Business Summit: Business and the Environment

If the causes for global climate change are not addressed, the consequences for the planet are likely to be disastrous. Governments, business, and consumers must act.

Editor's Note: This is a summary of an HBS Business Summit presentation. View a full summary and video of the event on the HBS Centennial Web site linked below.

Date of Event: October 13, 2008
Moderator: Forest Reinhardt, HBS faculty
Speakers: Jim Barry, Chief Executive, Ntr Plc
David Blood, Managing Partner, Generation Investment Management
James McCarthy, Harvard University faculty

These experts shared their perspectives on global climate change. Professor McCarthy discussed scientific findings; Blood provided an investor's point of view; and Barry provided the perspective of an executive with a portfolio of environmentally focused businesses.

An environmental crisis exists, almost certainly due to human action. Temperatures and sea levels are rising; ice is melting. If the causes for these problems are not addressed—and fast—the consequences for the planet are likely to be disastrous. Governments, business, and consumers must act to address climate change.

The actions must deal with resource supply issues and renewable energy, as well as with demand issues. Ultimately, these actions will lead to a transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon society, a transition of enormous magnitude that could happen very quickly. This transition will be a journey that will bring attractive investment and business opportunities, but won't be without peril.

Key concepts include:

  • The earth has experienced significant human-driven climate change over the past hundred years.
  • In the United States, climate change is becoming a priority.
  • Sustainability will drive business in the next 25 years.
  • The transition to a low-carbon economy will bring about significant investment opportunities.
  • It is a perfect storm: climate change, security of energy resources, and resource depletion.
  • Read the in-depth summary

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