“We need all businesses together to drive a real change”: climate coalitions call for unity

A panel hosted by The Crowd on the role of business in tackling climate change brought together senior executives from four climate coalitions representing some of the UK’s biggest companies, who stressed the effectiveness of working together for real change.

 

The Crowd is a platform which encourages discussions among businesses about their role in social and environmental issues. The Climate Group took part in yesterday’s panel to talk about our RE100 campaign, together with three other climate coalitions, We Mean Business, Aiming for A and Collectively, to show the power of collective initiatives.

 

Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT and Director of Collectively, stated business voices must join forces to become louder and be heard: “What is becoming really evident is the importance of partnerships and business coalitions. We have to keep in mind a very sinister element which is playing here. Climate change denial in the run up to the last US elections was funded by about US$450 million. Simple maths reminds me that that’s about a hundred thousand TV adverts that they’re able to create around climate change denial. We simply can’t match their resources.

 

“Groups like We Mean Business provide the air traffic control in what can be a very congested area. What it is doing now, it’s looking at how we can give a voice to other CEOs and other businesses leaders who haven’t yet been part of the debate.”

 

We Mean Business is a coalition launched at Climate Week NYC last September to create a unified business voice in support of decisive action to tackle climate change and transition to a low carbon future. Founding partners are BSR, the B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which together represent thousands of top companies and investors.

 

The speakers agreed having a collective voice would also make a difference in influencing the outcome of the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris. Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer, said: “One of the positive things that came out of Davos was the way policymakers reached out to business, with a real sense that businesses needed help. Businesses are very good at finding practical solutions. Having one collective voice will create a very different music going to Paris.”

 

Niall Dunne warned growing business engagement is necessary to increase ‘bottom-up’ pressure. Showing that sustainability makes business sense for hundreds of corporates would create the conditions for a shift from the business-as-usual model, to make sustainability the ‘new normal’.

 

BT is a partner of RE100, a project of The Climate Group in partnership with CDP – and an action of We Mean Business. The campaign is helping to show that renewable energy is the new normal by leading European and US companies making a public commitment to go 100% renewable. Other RE100 companies are Commerzbank, Formula E, H&M, IKEA Group, KPN, Mars, Nestlé, Philips, Reed Elsevier Group, J. Safra Sarasin Bank, SAP, SGS, Swiss Re and YOOX.

 

Speakers at The Crowd event reiterated the need for scale, as well as having a few clear common goals. As Mike Barry underscored, “relying on five superstar CEOs or organisations is not the way. The focus has to be scale. How do we get it? We need to broaden the group of businesses involved. We need hundreds and hundreds of companies from any sector, not only in the developed world. From India, China, South Asia: we need them to scale the change as well.

 

“There are three things that every business should do. Back We Mean Business. Back a CO2 tax. Back 100% renewable. Few things, but together.”

 

This article was first published on "we mean business coalition" website on March 4, 2015

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