COMMENTARY: Business can’t ignore climate change — and should embrace the opportunity

Over the past few years, climate change has emerged both in Canada and globally as a defining issue of our time. Ipsos polling during the 2019 Canadian federal election saw climate change elevated to one of the main “top of mind” issues Canadians are concerned about, trailing only health care and the economy. This trend is not restricted to Canada.

The Ipsos Global Advisor found that climate change was a “mid-range” priority worldwide but ranked near the top of the list in countries such as Australia, Germany, Great Britain, China, the U.S. and Canada. Worldwide, 80 per cent of respondents agree that “we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly,” and 82 per cent agree that “the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity.”

These numbers are similar in Canada. There is no doubt that the world, including Canada, is concerned and has demanded action on climate change.

But who are they demanding action from? Traditionally, while citizens have expected governments to solve problems such as this, our data suggest the view of “who is responsible” is broadening. Seventy-nine per cent of the world — and 78 per cent of Canadians — say companies do not pay enough attention to the environment.

In Canada, some CEOs are stepping forward to articulate a vision on climate change. These calls to action are coming from places you wouldn’t expect. Alex Pourbaix, the CEO of Cenovus, an Alberta oil sands producer, announced on Jan. 10 that it would aim for “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, echoing a goal set by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mark Little, the CEO of Suncor Energy, another major oil sands producer, noted that an energy transformation is happening across the world in his annual message to shareholders, while positioning Suncor as part of that transformation.

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