71% is a big piece of any pie, right? Well that’s the proportion of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions which have come from just 100 companies since 1988. The corporate sector is clearly a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to environmental challenges and opportunities.
Given that companies fall within the jurisdiction of national governments, and that international treaties and agreements to tackle climate change are led by states, surely it’s up to them to control emissions and impacts from business? Perhaps.
There’s certainly encouraging commitment being shown by nations around the world, nearly the whole world in fact. The landmark Paris agreement, which aims to keep warming well below 2C, now has 197 signatory countries. All counties but one, after the USA decided to withdraw.
In the turbulent times in which we live, getting this level of positive sentiment on climate action is great, especially given the plethora of geopolitical mind-boggling going on around us.
However, these national governments then have to go home and put in place real frameworks to deliver on the goals they commit to. A primary lever to make this happen is policy to stimulate emissions reductions and green economic growth by incentivising or penalising businesses.
The wheels have started turning on such national strategies.
In the UK for example, the Clean Growth Strategy published in October was well received, seemingly embedding decarbonisation within core thinking for economic growth. A very welcome move, though many eyes and ears are still peeled waiting for the supporting policy detail.
As a general rule, the skeleton of strategy can come quite quickly from international agreements, but the policy meat on the bones can take longer. Plus, it tends to be more gradual than ground-breaking. But that is missing a trick.
There are huge opportunities to be had in green economic growth. Growing sectors like renewables, and circular and sharing economies will shape our future. Why wait for incremental policies which push us in that direction anyway?
Climate change is not a macro issue which is generations away either. We’re all influencing it now, today, and feeling the impacts. Try telling the people who are still recovering from hurricane Harvey, Irma or Maria otherwise.
There is a lot of other stuff to deal with these days, but the window is closing to make a meaningful difference. We need fast and definitive action. That’s where businesses come in, and a growing number of them are gearing up to grasp the green opportunity.
Following the announcement that the USA would pull out of the Paris agreement, 25 huge American corporates sent President Trump a letter urging him to keep the USA in the agreement, citing competitiveness, creating jobs and growth, and reducing business risk. They see the opportunity.
This was followed by the launch of the ‘We Are Still In’ campaign. Over 2,500 American climate champions from businesses to city halls and colleges, pledging to uphold the Paris agreement regardless of national decisions. Who said states need to lead on this?
To coin a phrase, examples of ‘green-chip’ companies are coming thick and fast.
Microsoft has pledged to cut CO2 emissions 75% by 2030, IKEA now owns more wind turbines than stores, Unilever's sustainable brands grew 50% faster than the rest of its business in 2016, and over 100 multinationals have signed up to RE100 - committing to source 100% renewable electricity.
When it comes to climate change, we need quick, agile and absolute action. National governments may gradually funnel us to solutions, but I’d argue the opportunities are there for the taking now. So why wait to compromise later?
Business and the corporate sector have the agility, consumer relationships, and appetite for rapid delivery where there’s a business case. It’s just a case of seeing the signals.
The future is green-chip.
This blog is intended to share opinion for informational purposes only, not to provide advice or represent any organisation. Facts and figures are accurate to the best of my knowledge but should not be relied upon.