Don’t forget the climate crisis, CEOs say

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Good morning.

The climate crisis has been crowded out in recent months by the health crisis, the economic crisis and the racial justice crisis. (Too many crises.) But needless to say, it hasn’t gone away. Fortune assembled a group of members of its CEO Initiative yesterday, led by Dow CEO Jim Fitterling and Nestle CEO Mark Schneider, to talk about strategies for addressing the problem.

The conversation was held under Chatham House rules, so I can’t report individual comments. What was striking to me about the conversation, though, is this: Until a dozen years ago, the climate change discussion was all about government policy. Indeed, in 2008, the U.S. had two presidential candidates–Barack Obama and John McCain–who both favored a national cap on carbon emissions. Business, at least in the U.S., was then fairly new to the conversation, having only recently been organized by leaders like GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Duke Power CEO Jim Rogers, under the auspices of USCAP. “If we are not at the table, we will be on the menu,” Rogers said, giving the defensive rationale for corporate engagement.

In yesterday’s discussion, however, government policy was barely discussed. The CEOs focused their efforts on what the private sector can do to meet the U.N.’s ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and to sharply reduce plastic waste. Meeting such goals would clearly be easier with coherent government policies. But as one CEO put it, solutions that require government policy “will lead us down a rabbit hole.” Today, business feels it must lead on climate–if only because government is not.

Separately, Fortune analytics released some new numbers on work-from-home yesterday, based on a survey of Americans in collaboration with SurveyMonkey. The takeaways:

  • 46{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of U.S. workers say they’ve been able to work remotely during the pandemic.
  • 29{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of remote workers say they feel less productive since the pandemic began, while only 24{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} say they feel more productive. The rest say they are “equally productive.”
  • 41{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of remote workers say they would choose to exclusively work from home this fall if the decision were up to them.

One person clearly benefitting from the work-from-home trend is Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, whose stock has risen 150{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} since the start of the pandemic, giving the cloud-based communications company a $37 billion market value. Lawson told me yesterday that a survey conducted by Twilio found that “on average, (businesses) say their digital road maps were accelerated by five years during the crisis… The sentiment I’ve heard is: Last year, digital transformation was led by the CIO. This year, it is led by COVID-19.”

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Alan Murray

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