Stéphanie Leblanc, Communications Manager, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, BSR, and Peder Michael Pruzan-Jorgensen, Vice President, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, BSR

Paris is recovering from a week of severe air pollution, prompting conversations about how reducing car traffic can positively affect both air quality and greenhouse gas emissions in the city. As this was happening, we sat down with BSR’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Peder Michael Pruzan-Jorgensen, to discuss climate change, the role of business, and the BSR Spring Forum, taking place June 11-12 in Paris.

Tell us about the Spring Forum. How will this event be different?  

The Spring Forum has been designed to catalyze action now. We sense a strong desire among companies to turn conversation into tangible steps, so we’re creating a space for practical dialogue on how business can act.

While we often talk about climate change as something in the distant future, the cost of inaction is apparent today. Business is experiencing supply chain disruptions due to extreme weather, the cost of production is going up, and access to some raw materials is increasingly difficult. The financial costs are escalating every day, as are the costs of missed opportunities. Climate change presents strong opportunities for companies willing to innovate around and invest in building resilience, develop new products and services, and transition to a low-carbon energy system. This will be a key message at our event.

At the same time, what many are referring to as the “2015 moment” is a perfect backdrop for the Forum, as we’re on the path to a new international climate agreement at the COP 21 talks in 2015, taking place, not coincidentally, in Paris. The international community is also in the midst of preparing Sustainable Development Goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

The Forum focuses on “collective action.” How will that make a difference?

Incremental steps won’t hold global mean temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels—the minimum requirement to avoid catastrophic climate change. We need system-wide changes, which require collaboration among businesses, regulators, civil society organizations, and many others. Collective action is also an effective way of sharing the risk of these system-wide changes.

Our Forum will help build efforts to catalyze collective action. At the event, we will seed two new initiatives, one that builds off an existing BSR initiative focused on transportation fuel, and another on climate-compatible supply chains. And importantly, we want companies and stakeholders to discover some of the initiatives already out there, like the UNEP-led Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). The Forum will also introduce a new collaborative initiative dedicated to engaging business in public policy advocacy on climate through a coalition of business networks. Much of what we need to do to fight climate change already exists; we just need more companies to come on board.

Why should business lead on climate change?

Business is uniquely suited to lead on climate in two ways. First, companies can take immediate steps to reduce their own emissions and build resilience into their own operations. We will discuss that in sessions such as Big Reductions from Big Business.

Second, business has the capacity to enable others—business partners, consumers, financers, governments, and so on—to reduce emissions, build resilience, and innovate through their products and services. We’ve created a number of sessions that will help us see these tremendous opportunities. For instance, in Enabling Low-Carbon Lifestyles, UNEP, Marks & Spencer, and Futerra will discuss how consumer-facing companies can encourage their customers to adopt low-carbon lifestyles, which, in turn, increases demand for low-carbon products and services.

 

The BSR Spring Forum 2014 is open to all BSR members and partners from the private, nonprofit, academic, and government sectors. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (#BSRParis14).