Case Study

Weathering the storm of investor risk at RWE: WWF’s assessment

11 pages
March 2008
Reference: IMD-2-0137

In November 2006, WWF Germany and Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) published the report Carbonizing Valuation: Assessing Corporate Value at Risk. The report argued that utility companies’ financial value was at considerable risk in a future with stricter laws restricting carbon emissions. It modeled cash flows from a selection of German electric utility RWE’s power plants and concluded that if RWE treated carbon emissions as business-as-usual, it could lose up to 17% of its net-equity value. As Joachim Löchte, RWE Group Head of Energy/Environmental Policy, read the report, he noted that the replacement scenarios modeled fuel-by-fuel, coal and gas but omitted two possibilities: nuclear energy and renewable energy. He sent an email outlining his concerns with the report and its assumptions to author Matthias Kopp at WWF. Kopp replied by inviting Löchte to be on a panel at the report’s launch in London in January, to express his opinion to the financial community in attendance. The financial impact of climate change had become highly visible, and Löchte knew the event would be well attended. He wondered who from RWE should attend the meeting. Was it significant enough for the CFO or COO to attend? What communication strategy could RWE adopt around this issue?

Learning Objective

This case looks at the differences between how a company and an NGO assess the financial risk posed by carbon. Underlying this difference in opinion are fundamental differences in what corporate sustainability looks like. How seriously should companies take stakeholder initiatives which criticize their sustainability strategy? Should they alter their communications strategy to respond to such criticism? Is it possible for companies and NGOs to learn from one another and to converge in their opinions?

Climate Change, Investor Risk, Electric Power Utilities, Energy, Corporate Sustainability Management
Field Research
© 2008
Available Languages
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