Jan 24, 2019

3. Monetizing climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The storylines dominating climate change news are usually doom and gloom, but corporate America sees some new ways to integrate a warmer world into its business models.

Driving the news: That conclusion was gleaned from disclosures from more than 7,000 companies worldwide (1,800 in the U.S.) that were collected by CDP, a London-based nonprofit that asks companies to report their environmental impact.

"Many of those that filed reports with CDP said they believe climate change can bolster demand for their products," Bloomberg's Christopher Flavelle reports:

  • "[M]ore people will get sick. 'As the climate changes, there will be expanded markets for products for tropical and weather related diseases including waterborne illness,' wrote Merck & Co."
  • "More disasters will make iPhones even more vital to people’s lives, Apple predicted."

Axios health care editor Sam Baker rummaged through the reports and found that climate change could be big business for pharma:

  • AbbVie: "Climate change may create a greater need for existing or even new products … higher temperatures and drought conditions are becoming extreme … Our immunology product line could see an increase in sales as a result."
  • Eli Lilly: "These risks may drive an increased demand for ... our diabetes products."
  • Pfizer: "There could be an increased demand for products related to diseases impacted by climate change."

These financial benefits are, of course, anomalies — most impact will be dire. Axios' Ben Geman points out that companies like Coca-Cola, which worries about water shortages, have long realized the risks to their operations.

  • And a number of companies — including tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook — for years have been increasing clean energy procurement and making emissions-cutting plans and goals.

Why it matters, from Axios science editor Andrew Freedman: Polling indicates Americans are already recognizing the impacts of global warming in their own backyards, and the CDP disclosures make me think about what might happen once we start to factor climate change into our spending decisions.

  • Intel is worried about water availability for chip production, while reinsurance giants have long worried that extreme weather events from climate change could threaten their bottom line. 

What we're watching ... The companies' reports show expected climate-change expenses that could become so big and detrimental that they provoke a real sea change in corporate America: More companies turning to governments, and lobbying for policies reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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