'Net Positive’ approach key to future business success: new report by Forum for the Future, The Climate Group and WWF-UK

25 April 2014

LONDON: A ‘Net Positive’ approach is key for long-term business success in the face of growing social and environmental pressures, finds an influential new report launched today by Forum for the Future, The Climate Group and WWF-UK, which includes Principles developed by BT, Capgemini, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Crown Estate, IKEA Group, Kingfisher and SKF.

The report – Net Positive: A new way of doing business – captures, for the first time, the principles of what it means to take a Net Positive approach and provides a route map to help businesses engage with the concept. It calls for the ambition of business to change from ‘doing less harm’ to becoming ‘Net Positive’ to have a positive impact on the world.

Authors explain that a strong sustainability strategy helps businesses in many ways; enhanced reputation, increased sales, cost reduction and engaged staff. Net Positive: A new way of doing business identifies that a Net Positive approach – where businesses demonstrate positive environmental or societal impacts in key areas of their operations – adds further benefits, including competitive advantage, supply security and the space to innovate products and services through moving the organization into a leadership space.

The benefits of a Net Positive approach are already being felt by businesses, including BT, Capgemini, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Crown Estate, IKEA Group, Kingfisher and SKF. Leaders of these businesses came together with the report authors to share their experiences and help define the Principles of a Net Positive approach. They concluded that failure to deal adequately with environmental and social issues will result in "exposure to supply chain risks and missed opportunities".

The Principles outlined in the report encourage organizations aspiring to become Net Positive to “make a positive, demonstrable impact in key material areas” and to “show best practice in corporate responsibility and sustainability across the spectrum of social, environmental and economic impact areas”.

A Net Positive organization should also invest in “innovation in products and services”, “work across the value chain” and “in some cases could challenge the very business models it relies on”. The report is also clear that “no aspect of a Net Positive approach compensates for unacceptable natural losses or ill treatment of individuals or communities”.

Forum for the Future chaired the Net Positive working group, which agreed the principles. Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future, said: “The term ‘Net Positive’ is not new itself but has never been properly defined, leading to it being dismissed in some quarters as repackaged CSR. We hope that the Principles outlined in this report will help to bring clarity and push the agenda forward. Companies taking brave steps towards being Net Positive are already reaping the benefits in terms of securing the supply of resources they rely on, investing in radical innovation and shaping their operating context. We look forward to welcoming other companies that wish to leave behind damage control, and move towards making a positive contribution to our planet. They will be the success stories of the future.”

The report is supported by BT and is launched today at The Climate Group’s 10th anniversary event in London which is being streamed live. It includes case studies of businesses already seeing huge benefits from Net Positive approaches:

  • Kingfisher: Set out its Net Positive ambitions in October 2012 focusing its efforts on four priority areas where it believes it can have the greatest impact:  timber, energy, innovation and communities. Kingfisher’s timber journey started two decades ago with an ambition to get all its timber responsibly sourced. Its Net Positive approach now sees the world’s third largest home improvement retail Group working to help reforest degraded land, enhance the quality of standing forests and actively advocate for policy changes. It calculates it will save between £45m and £60m a year by 2020 though its restorative approach to timber sourcing.
  • IKEA Group: Through its People & Planet Positive strategy, aims to make a positive difference by focusing on three areas: inspiring and enabling millions of customers to live a more sustainable life at home, striving for resource and energy independence and creating a better life for people and communities. The strategy includes commitments to produce as much renewable energy as the total energy used in its buildings by 2020 and to work with partners to significantly expand forest areas certified to the Forestry Stewardship Council standard.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE): through its “Deliver for Today, Inspire for Tomorrow” sustainability plan, sets out its vision to be a ‘low carbon, zero waste’ business. CCE produces 12 billion bottles and cans a year and has made a commitment to ‘recycle more packaging than it uses’. As part of its approach, CCE has established new joint venture businesses to transform the PET recycling infrastructure in France and Great Britain and is working with online open innovation platform OpenIDEO.com to inspire consumers to recycle more.
  • The SKF Group’s BeyondZero strategy aims to dramatically reduce its operational environmental impacts while at the same time rapidly growing a portfolio of products and solutions which significantly reduce customers’ environmental impacts. Based on this strategy and the transformative targets defined within it, SKF became the first engineering company to enter into a Climate Savers Partnership with the WWF. Between 2006 and 2013 – while its business grew by 20% – SKF reduced the total absolute energy requirements of its manufacturing operations by 13%.

Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer of BT, said: “At BT we believe in the power of communications to deliver sustainable and economic growth. We can already see this in initiatives such as smart cities where communication technology is playing a positive role in the infrastructure of our towns and cities. Our Net Good goal is to help customers reduce carbon emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of our own business. We are building on the investments we have made in reducing our own energy consumption and are turning what we have learned into business opportunities to help our customers.”

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, said: “Many leading businesses are already aiming to become Net Positive. WWF-UK, The Climate Group and Forum for the Future want to encourage many more companies to take this route. Together, these organizations have created a space where businesses that have already ventured into this territory can share experiences in order to strengthen what is fast becoming a Net Positive movement.”

Dax Lovegrove, Head of Business Sustainability & Innovation at WWF-UK said: “A Net Positive movement will drive a restorative economy – an economy that aligns with restoring clean air, fisheries, forests, rivers and many other of the planet’s assets that have been lost in recent decades due to the current model of unfettered growth’.

James Robey, Group Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Director at Capgemini, said: “Capgemini is proud to stand alongside these other leading companies. We are committed to ensuring we have a positive impact on the environment and on the communities in which we operate. It is clear that governments, people and businesses need to strive for more ambitious, aggressive goals and Net Positive will provide the means, support and best practice to help set and achieve those goals.”

Rob Jenkinsson, Director of Sustainability for the SKF Group said: “We know that SKF is uniquely positioned to contribute to climate change mitigation by driving tough and transformational targets along our value-chain.”

Mark Gough, Head of Sustainability at The Crown Estate, said: “The Crown Estate is proud to support this collaborative approach that has delivered the principles and benefits of what Net Positive really means. We believe that this consensus will allow us all to go further in delivering a positive impact as well as strengthen our vision to be a progressive commercial business creating significant value beyond financial return.”

The 12 principles of ‘Net Positive’ are:

  1. The organization aims to make a positive impact in its key material areas.
  2. The positive impact is clearly demonstrable if not measurable.
  3. As well as aiming to have a positive impact in its key material areas, the organization also shows best practice in corporate responsibility and sustainability across the spectrum of social, environmental and economic impact areas, in line with globally accepted standards.
  4. The organization invests in innovation in products and services, enters new markets, works across the value chain, and in some cases, challenges the very business model it relies on.
  5. A Net Positive impact often requires a big shift in approach and outcomes, and cannot be achieved by business-as-usual.
  6. Reporting on progress is transparent, consistent, authentic and independently verified where possible. Boundaries and scope are clearly defined and take account of both positive and negative impacts. Any trade-offs are explained.
  7. Net Positive is delivered in a robust way and no aspect of a Net Positive approach compensates for unacceptable or irreplaceable natural losses or ill treatment of individuals and communities.
  8. Organizations enter into wider partnerships and networks to create bigger positive impacts.
  9. Every opportunity is used to deliver positive impacts across value chains, sectors, systems, and throughput to the natural world and society.
  10. Organizations publicly engage in influencing policy for positive change.
  11. Where key material areas are ecological, robust environmentally restorative and socially inclusive methods are applied.
  12. An inclusive approach is adopted at every opportunity, ensuring affected communities are involved in the process of creating positive social and/or environmental impacts.

Read the report now

For more information follow #NetPositive on social media and contact:

Zoe Le Grand, Principal Sustainability Advisor, Forum for the Future z.legrand@forumforthefuture.org

Dr. Ben Ferrari, Director of Corporate Partnerships, The Climate Group bferrari@theclimategroup.org

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