Climate change is a human rights issue

In a landmark decision last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a group of citizens that the right to a stable climate is a fundamental human necessity. The government of Switzerland thus lost the case and it shows that you have to deliver a decent effort in the battle against the climate crisis. I expect we will see ripple effects of this also in the business community.

Obviously, the ruling has the potential to set a precedent that governments are obligated to protect their citizens from climate change. This ruling underscores the fundamental right to a safe and stable climate, emphasizing that climate-related risks pose a direct threat to human rights.

Understanding the Rulings Implications for Businesses

The court’s ruling serves as a clarion call to businesses, highlighting the growing importance of climate considerations in corporate strategy. For SME leaders, this decision can be viewed through several lenses:

Rising Expectations: There is a rising consumer demand for environmentally responsible products. And the same goes for expectations of current and future employees and partners. Companies that align themselves with these values are likely to see growth in customer loyalty, attractiveness, and brand value.

Increased Regulatory Risks: Governments may introduce stricter regulations on emissions and environmental impact, affecting all sectors. Businesses that anticipate and adapt to these changes can mitigate risks more effectively.

Investment and Financing: Financial institutions are increasingly factoring sustainability into their investment decisions. Businesses that demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship are more likely to attract investment and secure favourable financing terms.

The Business Case for Addressing Climate Change

Addressing climate change presents not just challenges but opportunities for innovative business leaders. Integrating sustainable practices can drive efficiency, foster innovation, and open new markets. Here’s how SMEs can turn the tide:

Innovation in Products and Services: Developing new versions of existing products or services – or brand-new ones – that solve the client’s painpoints while also contributing positively to the world. This is a powerful way to differentiate your business from competitors and capture new market segments.

Operational Efficiencies: By adopting more sustainable practices, businesses can achieve significant cost savings in energy consumption, waste reduction, and resource utilization.

Here is an episode on operational excellence on my podcast Green Business With Impact.

Brand Differentiation: Being at the forefront of sustainability can strengthen your brand, attract eco-conscious consumers, and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Here is an episode on branding on my podcast Green Business With Impact.

Strategic Actions for SME Leaders

To navigate this evolving landscape, SME leaders should consider the following strategies:

Connect Sustainability to Business: Most important part is to make the connections between your core business, and its strength, and sustainability. This way you can use sustainability to solve meaningful business problems for you and your ideal clients.

Build a Meaningful Roadmap: Create a roadmap for your progress filled with initiatives that directly are valuable to the business and the world. And assign responsibility for each initiative. Prioritizing the implementation becomes a LOT easier once it is filled with meaningful and valuable initiatives.

Sustainability Audits: Assess current impacts and identify areas for improvement in energy use, supply chain management, and product lifecycle. And then set good indicators for progress and assign responsibility for creating.

Engagement with Stakeholders: Collaborate with customers, suppliers, and local communities to develop shared sustainability goals.

Transparent Communication: Regularly communicate your sustainability efforts and progress to stakeholders through reports, social media, and direct engagement.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The transformation to a force for good company is filled with challenges and innovation. Stay curious and stay informed about new environmental regulations and emerging technologies in sustainability to continually adapt business practices. Surround yourself with people on the same journey to get a source of inspiration and support.



The European Court of Human Rights’ ruling is more than a legal decision; it is a pivotal moment for business leaders worldwide. It reaffirms that climate change is an agenda that just keeps growing in attention and power. For SMEs, it offers a unique opportunity to lead with purpose, ensuring that their business practices contribute positively to the planet and future generations. Embracing this challenge not only mitigates risks but also enhances competitiveness in a rapidly evolving global market.


A few of the articles on the ruling: