Global Warming Subject for Directors at Big Companies

If corporate directors really understood the implications of global warming, would they steer their companies toward preventing it?

Ceres, a coalition of environmentalists and investors; Yale University; and Marsh, the risk and insurance services unit of Marsh & McLennan , insist the answer is yes. And this winter, they will hold what they call sustainable governance forums to give directors an overview of the financial, legal, business and investor implications of climate change.

“Climate change is no longer the purview of scientists only,’’ said James Gustave Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “The widespread ramifications of unchecked climate change require that more leaders in our society understand its implications.’’

Actually, many corporate executives appear to be well aware of the link between greenhouse gases and climate change. More than 80 percent of the companies that provided data for the Carbon Disclosure Project, a report detailing corporate response to global warming issues, acknowledged the potential risks and benefits of climate change. But fewer than half said they were working to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Ceres, Yale and Marsh say they can give directors incentives and practical tools to spur more companies to action. They expect that at least 200 directors of Fortune 1000 companies will attend the forums.

Marsh, which is helping to develop the curriculum and also contributing $250,000 to produce materials for the course, sees educating directors on climate change as a perfect fit with its growth strategy.

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“We advise companies on a whole spectrum of risks, be it terrorism or climate change, and this is a huge opportunity to help us grow our business,’’ said Brian Storms, chairman of Marsh.

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