THE BLOG

Businesses Can't Afford to Ignore Climate Change Any Longer

01/21/2014 03:53 pm 15:53:45 | Updated 23 March 2014

This week leaders from business, governments and civil society are convening at Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). I'm looking forward to it; I always do, but I am particularly looking forward to it this year as Prof. Klaus Schwab has agreed to put more emphasis than ever on climate change. On the Friday of Davos -24th of January - more than 20 different sessions will be devoted to tackling a broad range of climate change issues.

Some people may still challenge the need to do this or even question the existence of climate change at all. But those voices are no longer based on the facts. Last September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reviewed all of the world's science and told us even clearer than before, that we have to change our ways quickly to avoid catastrophic climate change. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it bluntly: "The heat is on. We must act."

Some people might question whether WEF is the right forum for a discussion on climate change. They might ask what business people know, or indeed care, about environmental issues. They might contend that at a time when the world is pulling itself out of one of the worst global recessions in modern days, we should be talking about jobs and the economy at Davos, not the environment.

I couldn't disagree more.

Yes, we need to talk about jobs and growth and inequality, but businesses can't afford to ignore climate change any longer. Business holds many of the technologies and solutions that can create the transformation the world needs. And the business case to do so is strong. Business must now scale up the implementation of these solutions.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has been working with 46 global businesses in partnership with leading scientists and the World Resource Institute to make make a plan for just that. This year in Davos a new global initiative for sustainable development called Action2020, will be launched.

Action2020 is one of the biggest corporate sustainability plans out there. It is a science-based action plan that seeks to engage companies across the globe to implement innovative and scalable business solutions. The Action2020 plan identifies nine priority areas for a sustainable development of our planet and its societies. For each priority area a societal "must-have" target is set based on scientific fact. These targets include halting and reversing damage of land and marine ecosystems, addressing rising CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring societies move toward environmentally and socially sustainable agricultural systems. Business solutions designed to meet these targets will be discussed at Davos.

Some people will say there have been many promising environmental initiatives that haven't delivered results, but we think Action2020 is different because it is made for business, by business, and also contains a strategy to improve the business case for sustainability. Uptake so far has been encouraging: 44 companies representing 15 million employees and US$7 trillion of revenues have already signed on and more companies are joining as we speak.

Some people may ask why we should trust business to come up with the solutions. And it's true that
each year in Davos, the PR firm Edelman publishes that trust in business and government leaders is declining. Trust has to be earned and climate change, as one of the most pressing issues facing mankind has to be addressed urgently. By business now taking the lead, working closely with the leaders of government and science, in scaling up business solutions that will work, we may be able to achieve both in one go.

And that's why I look forward to making real progress in Davos this year.