A new definition of leadership

Reading time: 4 minutes
12 June 2018

With just over 100 days to go until Climate Week NYC 2018, Mike Peirce, Corporate Partnerships Director, The Climate Group shares thoughts on an emerging definition of business leadership on climate and energy in 2018 and beyond.

We’ve all seen the hockey stick charts that mark The Great Acceleration – when human impact on the Earth’s system suddenly went through the roof.

These dramatic shifts starting in the 1950s had some positive characteristics (GDP growth, telecommunications), but several were ambiguous (international tourism, urban population), and many more abundantly problematic or disastrous (biosphere degradation, forest loss).

As we grapple over the coming half century to address the impact of this remarkable period, already new hockey stick graphs are fast emerging.

Renewable energy accounted for 70% of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, the largest increase in modern history. A record 1 million electric cars were sold in 2017, with more than 3 million now on the roads and counting.

What does this mean for business?

Just as forward-thinking companies, often supported by government tech-investment, led the Digital Revolution that gave us the Information Age, businesses now have an opportunity – and responsibility – to drive the clean economy.

Better Business, Better World highlights the most exciting growth areas; mobility systems top the list with US$2,020 billion of incremental revenue opportunities, closely followed by energy efficiency (US$1,345 billion) and clean energy ($1,200 billion).

These opportunities are already being seized by a growing group of savvy multinationals pioneering the clean energy transition. The Climate Group now brings together a powerful network of over 160 committed companies – airports, postal services, retailers, banks, carmakers, biotech companies and brewers.

In the last few weeks, Iron Mountain (US), Vodafone (UK), and Johnan Shinkin Bank (Japan) joined our RE100 initiative with CDP, pledging to source 100% renewable power. The Indian utility BYPL joined EV100, committing to transition to electric vehicles, and John Sisk & Son (Ireland) signed up to double its energy productivity through EP100, which we partner on with the Alliance to Save Energy.

Commitments like these are starting to become common place, and the companies are reporting tangible business benefits. Danfoss and Swiss Re, for example, have each reported savings of over $10 million per year, after improving their energy efficiency.

Gearing up action

We have plenty of reasons for optimism. The latest report from IRENA shows companies around the world are now using, procuring, or investing in renewable energy in over a third of the world’s countries – even if most governments are yet to adopt fully supportive policies.

But in this pivotal year for climate action, we need those same governments to start stepping up their targets and, to make this happen, business has got to move further and faster and show it will deliver a larger proportion of the emissions cuts needed.

What then does corporate leadership on climate and energy really look like in 2018 and beyond?

Here at The Climate Group we see three main themes:

  • Making faster progress and setting earlier goals. Almost a quarter of RE100 members have reached their 100% goals already. As the cost of renewables continues to fall and new market solutions have been developed, we want to hear from companies at Climate Week NYC 2018 who are able to move faster on energy and electric vehicles than first thought.
  • Integrated approach to driving change. Businesses wanting to demonstrate the highest levels of climate leadership are taking action across multiple areas. These leading companies are maximising their emissions cuts in more ways than one, delivering on their science based targets, and demonstrating that it makes business sense.
  • Going beyond the company’s boundaries. The power of joining RE100, EP100 and EV100 is that a collective louder voice drives faster market change, while influencing others to follow suit. But we need to influence others on a much larger scale, reaching hundreds and then thousands more companies and millions of extra people around the world.

Who’s already doing it?

IKEA, HP Inc., and Unilever, paving the way for cleaner transportation through their memberships of RE100 and EV100, cleaning up the grid through their purchasing of renewables, and generating storage solutions that tackle intermittency.

EP100 members Swiss Re and H&M, saving energy to go renewable, and EDF and BYPL engaging employees on electric transport.

Chemicals giants AkzoNobel and Royal DSM, topping an A list of global corporates advocating for ambitious climate policies, and Microsoft and Vestas, writing to EU energy ministers to address the barriers faced by companies going renewable.

And Apple committing 23 suppliers to source 100% renewable electricity, avoiding emissions equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road.

This powerful list of examples is growing. In addition, let’s not forget the investors that ShareAction and other investment groups bring together, encouraging companies to take climate action at the highest level. They too have an important role to play if business is to transition to cleaner and smarter energy fast enough.

Get involved

It’s clear we’re at a critical moment in history as we move to harness technology and innovation to decouple economic growth from environmental impact. Businesses can and must be the driving force.

RE100, EP100 and EV100 are three meaningful steps that companies can take to drive down their emissions, future-proof their business, maximise competitiveness and boost the bottom line. We’ll be showcasing the leaders at Climate Week NYC in September.

If you’re not already involved, let us at The Climate Group know what announcements you’ll be making, and how you wish to get on board. Contact us at info@TheClimateGroup.org

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