Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had invited leaders from government, finance, business and civil society to bring bold announcements and actions on climate change to the summit in New York. 300,000+ people marched on the streets of New York, accompanied by additional marches in 161 countries.
I was invited to 2 adjacent events from our partners CDP and PwC in New York. CDP’s announcement cut straight to the chase. Their new report claims to have some of the first proven evidence of a link between business leadership on climate change and a company’s profitability. The study shows that S&P 500 companies that build sustainability into their core strategies are outperforming those that fail to show leadership. ‘…Corporations that are actively managing and planning for climate change secure an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that aren’t – and 67% higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions’. One could hope that the study puts the long-debated question of whether sustainability undermines or improves financial results finally to rest.
Here some other highlights:
- UN ‘Messenger of Peace’ and actor Leonardo DiCaprio opened climate week with this short and powerful message:
A major new declaration calling for a global price on carbon was signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses and investors. The declaration, released by the World Bank, has been signed by the likes of China, Shell, Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola and SAP SE. One missing signature: The United States
CalSTRS, the US’ 2nd largest public pension fund, announced it will more than double its clean energy investments in the next five years and will invest significantly more if strong carbon policies are enacted; at the same time CalPERS, the US’s largest public pension fund announced its support for a carbon price and pledged to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of its investment portfolio
- Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), teaming up with General Mills, Kellogg’s, Unilever and 29 other major brands advocating for state and national climate and clean energy policies
- The New York Declaration on Forests signed by more than 150 corporate, government, and civil-society groups outlines goals to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and eliminate it by 2030. Among the signatories: Unilever, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, L’Oréal and Nestlé
- APPLE’s Tim Cook saying ‘….the long-term consequences of not addressing climate are huge. I don’t think anyone can overstate that’. This is a follow-up on his comment during Apples last shareholder meeting, where he said ‘…..if you want me to do things only for ROI (return on investment) reasons, you should get out of this stock’
- The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, built on oil money, announced together with 800 other institutions to divest from fossil-fuel companies. Total funds making that pledge reached $50 billion last week
- Google followed Microsoft and announced also to leave conservative political group ALEC, citing its stance against government action to combat climate change. And just this week Yahoo and Facebook followed
- The European Union’s 28 member states committed to a 20% emissions cut by 2020, followed by a 40% reduction by 2030
- NYC’s Mayor Bill De Blasio committed to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050
- France joining Germany in pledging $1bn for the Green Climate Fund
- Seychelles president quoted saying ‘…..climate change on its current path is a crime against humanity’
- Another 100 companies, among them IKEA and H&M committing to 100% renewable power usage by 2020
Unfortunately the big powerhouses were a bit vague on commitments. Examples:
- UK: Cameron saying ‘…UK was ‘playing its part’ and was on track to cut its greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050’; but no new commitments
- US: Obama said his government would announce new carbon reduction ambitions by next year and would meet its current commitment of a 17% cut by 2020
- China: China said it would ‘announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as we can to markedly reduce carbon intensity’
Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, summed up the happenings saying ‘….riding back on the bus to Vermont, as tired as my feet are, I know one thing for certain. This was not just the end of a long day, but the beginning of a real movement….’
Lets hope he is right.