City & Corporate: Copenhagen will be a launch pad

If I had to name locations that were synonymous with environmental summits, I would go for the usual suspects; Rio, Kyoto, Bali. Come December, however, Copenhagen will become pre-eminent.

On 7 December, leaders from 192 countries will meet in the Danish capital for 12 days of intense negotiations, which will hopefully lead to an ambitious, fair and binding deal on climate change.

The meeting will once again elevate the profile of climate change, which has dropped down the media agenda recently as a direct result of the recession. Our calculations reveal a 15 per cent drop off in UK media coverage compared with the same period last year.

So, what are we likely to expect from Copenhagen? In the lead up to the summit, NGOs will increase pressure on politicians. Although businesses and media cannot play an official role, they have a vested interest and an unprecedented opportunity to influence the outcome.

Vocal and well-funded climate sceptics, some of which are businesses, will tell us an ambitious deal will curb businesses' ability to recover from the downturn. They will suggest that in a constrained economy, the man or woman on the street has other priorities. To counter this, politicians, the media and NGOs will be looking to showcase some of the many examples of visionary businesses that have engaged consumers, made transparent climate commitments, delivered against them and grown at the same time.

In particular they will be looking for examples of businesses that have used the recession as an opportunity to refocus climate discourse towards efficiency and opportunity. This shift has capitalised on consumers' relentless interest in value, and combined it with their latent desire to 'do the right thing'.

These businesses should see Copenhagen as a launch pad, a moment in time when they will be able to cement their reputation at the heart of a new post-recession economy, centred on efficiency. For laggards, it's time to rethink positioning while there is time.

Historically, recessions have led to transformation. Change is upon us, and businesses need to ride that change, or risk getting stuck in the old economy.

Arlo Brady is a board director at Freud Communications

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