The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international organization formed in 1988 to research the impacts of climate change. They employ some of the leading scientists in the world who study the environment. In October 2018, the panel released a "Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C."

The report discusses the impact of global warming and a 1.5°C (2.7° Fahrenheit) increase above pre-industrial temperature levels. It describes how this raise leads to ecosystem and biodiversity loss, sea-level rise, and increased intensity and frequency of weather extremes that displaces millions of people. Businesses obviously should take these risks seriously.

The IPCC estimates human activities have already caused 1.0°C warming above pre-industrial levels, and at current rates will likely rise to 1.5°C warming between 2030 and 2052.

Fortunately, The report offers some hope that these negative consequences can be mitigated if the rate of warming is slowed and overall warming kept below 1.5°C.

Accomplishing this feat is no easy task, though. It'll require help from business owners everywhere.

Aside from saving our planet, here are some other motivating factors for getting involved.

Customers care about companies that take an environmental stance.

Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the social and environmental ramifications of the products they purchase.

In a 2015 global Nielsen survey, over half of the respondents who said they were willing to pay more for products attributed that willingness in part to sustainability issues. Customers increasingly want products made from natural ingredients by companies with a reputation for maintaining environmental and ethical standards.

Not long ago, a company's stance on the environment was an afterthought--a shallow public relations initiative for marketing purposes. Now, customers are demanding more consideration for the planet.

Top companies are already taking the lead.

Microsoft understands the resource-constrained nature of the world. In 2017, it pledged to reduce its carbon emissions 75 percent by 2030. The company is well on its way. Its new campus in Silicon Valley is set to be the first tech campus with net-zero water certification.

Google is getting in on the sustainable action as well. On its sustainability homepage it states that "a responsible supply chain isn't just the right thing to do for people and the planet--it's also good for business."

Google is working on some exciting new projects. It's using data to track illegal fishing over 1.4 billion square miles. It's adding pollution sensors to its Street View cars to build methane maps for 11 major cities. And, it's building new data centers with 50 percent less energy consumption than the industry average since 2014. Even Goldman Sachs is joining in, announcing just last month that it is banning paper cups at its U.S. office.

These industry leaders offer key lessons to up-and-coming businesses: concern for the environment matters to employees, shareholders and clients. Sustainability is no longer just a word to slap on the PR section of your business's website. It's an integral value that empowers a successful company.

Joining the movement is as simple as planning and education.

In the new year, you can make environmental goals an active part of your 2019 business plan. Learn more about changes in the planet's climate and ecosystems. Educate yourself about sustainability principles like the three P's (people, profit, planet), and the "triple bottom line," which incorporates these metrics.

Make sure to market your company as sustainable while recruiting new talent. This way, you can attract and retain skilled employees who align with your environmental goals. Most importantly, make concern for the environment a shared value at your company, so employees can unite in working towards a goal that feels good for you, your team and the earth.

Understanding how the environment is changing will help your business stay relevant and give you a chance to show that you care about something much larger than yourself. Taking a stance means you're playing your part to keep the world clean and healthy.

Environmental issues can be complex and daunting, but staying informed is more than worth the effort for you and your business.

Published on: Jan 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.