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Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group  Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm E

Companies and Climate Change: What Now?

May 18, 2016

As technology continues making it easier to control energy use, should companies be looking at money saved from reducing emissions as a potential profit center?

Ikea's (ikea) chief sustainability officer, Steve Howard, believes so, but not everyone in the space thinks that's practical, as a discussion at Fortune's Brainstorm E conference this week showed. Said Bill Weihl, director of sustainability at Facebook: "If you set making money as your goal [with energy], you're going the wrong way."

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At the session, called "Companies and Climate Change: Taking Action to the Next Level," sustainability experts from the likes of Facebook (fb) and the World Wildlife Fund came to a few—but only a few—common conclusions.

The main one: That the way companies talk about climate change needs to be rethought. "We have framed the problem wrong," said Peter Eisenberger, co-founder of Global Thermostat. "Calling it a threat is not the way to sell the populace to do something. Instead, we should say that we can make more money [with renewable energy]."

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The other common conclusion: It's the customers who are demanding change—and who have pushed corporations to become more aware of their energy use. "The fact is that the demographics are changing," says Weihl, "and millennials care."

Those who don't pay attention to those basic facts, the panelists agreed, will pay a price in lost business.

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