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Take advantage of climate change, visiting US Professor urges Australian business

04 Apr 2013

A visiting US expert has urged Australian business to take advantage of the opportunities offered by climate change.

Speaking at a meeting of business leaders hosted by accounting firm Ernst & Young, Professor Andy Hoffman said that markets were already changing as a result of climate change and were presenting competitive openings to companies willing to meet the challenges.

Professor Hoffman, who is the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan and Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, was recently in Australia as a guest of the University of Sydney Business School and the United States Studies Centre.

"The business changes now in play will result in a world that will be barely recognisable in 20 years time," Professor Hoffman told his business audience. "The key market shifts that are underway as a result of climate change offer competitive opportunities in green building, electric and hybrid cars, and renewable energy.

Professor Hoffman also presented a Sydney Ideas lecture to a large public audience on "The Social Sciences and Climate Change: Structuring the Sources of Distrust". In this lecture, he said that despite a scientific consensus on the urgency of anthropogenic climate change, in the US (and Australia) we have yet to achieve a social consensus.

Here, he said that the core of the opposition to climate science could be found in a conflict of values. These, according to Professor Hoffman, included differences in religious beliefs, attitudes to the role of government, trust in the market, the value of nature, and faith in science.

In seeking to develop a social consensus on climate change, Professor Hoffman stressed that the role of different "broker frames" are key to engaging with those who are uncommitted on this critical social issue.

Professor Hoffman also gave the keynote address for a symposium on business responses to climate change organized by Professor Christopher Wright and the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society.

The symposium featured leading researchers from across Australia and industry speakers from Westpac, AGL, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Low Carbon Australia.

Over the day a range of perspectives were canvassed including different conceptions of political governance in relation to climate change, the psychology of climate change denial, the business strategy of responding to climate change, and the role of emotions and emotionality in corporate environmentalism.

Professor Hoffman's visit served as an important further step in the Business School's engagement with industry and practitioners as well as the broader academic community on the critical issue of climate change response.