Climate Concerns in Boardrooms, But in Business Magazines?

Mention the words business risk and climate change to Howard Kunreuther of Penn’s Wharton School, and he’ll tell you about big changes in risk management in the corporate world. Yet major business periodicals appear to lag behind corporate boardrooms in increasing the awareness of risks posed by a changing climate.

In a story headlined Risky Business, published recently at The Yale Forum, I took a look at how U.S. businesses now are facing major changes in their assessment of catastrophic risk. Floods and droughts are increasingly coming into focus. Supply chain management is now a big concern, because natural hazards around the world can disrupt business at home. Here is how the story begins:

As little as ten years ago, few of the world’s largest corporations issued sustainability strategies to shareholders, reported on greenhouse gas emissions, or disclosed climate change risks. Today, more than 80 percent do.

But while catastrophic risk and sustainability concerns associated with climate change now are increasingly reflected on corporate agendas, leading business magazines — no doubt suffering some of the same economic and growth challenges facing mass media overall — show little real appetite for substantive climate-related reporting.

Nevertheless, climate news important to the business sector clearly is happening. For the first time, G20 leaders put disaster risk management on the agenda at their 2012 summit in Mexico. And U.S. corporations have made substantial progress on emission reduction goals, according to a September 2012 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a system for companies to measure and disclose environmental information. As emissions reductions and physical risks of climate change — including drought, wildfires, and floods — raise concerns in boardrooms and among finance ministers in the world’s richest countries, business press coverage appears not to be meeting needs, leaving things to specialized high-priced “insider” newsletters to fill the void.

 I admire the reporting and writing skills of many of the business journalists mentioned in my article and hope they will pursue these big stories, but they will also need the support and backing of their managing editors. You can read the complete story here.

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