Earth is burning: business must act on the climate crisis
Recent weeks have seen unprecedented temperatures in unexpected places. People are dying in Canada1. New Zealand has the hottest winter ever2. And in Pakistan temperatures are becoming unbearable3. Greta Thunberg called out leaders for role-playing taking the climate crisis seriously, rather than doing what is needed4. Can we as business leaders demonstrate we are doing what is needed?
The role of business in tackling the crisis is clear – it is about leadership. We must own this challenge and be part of the solution, embedding it into our businesses’ purpose and personal priorities. We must look beyond the normal horizons of financial performance, short term returns and competitive advantage. We must remember that we are all in this together. In the words of Business in the Community’s (BITC) founders: healthy back streets make for healthy high streets, and now we know that we can’t have either without a healthy environment.
We must own this challenge and be part of the solution, embedding it into our businesses’ purpose and personal priorities.
So, we must go further and faster. We must embed risks and opportunities into our strategies and rethink our business models. We must achieve net zero as quickly as we can and equip colleagues at every level to play their part. We must develop and implement our plans with diverse stakeholders to help society build resilience and protect the vulnerable, enabling those who might lose out to benefit from new opportunities. We must rebuild the health of nature.
But there’s a long way to go. Only 41% of respondents in BITC’s Responsible Business Tracker® govern the issue at the highest level of their organisation. While just over a third (34%) translate those risks and opportunities into strategy and believe they have allocated sufficient resources. We must do better5.
Whilst I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the task ahead, I am also inspired by the momentum I see building amongst businesses. From Sky co-investing to help factories in China install solar panels so that 50% of their production is powered by renewables, to Burger King introducing more plant-based meals and changing the feed for cows to reduce methane.
Whilst I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the task ahead, I am also inspired by the momentum I see building amongst businesses.
The UK’s water industry is uniting to deliver net zero by 2030, with Anglian Water showing how by focusing on carbon delivering environmental, operational and commercial benefits and United Utilities tying 50% of every employee’s bonus to ESG (environmental, social and governance) targets.
National Grid is making the grid 100% renewable ready by 2025 and bp is undertaking a radical transformation from oil and gas to energy services provider, with a mission to help the world achieve net zero. Sainsbury’s is supporting communities to cut food waste and innovating to tackle refrigerant gas emissions in stores and transport and PwC is campaigning to inspire and support employees to do more at work and at home. I take heart from this. COP26 will be the stage for world leaders to set targets to bring us back into climate safety. And BITC is committed to helping businesses take practical action to deliver the outcomes we all want to see.
So join us and let’s create a legacy that we can be proud of, rather than leaving our children to fix the crisis we have ignored in favour of short term priorities. Tackling the climate crisis really is the business of us all. We must take action now.
what if the climate crisis was everyone’s business?
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- BBC News (2021) Canada weather: Dozens dead as heatwave shatters records, 1 July
- Eva Corlett (2021) New Zealand experiences hottest June on record despite polar blast, The Guardian, 5 July
- CNBCTV18 (2021) In Pakistan’s Jacobabad, temperatures are beyond human tolerance, 2 July
- Harry Cockburn (2021) Greta Thunberg attacks world leaders: ‘When the protests get too loud, you make the protests illegal’, The Independent, 1 July
- Business in the Community (2020) Responsible Business Tracker® 2019/20 Insights Report