Just over a decade ago, HRH The Prince of Wales launched the Mayday Network. The aim of the initiative was to create a collaborative group of businesses that were committed to tackling climate change. Today we look at Business in the Community’s (BITC) report titled “Smart Growth: Achieving the 2°C economy” and reveal what action has been taken to combat climate change and what we can expect from companies in the future.
Developments in Climate Change Legislation
Amanda Mackenzie, OBE Chief Executive Officer of Business in the Community, introduced the report with a quick rundown of the most important developments in global climate change legislation:
“The end of 2015 saw two significant new developments: the Sustainable Development Goals set climate change as a key challenge for all of us, if we are to enable people around the world to live healthy, productive and prosperous lives; and 195 countries reached the first legally binding global climate agreement at COP21 in Paris, aiming to limit global warming to less than 2°C, with an aspirational goal of 1.5°C.”
Reducing Emissions – A Licence to Operate?
Progress has been made in the fight against global warming, but there is clearly still much left to do. A growing global population is placing a bigger strain on the world’s limited natural resources and increasing the demand for energy.
Businesses are taking advantage of the logistical developments of an increasingly globalised market, which results in further energy consumption through production and transportation. However, Ms Mackenzie commented that “customers, investors, employees and communities” are holding companies to greater account for their impact on the environment, with the aim for a low carbon economy “almost becoming a license to operate.” Being ‘green’ is not just a legislative requirement, it’s increasingly becoming a deal-breaker for consumers as well.
For BITC member businesses, sustainability appears to be at the core of their business operations; future proofing and planning for reduced carbon emissions is, according to the report, closely linked to long-term success. Companies are also beginning to see the value in a collaborative approach to the environmental aspects of sustainability and are looking “beyond the competitive edge that comes with a proactive approach to climate change.” It’s encouraging to see otherwise competitive companies put aside their rivalries for the greater good.
Looking Back – Lack of Awareness Was the Main Barrier
Looking back to the 2007 Mayday initiative, the report highlighted how poor awareness and understanding of climate change across the board was one of the largest barriers to change in the business world. Fast forward to 2017 and companies now consider environmental sustainability to be a core part of their business; “for some this has proven to be the catalyst in transforming their business, developing new products and working with others in new ways.”
But what of the impacts? What changes have BITC member companies made? Blue chip businesses, such as BT and Hilton, were spotlighted in the report for their significant reduction in carbon emissions. BT has become a net positive carbon company, meaning the company has gone beyond reduction and is now having a positive impact on the environment. Likewise, Hilton has reduced its carbon emissions by almost a quarter in the past decade. These household names are paving the way for other businesses by incorporating climate responsibility and sustainability into the heart of their respective business models.
Businesses Driving Change
The report went on to talk about how responsibility for reducing climate change has shifted. When the Mayday initiative was launched, the Government was “the driving force in carbon reduction;” now, however, businesses are taking the lead and even calling for more government involvement. With regards to government involvement, concerns around Brexit were highlighted as a potential issue for businesses; EU legislation dictates many carbon emission rules for businesses, and it’s not clear if these rules will remain the same after Brexit.
Looking forward, targets for the future include a fully decarbonised power system by 2050; “securing a sustainable energy supply is therefore a crucial long-term consideration for many businesses.” Strides have already been taken to achieve this target, with 10% of FTSE 100 companies committing to using 100% renewables as part of the RE100 initiative. Other plans place innovation and digital solutions at the forefront. Construction and engineering group Costain has created an open source carbon emission detection tool that helps project managers minimise the environmental impact of construction. Companies in the Mayday network are stepping up to the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint in commendably creative ways.
Businesses looking for long-term success are being encouraged to build their future business plans with environmental sustainability in mind. Charities like Business in the Community offer a support network for those who are interested in minimising their impact on the environment; if you’re interested in starting a venture yourself, or you simply want to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, check out their support pages and become part of the 2°C Economy.
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