need to talk seriously about the climate impact of consumer products.

What’s interesting about all of these examples is the power behind a statement or action of a influential individuals.  The big personalities in corporate sustainability has for a long time been limited to a handful of leaders such as Paul Polman and Jochen Zeitz who were prepared to make a statement and act on behalf of their company on sustainability.  Many other corporates with equally strong climate credentials have preferred for their big declarations and positions become known through press releases and sustainability reports.

But during Climate Week and the UN Summit, it was the words and actions of CEOs such as Peter Agnefjäll, Rose Marcario and Tim Cook that spoke loudest.  In a week where companies making big commitments to tackling climate change (e.g. on deforestation, renewable energy) was on mainstream news channels and social media every day these became the most personal moments that stood out.