News: Biggest-ever CEO call to go green post-COVID backed by UN

A global coalition of more than 150 companies, worth US$2.4 trillion and employing over 5 million people has issued a call to world leaders to build net-zero climate targets into COVID-19 recovery efforts and stimulus packages. It is the biggest statement yet from the corporate world linking the climate crisis and COVID-19 recovery.

The statement is backed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and endorsed by global brands such as Adobe, Sky, Salesforce, HP Inc, H&M Group, IKEA, Mars, Nestlé, and Coca Cola European Partners.

Its release is timed to coincide with ‘crunch week’, as several major economies prepare to take key decisions in their recovery efforts — including the US Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) stimulus, plus the future of the European Green Deal debated by MEPs, ahead of a landmark G7 Virtual Summit on 10 June.

As debates on recovery packages around the world ramp up in the coming weeks, the companies, which are all part of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), are calling for policies that will build resilience against future shocks by supporting efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050.

Major multinationals are therefore both reaffirming their own commitments to science-based targets (SBTs) and calling on governments to match their ambition.

Any successful global recovery must be green, urges UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Saving lives and livelihoods, and building a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future, are at the heart of our efforts to recover from COVID-19. We can beat the virus, address climate change and create new jobs through actions that move us from the grey to green economy.

In this aim, the business community is leading by example, he adds:

Many companies are showing us that it is indeed possible and profitable, to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during difficult times like this. I warmly welcome the ambitious, science-based actions we are seeing from leading companies who are demonstrating to policy-makers that green growth remains the best growth strategy.”

Whilst governments undoubtedly have a critical role to play, they cannot however drive a systemic socio-economic transformation alone, explains Lila Karbassi, Chief of Programmes at the UN Global Compact, and SBTi Board Member:

“To address the interconnected crises we face, we must work together as an international community to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. As the largest-ever UN-backed CEO-led climate advocacy effort, these companies are leading the way in driving ambitious science-based action and advocacy to help reduce vulnerability to future shocks and disasters.”

The message from corporates is clear, asserts Maria Mendiluce, CEO of the We Mean Business coalition:

“Governments can be reassured that businesses are implementing science-based targets to get us on a 1.5°C trajectory. They are calling for recovery policies that will boost the economy and build resilience. A net-zero-aligned recovery will enable companies to invest and innovate at the pace and scale necessary to build back better, creating decent jobs, protecting health, reducing emissions and increasing resilience in the future.”

In this, science-based working is key, insists Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, one of the SBTi partners:

“The coronavirus outbreak is a stark reminder of the fragility of our current economic system. It also reminds us that science must be our collective guide on the path to a more resilient economy. Setting and working towards science-based targets is the best way for companies and governments alike to protect against future climate-related business and economic disruptions.”

Going forward, change is a must, concludes President and CEO of World Resources Institute, Dr Andrew Steer:

“It is imperative that we not only restart the world economy – but also reset it. It would be a tragedy if after spending $10-20tr of public money we simply rebuild the same unequal, vulnerable and high-carbon economy we had before.”

Corporates and company voices have been convened by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and its Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign partners, the UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business coalition.

The Science Based Targets initiative mobilises companies to set SBTs and boost their competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. It is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), plus one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments. The initiative defines and promotes best practice in setting SBTs, offers resources and guidance, plus independently assesses and approves companies’ targets.

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact works with companies to align their operations and strategies with 10 universal principles in areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact now boasts more than 9,500 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories in over 160 countries, plus more than 60 Local Networks, making it the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

The We Mean Business coalition represents nonprofit organisations working with the world’s most influential businesses worldwide to drive policy ambition, accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy and take action on climate change. The coalition brings together seven organisations: BSR, CDP, Ceres, The B Team, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The signatories to the new global statement span 34 sectors, with HQs in 33 countries. They include:

Abdi Ibrahim Pharmaceuticals, ACCIONA, Accor, Adobe, Agder Energi, Arabesque, Arc’teryx Equipment, AstraZeneca, Auchan Retail Portugal, Bayer, Beiersdorf, BIAL, Bonava, Burberry, Capgemini, Cargotec, Carlsberg Group, Cellnex, CEWE Stiftung & Co. KGaA, City Developments Limited, CMA CGM, Coca-Cola European Partners, Colgate Palmolive Company, Corbion, Cranswick, Dalberg Advisors, Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Limited, Danfoss Group, Diageo, Diam Group, dormakaba, Dutch-Bangla Pack, EcoVadis, EDF Group, EDP Energias de Portugal, Electrolux, En+ Group, Enel, ERM, Europcar Mobility Group, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Firmenich, Gleeds, Glovo, Grundfos Holding, Grupo Red Eléctrica, GSMA, H. Lundbeck, H&M Group, Henkel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Husqvarna Group, HP Inc., Iberdrola, ICA Gruppen, Inditex, Ingka Holding, Inter IKEA Group, Intuit, JLL, Kearney, Kelani Valley Plantations, Kuehne + Nagel Management, LafargeHolcim, Legrand, Lojas Renner, Maeda Corporation, Magyar Telekom, Mars, Marshalls, Marui Group, Media 6, Movida Participações, MP Pension, Natura & Co., Nestlé, Nomad Foods, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, NR Instant Produce Public Company, O. T. Sports Manufacture, Orange, Orbia Advance, Orkla, Ørsted, Pearson, PensionDanmark, Pernod Ricard, PVH Corp., Refinitiv, Ronald Lu & Partners, Royal DSM, RSE (Ross-shire Engineering), Safaricom, Saint-Gobain, inc., Sanofi, Scania, Scapa Inter, Schneider Electric, Schüco International, SIG Combibloc, Signify, Sky, SkyPower Global, Sofidel, Sonae Sierra, Sopra Steria Group, Stora Enso Oyj, SUEZ, Symrise, Syngenta Group, Takasago International Corporation, Talawakelle Tea Estates, Tate & Lyle, Tech Mahindra, Telefonica, The Co-op, The Lux Collective, TMG Automotive, Unilever, Vattenfall, Vaude Sport, Verbund, Vestas Wind Systems, Vodafone Group, Wipro, Yarra Valley Water, YKK Corporation, and Zurich Insurance Group.

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