Sweden: “Climate school” for managers and board members

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“It’s important to get the remaining CO2-Budges in view and not being fixed on a specific date for climate neutrality, “demands Karsten Kieckhäfer, professor of business administration with a focus on supply chain and sustainability management at the University of Hagen. “That goes for states and for companies.” Usually it’s always about: What percentage of greenhouse gases can be saved? When are we climate neutral?

But only the budgets show how much CO2 the world, a state or a company is still allowed to emit in order not to exceed the 1.5 degree or even the 2 degree limit of global warming.

If it were halfway fair, Germany’s budget would be 3.3 gigatons of CO2. In 2020, Germany still emitted 644.31 megatons. It should be over in five years. The historical debt of 93.1 gigatons of CO2 not even included since the beginning of industrialization.

Precisely for that reason criticized Kieckhäfer also the resolutions of the Glasgow UN climate conference, which are still only about reduction targets and annual figures, but not about the remaining CO2-Budgets.

Nevertheless, the business economist sees an increasing tendency in industry to save greenhouse gases. On the one hand, there is the threat of regulatory pressure from politics, which the current amalgamation of business and climate protection in one ministry could possibly represent.

But there are also motives that benefit profitability. Greater energy and resource efficiency saves costs and there is hope that the market and consumers will be able to reward if climate protection is a corporate goal. But that can also be part of risk management at the same time. Because, as was shown in the Ahr valley flood disaster, climactic freak weather conditions lead to painful production stoppages.

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It is difficult to say whether a climate commitment will actually be rewarded by the market. “There is evidence in the scientific literature that this is the case,” says Kieckhäfer. “But it’s not clear, you have to be very clear.” VW, for example, made higher profits after the diesel emissions scandal. But that was more because the numerous discounts brought the customers back, not the promises to do better in the future.

But there are also a few companies that want to produce more sustainably out of conviction. Some of them even set themselves more ambitious goals than politicians allow, according to Kieckhäfer. “This also increases the pressure on politicians to set appropriate framework conditions.”

In order to awaken and strengthen the inner motivation for more climate protection in executives of large companies, there has been a successful one in Sweden since 2018 “Climate school” for top managers and board chairmen. Here you will be introduced to resilience thinking at university level and learn what global change and planetary limits are all about. After all, the previous course participants represent companies that together generate almost half of Sweden’s gross domestic product, employ hundreds of thousands of people and reach millions of customers worldwide.

Usually take 16 business bosses take part in such a climate course, which starts in November and ends the following March. There are three personal retreats, one of which lasts two full days. Lecturers are well-known Swedish and international climate scientists and sustainability experts.

The initiator was Lisen Schultz, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center and founder of the Pontus Schultz Foundation for a more humane economy, which was also involved. Johan Rockström, At that time also one of the directors of the Resilience Center and today one of the two directors of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, she significantly supported the development of the program. He is still engaged as a lecturer.

This year’s participants include, for example, the heads of Stora Enso, the second largest forest company in the world and one of the largest paper and packaging manufacturers, and the forest and garden equipment manufacturer Husqvarna. But Helena Helmersson is also there, the new managing director of the fashion group H&M, which had distinguished itself in the past through greenwashing and social dumping in the supplier countries. But Helmersson had one thing in 2020, shortly after she took up the post of chief Conversation with Johan Rockström on Youtube presented as a future climate and social reformer for her company.

Schultz cannot scientifically prove whether climate training actually leads to a turnaround in large Swedish companies. But: “At least we see examples of implementation. I think it is also fair to say that these CEOs are very busy people. They would not deal with a problem like this if they did not want to implement their knowledge.”

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You have also not heard of any company that has used this program in its communications as a greenwashing measure. “It’s good that people are expanding their knowledge,” she says. “But learning about sustainability is not necessarily a sign of sustainability.”

The fish stinks from the head, they say in northern Germany. Perhaps it is really due to a lack of understanding of emissions budgets and planetary limits in the management levels of companies that no longer happens. After all, with around 43 percent, industry is still the largest emitter of all greenhouse gases worldwide. What the CO2 As far as is concerned, there are still 300 gigatons left for mankind since 2020 in order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees with an 83 percent chance. But in the past two years the budget has fallen further to 228 gigatons, so it should end in six to seven years. Maybe the tutoring will come too late after all.


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