Stand and Deliver

As I again check my air tickets and pack warm clothes, I am feeling a true sense of déjà vu. Last month it was COP15 in freezing Copenhagen; this time it's the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. In addition to focusing on the tragedy in Haiti, where no words adequately describe the staggering human suffering, Forum participants will again consider the issue of climate change. On that topic, surely the question is this: Can we wait until COP16 this fall in Mexico to reach an agreement?

Will our political leaders find something ambitious that really makes a difference and that they can all agree upon? Or will they hold there be a glitzy media event which launches, at best, a 'lowest common denominator' agreement - something that sounds good but, when we get the detail, lacks teeth and is soon forgotten?

As an entrepreneur, I like cutting to the chase and getting things done. True, we need the world's leaders to arrive at a broad framework, but ultimately climate change will not be created by a never-ending schedule of conferences. Margaret Thatcher apparently used to say in the 1970s: if you want something done, ask a woman. I'd suggest that, these days, it is the private sector that actually gets things done.

It is up to us, as business leaders to innovate and provide life-changing solutions working with the government.

The United Nations has its protocols and systems, of course, and they must run their course. But this World Economic Forum gathering provides a unique opportunity. What if a small group of world leaders - politicians and business people - unite, without the media microscope upon them, and sketch a roadmap that achieves real and lasting change and that the developed and developing world can both accept?

Indeed, if our governments can't agree, couldn't Chinese, Indian, Australian and U.S. companies work together and create the low-carbon economy of the future that we talk so much about? Industry is the economy's engine and when we change the way we do things, the world will change with us. In Davos, I will be part of a group called the "Energy Shapers" - and we will gather with a common mission to shape our collective energy future.

I have written before about why climate change has to be halted. In retirement I want to look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them about the small role the business and I played in tackling the world's greatest challenge. In addition, as Starbuck's Howard Schultz has put it, shared values now are on an equal footing with shareholder value. As a result, I see my company as both a business and, concurrently, the champion of a cause.

Politics, by its nature, emits a lot of noise. But for results, I think it's time now for the private sector to stand and deliver.