This week the UN is calling businesses to step up their actions to tackle climate change by taking full responsibility for their own emissions with a new campaign, ‘Climate Neutral Now’. This highlights the crucial role of business in tackling climate change, saying it has never been more important. The UN says “As one of the major contributors of carbon emissions, responsible businesses and organisations need to measure, reduce and offset their emissions.”
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), urged voluntary action by businesses and individuals to avoid catastrophic climate change: “It is going to require action today and tomorrow and everyone needs to get on board from governments and corporations to cities, regions and individuals.” In this, the UN aims to set an example: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will be climate neutral by 2020. Some of the world’s biggest companies – including Microsoft, Aviva, the adidas group and Sony – are already showing leadership by becoming or pledging to become Climate Neutral, and encouraging others to follow their lead.
At ClimateCare we have 18 years’ experience of delivering robust and effective programmes to help governments and business around the world become Climate Neutral. Clients value our approach to measuring, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions through Climate+Care projects that both protect the environment and improve lives - tackling poverty and empowering communities in the developing world. Supporting these multi-impact projects enables businesses to demonstrate responsible action on climate change and at the same time, their commitment to tackle wider social and environmental issues.
Going Climate Neutral can also deliver a range of business benefits you might not even have considered. From demonstrating environmental credentials and building customer confidence in your brand, to improving staff engagement with your broader sustainability programmes. It can even deliver business growth opportunities - building resilience in supply chains, supporting growth in key markets and helping to launch new products and services.
One of our long-standing corporate partners, Aviva, recently spoke to Business Fights Poverty setting out a business case for the insurance sector to follow its lead and go Climate Neutral, highlighting the benefits of doing so through an integrated Climate+Care programme – that delivers cost effective social impacts as well as cutting carbon.
“If climate change continues to happen at the rate it is, it will impact our business model and will impact what we can insure going forwards, so there is total consistency between our core business and what we do in terms of offsetting our own emissions” said Zelda Bentham, Head of Sustainability, Aviva plc.
We are delighted that the UN’s influential voice is now encouraging others to follow the lead of the pioneering clients we work with. But why is this encouragement needed?
Corporates continue to make great strides in the transparent reporting of their negative impacts - carbon reporting and reduction programmes are becoming the norm, but the final step – taking full responsibility for the remaining immediate negative climate impacts through offsetting – is often still missing. Businesses that make the decision not to offset their carbon emissions cite reasons ranging from misunderstandings about how the process works, to whether internal reductions are more cost effective. However, there is simply no argument about whether you should take action to reduce or offset your carbon emissions – the reality is that you need to do both in order to really be considered to be a responsible business.
And, as businesses start to talk about becoming net positive and delivering positive social and environmental impacts through their business operations, we believe it is essential that they first take full responsibility for their unavoidable negative impacts. For carbon emissions that means neutralising the climate impact through carbon offsets - going Climate Neutral must become a hygiene factor.
Once they’ve committed to Climate Neutrality, businesses we work with say it becomes easy to see where offsetting fits into the hierarchy of actions to tackle climate change. Many recommend putting an internal price on carbon emissions as a simple way to identify when it becomes financially prudent to move from carbon reduction to offsetting – ensuring money is always spent where it will have maximum impact.
The world is currently on track to exceed the two degree average warning limit. To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to take action now. Quite simply, it is not enough to reduce your carbon footprint – you need to offset it as well. The UN campaign, adds weight to the calls for businesses to go Climate Neutral - and responsible business leaders such as Aviva, Sony, Microsoft and others are showing the way.
Those who choose to go Climate Neutral with a Climate+Care programme will also be able to channel their support to projects that cut carbon and deliver against your priority social and environmental goals in locations that make sense for your business.
Edward Hanrahan is CEO of ClimateCare.
To find out more about what Climate Neutrality means for your business, call our expert team on +44(0)1865 591000 or visit www.climatecare.org
From offices in the UK and Africa, ClimateCare works with businesses and governments around the world to deliver integrated Climate+Care programmes which protect the environment and improve lives. Established in 1997, to date it has improved life for over six million people and cut 16.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions. It’s a certified B Corporation and holds a Queen’s Award for Sustainability for its outstanding contributions to tackling climate change and alleviating poverty.
Image caption: In Kenya, an estimated 35 million people don’t have access to the grid. Investment to improve energy access and solar lighting represents a significant opportunity to connect the unconnected, improve lives and advance economic development across these communities.
Image credit: Annie Bungeroth for CAFOD / Flickr