The 250 companies referenced in this report, together with their value chains, account for approximately one-third of global annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For a decade or more, the management teams in these large organizations have recognized the potential future constraints that climate change could pose on their business operations and outlook. While many have deferred making a strategic shift toward a low-carbon future, others have recognized a new business logic: a historic opportunity for innovation that drives durable growth and competitive advantage.

As the early movers see it, carbon-intensive firms – whether they are big energy producers, consumers or makers of energy-intensive products who could ride the coming wave of technological and organizational change – would be positioned to prosper in a carbon-constrained world. Companies and their customers would see increased eco-efficiencies and reduced eco-risks. Firms unwilling or unable to adapt would ultimately fall behind as the new business logic of a post-carbon economy slowly but surely redefines the terms of competition.

The question for most managers, investors and analysts has been one of timing. Not surprisingly, conventional wisdom suggests that it is still too early – shareholders could pay a penalty resulting from the significant investments required to transform core processes and product portfolios for low-carbon markets that have not yet fully materialized or technologies that are still rapidly evolving. While there could be significant consequences for being late, those consequences could be many years away.