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- Major brands are finding ways to make money on the fears surrounding and consequences of climate change.
- In disclosures to CDP – a nonprofit that asks companies about their environmental impact – companies like Apple, Disney, and Philip Morris identified ways that they could profit from natural disasters, extreme weather, and the need to reduce carbon emissions associated with climate change.
- In many cases, brands saw addressing climate change as a way to improve their public image.
In 2018, a devastating report released by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted a future of extreme heatwaves, severe droughts, mass extinctions, and sea-level rise. Under these conditions, the report said, the world could experience $54 trillion worth of environmental damage.
While that scenario might be decades away, companies are already finding ways to profit from humanity’s collective fears about climate-related disasters. Read more: Big Oil claims it’s doing its part to combat climate change. A new study finds it’s not even close.
In January, a London-based nonprofit called CDP, which collects information from companies about their environmental impact, released thousands of company disclosures explaining how natural disasters, extreme weather, and the need to reduce carbon emissions could translate into serious money-making opportunities.
In one of the most striking disclosures, Apple noted that iPhones could help people survive in a disaster by offering flashlights and other emergency services. The company estimated that its brand value would increase by $920 million as customers began to rely on iPhones for personal safety.
Other companies saw an upside to warmer temperatures. Molson Coors predicted that the desire for beer would increase as the world experienced more frequent and extreme periods of heat.
Here are some of the ways that major brands think they can make money from climate change.
Philip Morris International says extreme weather could be good for its tobacco.
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The tobacco manufacturing giant behind Marlboro cigarettes thinks heavier rains could save the company an estimated $10 million. According to the company’s latest CDP disclosure, rain lengthens the life cycle of tobacco, keeping the soil moist for longer periods of time.
A steady rainfall also provides the ideal conditions for tobacco to grow, helping the company ramp up production and improve the quality of its cigarettes.
The company believes it will also save $1 million per year from higher global temperatures.
Before producing a cigarette, manufacturers must first dry out, or “cure,” the tobacco leaves in heated barns, which use firewood to power the drying-out process. Philip Morris predicts that warmer weather will produce natural heat that will reduce the need to burn firewood.
Apple predicts more natural disasters could increase demand for iPhones.
- Clancy Morgan
When a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake hits, people tend to reach for their phones. Apple predicts that more customers will soon be inclined to purchase an iPhone in preparation for a severe climate-related event.
“Mobile devices can serve as the backbone communication network in emergency and quasi-emergency situations,” the company wrote in its disclosure. “They can serve as a flashlight or a siren; they can provide first aid instructions; they can act as a radio; and they can be charged for many days via car batteries or even hand cranks.”
The company also touted existing emergency features like “SOS,” which connects iPhones and Apple Watches to emergency services.
Molson Coors thinks warmer temperatures will ramp up the desire for cold beer.
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Like Philip Morris, Molson Coors has discovered a financial upside to warmer temperatures.
“Beer sales are strongly dependent upon weather,” the company wrote. “If we have more warm days or the summer season is extended, we have more opportunity for sales.”
The company estimates that it could earn an additional $1 million from warmer temperatures, though it recognizes that these earnings could be offset by climate-related disasters such as floods, drought, hurricanes, and wildfires.
In an effort to get ahead, Coors is already looking for ways to keep its beer colder for longer, so that more customers have access to it on hot days.
Disney thinks nature-themed experiences will appeal to the environmentally-conscious.
According to the Walt Disney Company’s disclosure, the company “is in a unique position to inspire children and families to take action to help the planet.”
It’s hoping to turn that inspiration into profit. The company expects to see a “high” financial impact from providing “nature experiences” to customers at its theme parks and resorts. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for instance, celebrates Earth Day with interactive activities and photo ops.
The company also oversees Disneynature, an independent film unit that produces nature documentaries. According to Disney, these films “[contribute] to box-office sales and revenue generation but also [highlight] our commitment to conserving nature around the world.”
AT&T is profiting by providing energy-saving products to companies concerned about climate change.
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AT&T wants to sell its energy-saving technologies to customers concerned about carbon emissions.
The company’s current wireless sensors, for example, can remotely turn farming tools on and off, allowing customers to conserve energy.
