Corporate climate action: Good news from 2020

15th December 2020

Amid a tumultuous year and a global pandemic, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) identified a series of new words that reflect the times: “doomscrolling,” “anthropause,” “workation,” and “Blursday,” to name a few. The world looks very different than it did a year ago and it would be easy to forget that last year, only one phrase topped OED’s list: “climate emergency.” Subsequently, a series of reports have outlined how climate change is endangering biodiversity, increasing extreme weather events, and threatening livelihoods. But there is some good news, too.

Countries have taken stock to reimagine what a sustainable future really means. At the national level, things are changing rapidly. Just this month, the European Commission launched the Green Deal to achieve carbon neutrality. In September, China committed to be carbon-neutral by 2060; in October, Japan and South Korea committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. They join other countries, including France and the United Kingdom, who have made similar commitments. And the United States is determined to rejoin the Paris Agreement early next year.

Earlier this month, Climate Action Tracker calculated that global warming by 2100 could be as low as 2.1°C as a result of “the recent wave of net zero targets” that countries have made. Yet there is still a long way to go to actually achieve these targets. The United Nations says rich countries are falling short of their pledge to direct $100 billion a year to help low-income countries adapt to climate change.

We cannot overlook the critical role of business in the transition to a net zero global economy—and forward-looking companies are not waiting to take action.

In this challenging year, here is a reminder of some of the positive news:

Nature-based solutions are gaining momentum

In January, the World Economic Forum announced the 1t.org initiative to conserve, restore, and grow one trillion trees by 2030. The initiative has been embraced by companies, cities, and NGOs. Salesforce has set a goal to support and mobilize the conservation and restoration of 100 million trees over the next decade. HP committed to another million. And Microsoft and LinkedIn are prioritizing trees as part of their existing sustainability efforts.

Nature-based solutions, or natural climate solutions, are considered among the most effective and efficient ways to address climate change. Research suggests they have the potential to provide one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 in line with a 2°C warming scenario. Protecting natural places, such as rainforests, prairies, and wetlands, are not only effective for climate mitigation, they carry other co-benefits for biodiversity, good health, clean water, food, agriculture, community wellbeing, and economic growth.

Carbon finance is growing

Companies that are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals are supporting carbon finance projects globally, both in their value chains and beyond by offsetting their unavoidable emissions. Ecosystem Marketplace tracks the growth of carbon markets and reported that 2019 transactions reached 104 million tons, up from 98 in 2018 and 46 in 2017. That growth is expected to continue in 2020 which is good news for our project partners, who are making a positive impact on the ground through more than 350 projects globally. Carbon finance is a key lever to unlock the full potential of nature, society, and technology to advance sustainable development.

In other news this year, Science Based Targets issued new guidance on how carbon offsetting contributes to the transition to net zero. And the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets published its first consultation report on the important role that carbon finance solutions can play in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement.

CEO climate advocacy is keeping the pressure on

Corporate leaders are stepping up to advocate for climate solutions, recognizing it as a “business imperative.” In conjunction with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 42 leading U.S. companies issued an open letter urging “President-elect Joe Biden and the new Congress to work together to enact ambitious, durable, and bipartisan climate solutions.”

Corporate commitments are accelerating

Our research of the Fortune Global 500 confirms how carbon neutral, net zero, RE100 and SBT commitments are rapidly growing. Thirty percent of companies in the Fortune Global 500 have achieved one of these climate commitments or have publicly stated they will do so by 2030—a five-fold increase since the Paris Agreement.

Our corporate partners of all sizes are deepening their commitments to sustainability. Here are some examples:

  • Bain & Co achieved carbon neutrality for a ninth year.
  • Blue Shield of California achieved carbon neutrality in effort to improve the environment and health.
  • HP launched a CarbonNeutral? Managed Print Service so businesses can reduce and offset the carbon impact of printing.
  • Kaiser Permanente became certified as a CarbonNeutral company, prioritizing health and sustainability
  • Logitech, after making its products CarbonNeutral in 2019, introduced plan to provide detailed carbon impact labeling on product packaging.
  • Nestlé Waters North America announced that its ReadyRefresh? by Nestlé? direct-to-consumer beverage delivery service has achieved carbon neutrality and earned the CarbonNeutral company certification for the year 2020.
  • Oliver Wyman became a CarbonNeutral company, offsetting the emissions it could not immediately reduce, such as business travel.
  • Sky made Sky Originals certified CarbonNeutral in the UK.
  • Synopsys announced new greenhouse gas reductions targets and achieved CarbonNeutral certification for a second year.
  • Vertical Bridge, a telecommunications tower company, became a CarbonNeutral company to advance its ESG and social responsibility goals.

While 2020 has introduced a whole new lexicon, the “climate emergency” is still a top priority for leading businesses as we drive collective global action. As words lead to action, we look forward to more good news in 2021.

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