Making CO2 cuts can actually help business

It might seem like there’s something deeply satisfying about saving energy. But if it weren’t for the incredible polluting forces that clog our waterways and cause climate change, it could all be fun.

A new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) demonstrates just how extraordinarily profitable it is for businesses to make the switch to more eco-friendly production processes. According to the report, “businesses that eliminate a proportion of their CO2 emissions results in a 10-30 percent improvement in profitability.” That’s not just a fancy economic term: the study proves that investing in a cleaner production process, and getting to a point where that process produces 30 percent fewer CO2 emissions, is actually good for your bottom line.

Inevitably, the fastest moving, most profitable way to get there is by making major retrofits to factories. The report calculates that in Ghana, for example, investing in retrofits to boost a factory’s efficiency by one percent can bring a 20 percent increase in profits. The combination of investments in clean technology and voluntary energy-efficiency standards can result in massive, accelerated reductions in emissions, in turn lowering greenhouse gas pollution globally.

The ultimate conclusion: “These actions on the part of business and citizens are critical for the future of our planet.” The UNDP says “business can deliver an extraordinary return on investments [in eco-friendly production technologies],” and offer “stability to future decisions about climate action.”

It is worth noting, though, that boosting those investments in environmentally-friendly methods requires political will, and that sometimes governments are reluctant to take action in order to attract capital.

Investments in environmental technologies and energy efficiency are also often done on a small scale and in a test- and-learn-only fashion, which limits the potential reach and growth of such work. And, of course, companies without particularly strong environmental track records will stay pretty light on the throttle on this side of the Atlantic until the full benefits of a green switch are obvious to their shareholders.

Read the full UNDP report here.

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