Companies vs. climate change - an open letter Companies vs. climate change

Dear fellow global citizens,

When reflecting on the last year, it is hard not to feel disheartened by the bombardment of negative news on our changing climate. From forest fires and hurricanes in the US, to melting snow peaks and rising temperatures in Europe, to floods and record-breaking temperatures in Asia, the world has undoubtedly felt the consequences of climate change in 2018. The reality is that we can no longer talk about climate change impacts as threats; these impacts are happening now and will continue to increase in severity.

The starkness of where we are now was thrown into sharp relief in this year’s blockbuster journalistic piece from the New York Times, Losing the Earth. The unprecedented special-issue article described how we missed the opportunity to stop climate change thirty years ago.

And yet, as you will know, you cannot work in sustainability without a sense of optimism.  For those of us working in the space, it has come to be a requirement for doing the job day in and day out despite the setbacks. It often feels like one step forward and then two steps back. But those steps forward, they really matter.

We as a global collective have made significant steps forward in the fight against climate change this year. With the notion that we will have to innovate ourselves out of this challenge, governments, businesses and NGOs alike have demonstrated a commitment to tackling climate change head-on in new and unprecedented ways. 

Here are some examples:

CEOs as climate champions

Against the backdrop of continued pressure from employees and customers, corporate CEOs are speaking out on environmental topics like never before and leveraging the full weight of their businesses to make a difference. In an unprecedented move, sixty of New Zealand’s CEOs, including Air New Zealand, formed the Climate Leaders Coalition to help the country transition to a low emissions economy. Similarly, the Climate Leadership Council in the US, a carbon policy think tank of business members, are working together to support a carbon tax in the recently published Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan. Both of these examples indicate an interest from business leaders to work together on complex climate solutions that require industry-wide approaches.

Local governments taking bold action

In the absence of national leadership in the US, cities and states have proven to be the government heroes in the climate change fight this year. We’ve seen Rhode Island file a lawsuit against oil companies for their environmental impacts, Governor Jerry Brown of California organize the Global Climate Summit and NYC filing a voluntary report to the UN on progress towards its 2030 sustainability goals, as well as divesting from oil and gas companies across all of its public sector pension plans. Local governments are feeling the effects of climate change first hand and are working alongside advocacy groups and corporations, taking action. 

Corporate strategies breaking new ground

As 2030 approaches, corporations are developing bold and ambitious 2030 strategies, often aligned to the needs and challenges outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018, P&G launched a strategy that promises to “enable and inspire responsible consumption” and includes a science-based climate target.  Levi’s announced an ambitious climate strategy, including cutting emissions across their supply chain. These strategies go beyond the company’s four walls and focus on collaborations, innovation and new behaviors that will drive systemic change.

Investors fuel the sustainability movement

The sustainability trend of increasing investor interest in ESG issues took a further leap when Larry Fink published another letter in early 2018 that had far more impact and reach than his previous communications. Fink called for corporations to have a social purpose and pursue a strategy for achieving long-term growth, thus inciting a  swell of momentum for corporations to better engage investors on corporate responsibility and sustainability. This gave much needed fuel to the investor-focused frameworks of SASB and more notably TCFD that promote greater corporate disclosure of climate risks. The best example is when Exxon Mobil famously gave in to shareholder pressure to report on climate change as a business risk.

Take back time

On November 29th, companies and NGOs will come together for the third annual Companies vs. Climate Change event in Miami, FL. Building on the success and learnings from previous years, this year we will be exploring how innovative and often bold approaches are leading the fight against climate change. We will hear from leading players including VF Corporation which is working deep into the supply chain with cotton and sustainable agriculture  cotton, Skanska which is quantifying embodied carbon in buildings and Ingersoll Rand which is innovating climate related products. In the face of accelerating urgency to take action, these businesses and others will provide inspiration and examples of practical action of how we can come together and combat climate change. 

In Miami, dozens of companies will be coming together to learn and share best practices about how they are addressing climate change risks and to inspire each other about how they can go beyond reduction measures to create a better world. We’d love for you to join us. Click here to learn more.

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