Following the analysis of over 6,000 studies, the world’s leading climate scientists at the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C” this October. The main conclusion from the report was that global warming is likely to reach 1.5 C in just 12 years if current rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue. To halt warming at 1.5 C and thus avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change, the IPCC states that anthropogenic GHG emissions must reach net zero by 2050. This is a monumental task and one that will require what the IPCC calls “rapid and far-reaching transitions”.
The task of reaching global net zero GHG emissions is daunting, and business has an enormous role to play in making it happen. But what exactly must each company do? Two tools can help set companies on the right path.
The first is the Science-Based Targets initiative, which enables companies to clearly define their trajectory to decarbonization in the context of the 1.5 C imperative. The initiative highlights companies that have already set science-based GHG elimination targets, with information on the process they followed that other companies might learn from. This serves as a good starting point for any company seeking to create an effective plan of action. However, without careful planning, actions to eliminate GHG emissions could have significant unintended consequences. Other issues – from poverty to resource scarcity – must be considered too, and that demands a holistic approach. This is where the second tool comes in.
The Future-Fit Business Benchmark translates 30+ years of systems science into a practical and free-to-use self-assessment tool, designed to guide real, actionable progress toward true sustainability. It identifies the line in the sand that all companies must reach – across all key issues – to ensure they are in no way undermining the social fabric and natural systems that our shared future depends upon. You can think of this line in the sand as the environmental and social break-even point for business. The Benchmark defines exactly which GHG emissions a company must eliminate, and offers similarly precise guidance on all other critical topics, from employee wellbeing and waste management to product design and water use. And it enables progress across all issues to be measured and communicated in a credible, comparable and concise way.
Hence the Benchmark fulfils two roles. First, it is a management tool which helps a company to set the right ambitions, and to take better day-to-day actions in pursuit of those ambitions. And second, it is a reporting tool focused on articulating the part the company is playing in society’s transition to an environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive future. This kind of holistic approach is essential, if business leaders are to secure the level of stakeholder support necessary to make bold changes across the business.
Gradual year-on-year GHG emission reductions are not sufficient: we must rapidly and radically change how business is done if we are to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050 across the entire global economy. The good news is that the Science-Based Targets initiative and the Future-Fit Business Benchmark can help any business leader rise to the challenge.
This article first appeared in Sustainable Brands.