“Without business, … we will never achieve the goals of keeping temperature increases below 1.5 degrees (Celsius). This is only the beginning – we are just getting on track.”
-Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, the UN Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit
In the wake of the failure of the UN Climate Conference in Madrid, it is even more urgent and critical that global business lead the way – showing a path forward for prosperity and a thriving planet.
More than 1.4 million young people around the world took part in school strikes for climate action this spring.
My 12-year-old daughter Anna has become quite the environmentalist lately. She’s even started turning out the lights while you’re in the room to save on energy! Yes, this can be annoying. But I admire her passion and enjoy watching her become more invested in our planet.
Anna and the 1.4 million kids skipping class to protest climate change this spring give me hope. I got goosebumps when I heard the charismatic 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose actions started this movement, speak. She summed it up perfectly when she said: “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have changed.”
These kids are on the front line. It’s their futures at stake. They’re scared, they’re angry and they’re energized.
And they should be on businesses’ radar.
Source: Walmart Sustainability Hub
By: Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, EDF+Business Supply Chain, Environmental Defense Fund and Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement, WWF – World Wildlife Fund
Imagine, for a moment, what it would mean if the world’s biggest brands couldn’t access the key ingredients for their products. What if Starbucks had trouble sourcing coffee? What if Coca-Cola couldn’t access water? As the predicted effects of a changing climate such as droughts and rising temperatures become a reality, these “what if” questions raise serious concerns for global supply chains.
Such issues were foundational for last week’s Walmart Milestone sustainability summit at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Our two NGOs work with Walmart as it pushes to fulfill its ambitious climate commitments.
One of those is Project Gigaton, which in its two-year lifespan has avoided 93 million metric tons of emissions toward the one billion ton goal. It may be the company’s most ambitious sustainability initiative, and we — along with dozens of other advocacy groups — have taken a keen interest in this initiative.
Businesses today are taking basic services and turning them into well-designed, convenient user-friendly experiences. You see it every day with companies like Spotify and Seamless. Or Netflix, which is suggesting I watch The Great British Baking Show, based on my family’s viewing-history.
Now, imagine the possibilities if we applied this business model to sustainability.
The Supply Chain Solutions Center does just that. Launched today in partnership with over 10 leading environmental NGOs, this innovative platform puts resources and expert advice at the fingertips of sustainability professionals.
Taken on Nov. 19, 2018 from my San Francisco apartment rooftop
I have helped Walmart, Starbucks and other companies get started with sustainability. I can help you too, using all the lessons I’ve learned from them.
I don’t want to sound like just another environmentalist waving my hands, jumping up and down that we need to act to reverse climate change NOW. The truth is simply this: I know it can be done, sustainability targets create business value and companies stand to lose big financially if they don’t act.
Oh what a week it has been!
Trying to turn away from the political polarization and fracturing civility in this country, I looked elsewhere in the news and found something even worse…dire warnings for our planet.
Two reports in the news this week ring the alarm bell on climate change. The first report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries. As the New York Times reports, it “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.”
Photo: Walmart China
I am just back from a week in Beijing, where Environmental Defense Fund was part of Walmart’s announcement of a new goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its China supply chain. Had I not been there in person, I’m not sure I could have accurately comprehended how essential that this goal – a 50 million metric ton (MMT) reduction by 2030 – must be followed by swift implementation.
That’s because every day in Beijing felt like the worst day in San Francisco, my home, when last year’s horrific wildfires made our eyes and lungs burn. “Normal” in Beijing means not being able to see down to the end of the block, and sharing the crowded streets with commuters, parents and children all covered by facemasks.
McDonald’s – the world’s largest restaurant company – recently announced new climate goals, which were quickly followed by many comments like this one, from Axios:
“These are concrete targets, but they’re not as of yet backed up with specific plans of how to get there.”
Axios is right. These are concrete targets (and they’ve been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative). Here are the details: by 2030, McDonald’s is pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their restaurants and offices by 36 percent, and reduce their emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across their supply chain by 31 percent. The company estimates these reductions will prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere. That’s huge – it’s the equivalent of removing 32 million cars from the road for one year.
But I want to challenge Axios in saying that the company has “no specific plans” to get there.
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
-Martin Luther King
Feeling down about our planet in 2018? Don’t!
There are many reasons to be hopeful around environmental action in the new year – and if the following developments don’t make you feel better, I’ve prescribed some action steps at the end that are guaranteed to set you on a healthier, happier path.
Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that 2017 was a hard year for the planet. I’ve lost count of the hurricanes, floods, droughts and fires—many linked to climate change—that rained upon us. It was a record-setting toll on the U.S. in 2017, with 16 enormous weather and climate events costing a total of $306 billion in damage (not sure how to calculate the emotional cost).
And don’t get me started on Scott Pruitt’s dramatic and dangerous dismantling of the EPA.
No business is immune to the devastating effects of climate change anymore, as we saw from the onslaught of extreme weather events in 2017. Disasters brought more than $300 billion in damages this year, a 60-percent increase over 2016, Swiss Re reported last week.
As every business leader has long known, storms, flooding, wildfires and other calamities all threaten to disrupt their operations and growth, and can even affect an entire supply chain.
What’s new is that shareholders and potential investors are also now aware of the risk that extreme weather and natural disasters pose to “doing business as usual.”
Unsurprisingly, a growing number of companies are factoring resilience to climate change into their operations. It’s about the bottom line: Making a company more resilient is an investment in business continuity, shareholder value and overall performance.