EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Corporate leaders at COP24

By Tim Nixon
January 25, 2019

There are increasing signs that sustainability is not just a feel-good, “you know it when you see it” trend. As investors, procurement officers, consumers and regulators look for benefits in addition to short term profitability, sustainability in the form of environmental, social and corporate governance leadership is becoming a must-have for doing business. And it’s increasingly measurable. Companies can be compared with each other not just in terms of what their track record is, but what their rate of improvement (or not) is likely to be in the future regarding greenhouse gas emissions and other measures.

In the series of reflections below, we hear from four diverse corporate leaders who recently traveled to COP24 in the heart of Poland’s coal country. The U.N. climate conference brought together around 200 countries to continue the worldwide initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After two weeks of negotiations, COP24 saw the creation of the official rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

These leaders, working in collaboration with the NGO Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, went to COP24 seeking insight on the growing importance of climate change for their marketplaces. What they found was not just business insight, but a deeper appreciation for the transformative work underway to create a better world for generations to come. They found both insight and inspiration. Tim Nixon, Managing Editor, Thomson Reuters Sustainability.

Jesse Turck, Architect and Project Manager, BWBR

“Small island nations and other low-lying countries have the most to lose. Their homes, cultures, and countries will be gone — those will be the lucky ones that live to tell their story of climate change.”

“Poland gets about 80% of its electricity from coal, and 33 of the 50 most-polluted cities in Europe are in Poland. I can smell and feel the pollution every time I go outside here. A child born today in Warsaw will have breathed in enough pollution to be equivalent to smoking 1,000 cigarettes in their first year.”

“Buildings account for around 40% of the global greenhouse gas emission, so this is a huge opportunity for improvement.”

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, Director of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Best Buy

“All these people working into the night as observers or as negotiators give me hope for the journey ahead. Regardless of the outcome for COP24, these future and current leaders will remain dedicated to delivering meaningful solutions. I have hope because of these committed people.”

‘“The Ambition Loop,” a report just prior to COP24 last month by United Nations Global Compact, We Mean Business, and World Resources Institute outlines how a positive feedback loop between business and government can accelerate progress toward our collective ambitions. The premise is that when governments establish policies and businesses establish targets, they enable each other to go further and faster. “An ambition loop is a positive feedback loop in which bold business leadership supports bold policy action that in turn accelerates further business action.””

“When it comes to climate change, Best Buy has the ambition to do more. We are committed to getting to carbon neutral in our operations by 2050, and we have submitted our intention for a Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) goal. This will include a new goal to help our customers reduce their carbon emission.”

“The take-away from the U.S. Climate Action Center sessions and “The Ambition Loop,” is that the risk of committing to climate goals is low, the risk of delaying action on carbon reductions is high, and what we need is a strong desire to achieve carbon neutrality.”

See the entire blog by Alexis

Alissa Matthies-Tamasi, Corporate Responsiblity Lead, Target Corporation

“The request to unite around the three “P’s” was the final thought shared during the closing session at the World Climate Conference. All sectors were called up to unite around Purpose, Priorities, and Performance.”

“Target is proud to join dozens of leading fashion brands and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in signing onto the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, with the aim of working together to find solutions to combat climate change.”” https://corporate.target.com/article/2018/12/fashion-charter

Michelle Courtright, CEO, fig + farro

“The majority of scientists, researchers, activists, and diplomats I’ve met over this trip have privately explained that the effects of climate change are going to be much more severe than have previously been reported. One institutional investor said that his funds were now planning on a 6 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, rather than the 1.5 degrees that the COP dialogue was focused on. With that dire warning in mind, we should not let despair get the best of us.”

“There’s many things we can do immediately to fight climate change. Reduce your intake of animal products. Animal agriculture has consumes a third of all land on the planet and 27% of all freshwater consumption.”

“Marie Persson is from the Nordic Food Policy Lab, an organization from Scandinavian countries who has created practical plant-based solutions to climate change. They have worked with private businesses and municipalities in Norway to create menus for institutions that significantly reduced carbon emissions while also lowering food costs for schools, hospitals, government buildings, and other large organizations. They were not only able to reduce GHGs by 30%, but they lowered food prices by 60% by replacing meat with plant-based options. It’s estimated that we spend approximately $350 billion on livestock subsidies in the United States alone.”

“When I started researching livestock’s effect on climate change, I leaned heavily on the research coming out of Oxford University’s School of Food. The lead researcher, Marco Springmann, was part of a panel today that included food experts from around the world. His findings have been instrumental in showing that livestock production is not only inefficient from a water and energy consumption perspective, but with population growth expected to top nine billion people, it’s not just not a viable option.”

See the entire blog by Michelle

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