How will leaving the Paris Agreement accord impact US businesses?
President Trump has recently announced via Twitter that he will be announcing his decision on whether to remain as part of the Paris Climate Agreement (also known as COP21) on Thursday, or whether he will leave the deal, weakening the agreement 195 countries have signed in order to combat emissions.
Businesses across the US are understandably resistant to such a move, where a vast majority of corporations and SMEs placing significant investment in providing increased sustainable alternatives within their operations.
Previously signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015, the global agreement encompassed the US committing to reduce its emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025 – however, Trump has in the past deemed climate change a hoax, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, opting to leave the Paris agreement will not be easy. Similar to the situation with the United Kingdom opting to leave the European Union, such a move would take four years to complete, which could be longer than Trump’s run as President.
Businesses know that sustainability as a topic has become a key player in remaining profitable. As one of the largest carbon polluters in the world, and an increased awareness to climate change, consumer attitudes changing. Millennials especially wish to invest in companies that are sustainable, so to walk away from the agreement and its aims to cut emissions could be interpreted as reckless for any industry. Apple’s new store in Singapore now runs on 100 percent renewable energy, whilst major tech corporations such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates has invested in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Even companies such as Exxon Mobile and Shell are nervous about Trump’s impending decision on the deal.
Assistant Professor of Global Energy Frederik Dahlmann of Warwick Business School in the UK, researches the transition to a low-carbon economy has commented on the recent news: "If reports that President Trump is withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord turn out to be true, this decision to satisfy his campaign pledges will go down in history as significantly anachronistic and self-harming.
"At a time when costs in the renewable energy sector are falling significantly and clean tech employment is reaching record levels, the President’s decision ignores the very significant shifts occurring in the global energy system. Combined with other key economies’ desire (notably the EU and China) to accelerate rather than to stop these trends, politically the US will find itself in growing isolation, and face accusations of scientific ignorance and moral irresponsibility.
"Just days after even the shareholders of the world’s largest public oil company ExxonMobil voted in favour of the fossil fuel giant analysing and disclosing the risks it faces due to climate change, so other companies are increasingly integrating proactive responses to climate change in their strategies by setting ambitious science-based carbon reduction targets and aiming to source their electricity almost exclusively from renewable sources.
"The commercial and economic opportunities are already changing America’s competitive landscape such that if the White House does withdraw it will be largely seen as an unwelcome irritation, rather than a wholesale shift in the political economy.
"Still, the challenges of a global transition towards a low-carbon economy remain sizeable. American businesses and non-governmental stakeholders should therefore engage with their partners around the world to drive this process and truly live up to the President’s slogan."
Over 600 businesses have now signed open letters to Trump, urging him to reconsider walking away from the Paris agreement, with companies such as eBay, Levi Strauss, Apple and Gap, amongst others stressing its importance. This month, an open letter has also been sent, stating that “climate change presents both business risks and business opportunities,” but will no doubt benefit the US economy.
“As businesses concerned with the well-being of our customers, our investors, our communities, and our suppliers, we are strengthening our climate resilience, and we are investing in innovative technologies that can help achieve a clean energy transition. For this transition to succeed, however, governments must lead as well.”
With prices in renewables becoming increasingly attractive and cost-effective for consumers, it will be difficult to see how Trump will want to invest in fossil fuels, whilst companies such as Shell are currently steering away from such a direction, reducing carbon emissions and placing investment in natural gas.
Tesla’s Elon Musk has also stated via Twitter that if Trump intends to indeed leave the Paris accord, he will have no option left but to quite the three White House Advisory Councils he currently sits on. These councils are manufacturing, strategic and policy, and infrastructure.
Watch this space…
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.