Business growth accelerating from climate action in American Midwest

July 03, 2018

North America

July 03, 2018

North America
Timothy Nixon

Managing editor, Sustainability

Tim Nixon is a founder and the managing editor of the sustainability site at Thomson Reuters. He is also Director of Sustainability at Thomson Reuters, and has ongoing engagement with thought leaders across a wide spectrum of NGO and private-sector partners. He has spoken at global policy-making events, including for example the World Bank Land & Poverty Conference, UN PRI Annual Meeting and the first global meeting of UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly). He is also the author of numerous blogs on Thomson Reuters Knowledge Effect and a report on the Global 500 greenhouse gas emission trends.

Tim is a lawyer by training and has spent most of his career working with diverse collaborators to build change-leading initiatives.

By Tim Nixon, managing editor of sustainability at Thomson Reuters, and Nicole Rom, executive director of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, a non-profit dedicated to education and action on the issue of climate change

The economy is humming both regionally and globally, and so is the story of the American Midwestern state of Minnesota but with a little unconventional twist! The impressive growth opportunity in Minnesota is emerging around climate change. Renewable energy, for example, with high-quality jobs and significant environmental benefits in the form of healthier air and water, has increasing wind in its sail. According to , employment grew 11% in a recent 15-year period from 2000 to 2015, while employment in renewable energy surged 78%, with evidence showing that .

Acknowledging the opportunity

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton and the business community recently reconfirmed the importance of this opportunity. At the gathering of public and private sector leaders in Minneapolis, the governor did not equivocate: “Big players on both sides of the climate issue are meeting head-on all across our economy. Science must prevail. With science guiding us, our growth will accelerate, our air and water will be cleaner, and our greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions will continue to decrease. We must prevail for the sake of our collective future.”

Business leaders were not far behind in their enthusiasm. Global agribusiness General Mill’s Jeff Hanratty, applied sustainability manager, affirmed their  target of reducing GHG emissions across their entire business and supply chain by 28% by 2025, with an additional aspirational goal of  41-72% in line with the Paris climate accord. Mr Hanratty clarified that “while this is the right thing to do for the planet, it is also the right thing to do for our business, and for our supply chain.”

He explained that in reducing the carbon intensity of their business, they are finding significant cost savings and more economically sustainable growing practices in the farming communities on which General Mills depends. “Reduced soil tilling and regenerative agriculture makes the optimal use of the earth’s natural solar energy, water cycles, and nutrient cycles to build healthy soil, ultimately capturing carbon in the earth and keeping it out of the air. Healthy soil also holds more nutrients for crops and animals, and stores more water for dry periods,” said Hanratty.

Echoing voices

General Mills was not alone. were among the many local and global firms publicly affirming their climate goals in line with the Paris accord to keep warming under 2°C. Attached to all these strategies are growing cost savings, new products, more sustainable supply chains and an improving ability to attract and retain talented, highly-educated employees.

Melissa Chelminiak from Aveda, the global cosmetic and body care firm, summed up the rationale. “Every business has an impact on the health and well-being of its community. Having a long-term, science-based approach to caring for that community on which our business depends is the only approach which makes sense, literally!”

To cap off the event, the governor reminded everyone that Minnesota is the single Midwest state to join the , a group of 17 states representing 40% of the US population and a US$9trn economy, greater than the third-largest country in the world. So while there is a significant climate leadership trend emerging, many potential players are still sitting on the sidelines.

Key takeaway

Policymakers, state agencies, local governments, utilities and businesses, both large and small, are all benefiting from this opportunity. Climate-change action requires a forward focus, and we must continue to step up our actions, embrace the power of collaboration and amplify our ability to capture this emerging economic growth opportunity.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

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