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How Companies Vary in Climate Change Responses

Researchers contrast corporate responses to climate change in the UK and Pakistan. How does your firm’s response compare?

Examining Climate Strategies of Firms in UK and Pakistan

Companies in the Global North and Global South face some common barriers in responding to climate change (e.g. lack of financial resources). But they have distinct strategies due to differences in acceptance of and support for those initiatives by government and other stakeholders, and regulatory influence specific to their sector. Pressure from owners, managers, and regulators may be needed for firms in the Global South to adopt climate strategies.

Research on how companies respond to pressure to reduce GHG emissions has focused mainly on large multinationals. This study by Jeswani, Wehrmeyer, and Mulugetta examines the climate change strategies of firms residing in the UK and Pakistan. It classifies firms as indifferent, beginner, emerging, or active based on their climate strategies and identifies the drivers and barriers for their GHG reduction activities.

Indifferent, Beginner, Emerging, or Active Firms

Country Differences

More than 75% of Pakistani companies were classified as either indifferent or beginner, compared with just 30% of UK companies.

Sector Differences

Most UK firms in indifferent or beginner clusters were small and not regulated under the EU trading scheme. In both the UK and Pakistan, few multinationals were indifferent. Indifferent and beginner companies in Pakistan belonged to textile, cement, paper, food & drink, and chemical sectors; firms in oil & gas, power and automotive sectors were distributed across indifferent, beginner and emerging.

Barriers to Action

The high cost of initiatives and lack of capital were perceived as barriers in both countries. Researchers noted added challenges in the developing context like overall lack of awareness, non-availability of technologies, and an absence of government policies.

Drivers for Action

Firm owners, management, and regulators were perceived to have high influence on firms’ climate change responses in contrast to employees, competitors, and other stakeholders. Drivers included cost savings, management commitment, or targets and regulatory compliance.

Implications for Managers

In the face of regulatory uncertainty or lack of awareness, managers and owners may need to take the initial steps towards mitigating climate change risk. This is especially true if your sector has not yet fully engaged in the climate change issue.

To achieve meaningful global emissions reductions, emerging and active industries need to become proactive and innovative, and help those in indifferent and beginner industries. You might achieve this through tech transfer, alliances, or partnerships.

Implications for Researchers

Jeswani, Wehrmeyer, and Mulugetta compared strategies for climate change using survey responses from 180 companies from 9 high-emissions sectors in the UK and Pakistan. They conducted factor analysis on operational and managerial activities followed by cluster analysis to group companies based on factor scores for activities.

More research is needed to better understand the role of factors including stakeholder influence, management objectives, institutional support and awareness in different countries (especially the Global South) and across business sectors.

Jeswani, Harish Kumar, Wehrmeyer, Walter, & Mulugetta, Yacob. (2008). How warm is the corporate response to climate change? Evidence from Pakistan and the UK. Business Strategy and the Environment, 17(1): 46-60.

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  • Pam Laughland

    Pam Laughland was Managing Director at the Network for Business Sustainability from 2011 to 2017, and previously was the organization's Knowledge Manager. Prior to joining NBS, Pamela held research positions at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Statistics Canada, and the University of Guelph. Her work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Ivey Business Journal and the International Journal of Biotechnology. She holds an MSc in Resource Economics from the University of Guelph.

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