“If we capture opportunities related to increased demand for services that help others reduce emissions, it could mean an increased revenue opportunity,” the company wrote.
Coca-Cola thinks people will be drawn to its “climate-friendly” refrigerators.
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Coca-Cola has been working to improve its refrigeration systems for about a decade. In 2012, the company referred to its refrigeration equipment as “the cornerstone” of its climate-saving efforts.
It’s now helping customers make the switch from old refrigerators, which can contain substances that deplete the ozone layer, to energy-saving ones with better insulation.
Coca-Cola believes these efforts will attract more demand from customers who want to improve their environmental impact and reduce running costs. The result, the company predicts, will be increased margins and better customer loyalty.
Nestle thinks the changes in extreme temperature caused by climate change might favor the growth of some of their raw materials, like cocoa and sugar.
- REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, is responsible for brands like Toll House Chocolate Chips, Kit Kats, Nesquik, Cheerios, and Häagen-Dazs.
The company said in its disclosure that changes in extreme temperatures might favor the growth of raw materials like cocoa, sugar, and soy by increasing yield and extending their harvesting period.
Nestle also noted in its disclosure that northern Europe is expected to see sugar yield increases between 2021 and 2050, according to the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research model.
But researchers think it’s not that simple. Christian Bunn, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), told Business Insider that increased temperatures and unreliable rainfall will reduce raw material quality for companies like Nestle.
“My take is that the companies underestimate the scale of the challenge,” he said.
Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, said it would see an uptick in brand loyal as more people use Google Earth to raise awareness about climate change.
- Justin Sullivan/Getty
Alphabet disclosed that it’s “virtually certain” to see a revenue increase of up to $142 million because of demand for Google Earth services like Google Earth Engine and the Earth Outreach program.
These products “give non-profits and organizations the knowledge and resources they need to visualize their causes and share their story with hundreds of millions of users,” and offer people the opportunity “to analyze data and information from around the world,” Alphabet wrote in its disclosure.
The company believes these products will give both climate scientists and everyday citizens tools to visualize the severity of climate change.
Alphabet also said the wider social benefits created by Google Earth may result in increased brand loyalty for Google.
Microsoft thinks it can offer customers technology that’s resilient to natural disasters and severe weather events linked to climate change.
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Microsoft disclosed that it was “likely” the company would see increased revenue because of new climate change-resilient products and services.
“Any disruption to business and government resulting from the physical impacts of climate change will be costly, particularly where technology infrastructure is damaged and/or operations cannot continue from an alternative site,” the company wrote.
Microsoft said it could offer products to counter those risks. The company claims that its cloud technology and IT services are resilient to the physical impacts of climate change, such as local disruptions from weather events, and its artificial intelligence resources “enable people, organizations, and governments to anticipate, predict, and manage climate change impacts.”
Bank of America might see “well over $10 million of additional business annually” thanks to the Paris Agreement.
- REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Bank of America, which serves 10% of all American bank deposits, disclosed that it’s “virtually certain” the implementation of the global Paris Agreement to combat climate change and decrease carbon emissions would result in $10 million of additional business.
The company said that’s because the agreement provides for “international mechanisms to promote climate friendly finance, carbon trading, technology transfer and adaptation to climate change impacts.”
Those mechanisms will generate opportunities for Bank of America’s climate finance business, according to the disclosure.
Bayer AG, which recently acquired the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto, disclosed it would see an increased demand for herbicides that help crops survive extreme conditions.
Monsanto developed herbicides and genetically modified crops long before being acquired by Bayer AG in 2018. Now, the company is continuing that work under Bayer’s crop science division.
In 2017, Monsanto’s CDP disclosure noted that it would benefit from increased demands for hybrid seed products. Bayer said it would see similar financial opportunities in its 2018 disclosure.
Extreme droughts and rains can have severe effects on harvest yields, and climate change might increase the frequency of these weather events. Bayer noted that increase could lead to an uptick in demand for products with the capacity to adapt to extreme conditions, and that help protect and increase yields.
One product that would be would likely be in higher demand, Bayer said, is a fungicide, Nativo, which protects crops against fungal infections as well drought and heat-related stress.