As the world awakens more every day to the urgent problem of climate change, some companies are stepping up in impressive ways to forge solutions.
Thirty-six of these companies have now made the ultimate commitment to this issue, pledging to transition to 100% renewable energy. The corporations - including Nike, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, and Voya Financial - have all signed on to The Climate Group’s RE100 pledge, with the hope of showing international governments that businesses are aligned in the effort to divest from fossil fuels.
This impressive alignment of corporations committed to a sustainable future will hopefully pave the way for productive results when the United Nations meets in Paris this December to address climate change. After all, one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is for the world to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
The consequences of inaction are laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including these findings:
♦ From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatonnes per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate.
♦ Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade.
♦ Given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900 for all but one scenario. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped.
♦ Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 percent since 1990.
♦ Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.
On a more hopeful note, the Panel projects that with a concerted effort, we can offset further disaster:
♦ It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
♦ Major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.
The UN asserts that the only way climate change can be curbed is with the international cooperation of every stakeholder involved. Since climate change affects every one of us, we all need to be part of the solution to the problem we collectively created.
I’m heartened by the bold action I see from some company leaders on behalf of this pressing global challenge. The commitment of corporate giants to say “au revoir” to fossil fuels is part of the $2.6 trillion tab that represents the global pledge of fossil fuel divestiture, an amount that is more than 50 times the $52 billion that had been divested a year ago. The coalition of philanthropists, activists and policymakers that were part of this pledge includes the United Nations and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the latter of which had previously announced that it would remove all of its $866 million in assets from fossil fuels, thus departing from its own founding business.
Of course, as with most corporate social responsibility initiatives, the more you give the more you get. According to The Climate Group, research shows that the most ambitious companies have seen a 27 percent return on their low carbon investments. “Lowering risk, protecting against price rises, saving millions and boosting brand is what shaping a low carbon economy is all about,” CEO Mark Kenber said in a statement.
Working together, companies can make a bigger community impact on the world and within their own corporate cultures. That’s what Impact 2030 is all about, a business-led coalition that mobilizes corporate volunteers to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Cross-industry collaboration is a powerful lever to effect change, and when companies unite for common cause, the rest of the world is forced to pay close attention.