Turning our greatest challenge into our greatest achievement

Post author image. Gudrun Cartwright
Business in the Community’s Climate Action Director, Gudrun Cartwright, discusses how business can turn humanity’s greatest challenge into our greatest achievement.

It is hard to believe it’s almost the end of January and nearly three months since COP26 in Glasgow. Life seems to have moved on in many ways and the climate crisis has slipped from the news. COVID-19 looks like it is here to stay. The cost of living is rising. Social dissatisfaction is growing. The threat of war is looming in Eastern Europe. It seems like there is not much to be cheerful about.

But the Earth is still turning. Days are getting longer. Spring is on the way. The time for optimism. Renewal. Growth. Climate action might have fallen off our collective radar. But I am heartened to see that under the surface, much is happening, which fills me with hope that this spring will see fresh shoots blossom.

This week Business in the Community (BITC) launched The Right Climate for Business: Leading a Just Transition. In the report we share insights about public perceptions, actions being taken and the role of business in tackling the climate crisis. These came from our Autumn 2021 survey with YouGov, across 8,000 people and 2,000 businesses. The headlines are a wake-up call:

  • Two-thirds of people are worried about climate change, but only half think it will impact them directly.
  • Just 10% see that their jobs or the skills they need will change much.
  • Three quarters want businesses they buy from to act, but only 25% know what companies they engage with are doing.
  • Only 20% think their employer is doing enough.
  • People do not think the transition to a net-zero future will be fair. Just 25% think benefits will be shared equally, while even less (14%), expect negative impacts to be shared fairly. Only 5% think business is doing enough to support communities or restore nature.
  • 45% of all businesses do not have a target or plan to cut carbon emissions and do not plan to develop one. This rises to two-thirds for small businesses.
  • Only 13% of all businesses have assessed climate risks and opportunities, just 7% of small companies.

A just transition ensures a fair and inclusive journey to a net-zero, resilient future where people and nature thrive. Businesses must design this future with diverse stakeholders; create economic opportunities and equip people to access them and actively regenerate communities and nature.

A just transition ensures a fair and inclusive journey to a net-zero, resilient future where people and nature thrive. Businesses must design this future with diverse stakeholders; create economic opportunities and equip people to access them and actively regenerate communities and nature.

Almost two-thirds of people do not believe that business will follow through on their commitments. Therefore business needs to step up and be bold, ambitious and demonstrate that they are acting, rather than talking, to rebuild trust.

It may seem strange, then, that I feel hopeful. But I have been overwhelmed by the response from business leaders. More than 150 attended our launch event on Tuesday. The discussions were positive, practical and full of great ideas that others can learn from. Commitment to work with BITC on a shared ambition to address the issues was clear. So, BITC’s climate action work will focus on helping business to be at the forefront of leading a just transition, and as a result, build trust with communities.

Our working definition of a just transition is one that ensures a fair and inclusive journey to a net-zero, resilient future where people and nature thrive. Businesses must design this future with diverse stakeholders; create economic opportunities and equip people to access them and actively regenerate communities and nature.

The Seven Steps for Climate Action BITC launched at COP26 equip companies to design and implement climate action plans for a just transition. We will facilitate collaborative projects to drive the social innovation needed to deliver a fair and inclusive transition for people and nature. Our initial priorities are ensuring that all employees have the skills they need to thrive in the transition and that diverse stakeholders are involved in designing a net-zero, resilient future together.

So, for me, this is definitely a time of hope. But not as an abstract belief that everything will turn out well. It is more, as Joanna Macey would say, about Active Hope. It is about setting a direction and moving into action, connecting dots and collaborating. It is about celebrating achievements and learning from what doesn’t work. Accepting that we are all in this together and building solutions as we go. And I see this all around me. I am part of a network of brilliant people committed to being the change we want to see, so that our generation does everything we can to turn our greatest challenge into our greatest achievement. Let’s get to work.

Find out more about how your business can develop a just transition by reading the report The Right Climate for Business: leading a just transition.

turn the biggest challenge facing HUmanity into its greatest achievement