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Mike Peirce, Corporate Partnerships Director, The Climate Group

Accelerating change for the good of all

23 January 2019, 14:48 UTC 4 min read

Alongside the snowy crags and tree-lined slopes, the social, political and environmental landscape is far from serene in Davos this year. From the appalling murder of the Mayor of Gdansk in Poland, to the public and institutional fractures apparent in the Brexit process in the UK, and the devastating evidence of the IPCC report on the impact of 1.5 degrees of global warming for us all.

The rate of change is far from glacial either, as WEF Founder Klaus Schwab has argued in setting the agenda for the world’s leaders on ‘Globalization 4.0’: “The unprecedented pace of technological change means that our systems of health, transportation, communication, production, distribution, and energy – just to name a few – will be completely transformed.”

But what can ensure that these technological shifts prove to be a positive catalyst for people and planet, as opposed to an additional source of environmental instability and social disharmony? A question made yet more vivid by the latest Global Risks report from WEF which puts the environment at the top of the list of high-impact, high-likelihood risks.

The answers depend on how fast we choose to move and, critically, how we can innovate through partnerships. Representing the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, the IPCC report clarifies the vital importance of accelerating the transition of our energy systems. But this can only be achieved by communities of leaders – across business, government and society – who need to champion innovative solutions that provide benefits for all.

The Climate Group’s corporate commitment campaigns provide some welcome examples of companies that are leading this ambitious path of pace and partnership. For example, late last year at the Global Climate Action Summit in California, IKEA Group launched a commitment to have zero emission home deliveries in five cities (Shanghai, Amsterdam, New York, LA and London) by 2020, ramping up its original commitment to achieve this across all markets by 2025.

Just this week, the company was able to announce that in one city, Shanghai, this had been achieved a year in advance. For Jesper Brodin, the President and CEO of Ingka Group, the largest IKEA franchise, “It’s about finding new and innovative solutions, collaborating with partners, old and new. We need likeminded players, both the ones we work with today, like service providers and manufactures of vehicles, as well as new types of partners, start-ups, NGO’s, and customers in order to test and try solutions that will help to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, while meeting the needs of our customers in new ways.”

For a straightforward business case, Daniella Foster, Senior Director for Corporate Responsibility, at EP100 member Hilton told The Climate Group that “by proactively investing in LightStay, we were able to save US$1 billion.” Hilton requires all its hotels across 109 countries and territories to use the LightStay system to set annual targets for energy, water and waste usage. The platform measures goal progress, tracks energy use and carbon output. We’re focused on creating innovative solutions to do more with less,” said Foster.

And the story is going global. TCI Co., Ltd is a Taiwanese manufacturer of dietary supplements, functional drinks, and skin care products, which committed last week to deploying an energy management system across all its facilities within 10 years as well as improve its energy productivity 35% by 2040. As an EP100 member, TCI will install new equipment in its Pingtung factories to improve energy productivity, including acquiring ISO50001 certified energy management systems. The company will also install LED lighting in its Taipei headquarters, and will actively work to roll out smarter energy use in its supply chain.  

We are also starting to see companies join the dots between their strategies for energy efficiency, renewables and electrification. Late 2017 saw the energy utility EDF agree to build an electric fleet of light vehicles by 2030, as part of its commitment to EV100. Alongside this fleet commitment, the company also started to build charging stations with solar panels in the car parks at its major sites. And early this year we’ve seen an auto company, Volkswagen, make a pitch to connect renewable energy with EVs. The new consumer-facing brand Elli – ‘Electric Life’ – is intended to offer consumers renewable power alongside EV charging solutions and smart energy management. VW is also partnering with Pod Point and Tesco to create more than 2,000 EV chargers at Tesco stores across the UK.

Klaus Schwab’s manifesto for Davos 2019 concludes by arguing that “pessimists will argue that political conditions are standing in the way of a productive global dialogue about Globalization 4.0 and the new economy. But realists will use the current moment to explore the gaps in the present system, and to identify the requirements for a future approach. And optimists will hold out hope that future-oriented stakeholders will create a community of shared interest and, ultimately, shared purpose.”

At The Climate Group, our business initiatives take their lead from all three of these perspectives.

  • We bring the voice of business to encourage a more constructive political conversation that acknowledges and capitalizes on the commercial ambition for change.
  • We work with the realists in business to support them in committing to ambitious targets and tackling the market and policy barriers to action.
  • And, ultimately, our work with business is grounded in optimism – borne of the example shown by the more than 200 companies that have made bold commitments to change and are engaged in building innovative collaborations across their supply chains and with business partners, governments and consumers.

Encouraged by this leadership, we look forward to 2019 – a year in which we will work with more and more companies that are seizing the opportunities presented by the energy transition. Whether you’re working for a multinational or operating in the supply chain of a major company; whether you’re an energy manager, a CFO or a van driver; our urgent call is for you to identify the ways in which you can influence your organization to accelerate change for the good of all.