This Earth Week, I want to continue the call for a new type of corporate leadership – one that allows both the planet and business to thrive.
It’s time for corporate leaders to ramp up their sustainability goals, embed sustainability across their business strategy, and most importantly, look at the positive momentum they can drive beyond the walls of their own operations. What lies beyond those walls? Their supply chain, their partners, their competitors, their consumers, and yes, even policy.
And it’s time, this Earth Day, for corporate leaders to use their voices to amplify support for smart climate and energy policy.
Today 110 companies came together to to celebrate the historic Paris Agreement, encourage investment in the low-carbon economy, and reinforce support for the Clean Power Plan. These companies know that U.S leadership is critical to making the pledges of Paris a reality and to enable the transition to a thriving, clean energy economy.
I’m encouraged by the commitments that these and other corporations have made so far this year, but also recognize the need for more private sector leadership to make progress on climate action.
Now is the perfect opportunity to step forward and align your internal sustainability strategy with your external engagement in policy, and there are many key areas that need your support.
Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony
The biggest news this Earth Day is the Paris Agreement signing ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Paris Agreement is a monumental step forward toward turning the corner on climate change, and business can help accelerate it. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will use the signing ceremony as an opportunity to encourage business leaders to push the new agreement into action. Ki-moon hopes the influence of global business leaders will “provide for the smooth finalization of the operational details needed to give effect to the provisions of the new Agreement.”
The business community thrives when policy certainty is not dependent on political cycles. The U.S. government’s commitment was vital to the signing of the Paris Agreement; now it’s time for U.S. businesses to lead the way on implementation.
Clean Power Plan
Another important policy that needs corporate support (and action) is the Clean Power Plan, which will lower carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Clean Power Plan will increase access to renewable energy, create quality jobs, lower electricity bills, and reduce business risk from energy price fluctuations. That’s why it has the backing over 365 businesses and investors.
Previously I have written about the importance of U.S business leadership for the success of the Clean Power Plan, and I’m optimistic that the Clean Power Plan will remain in effect after hearings in June. I’m also hopeful for the future of the Clean Power Plan based on the increasingly broad group of business voices that have emerged to support it over the past few weeks, including a large group of power companies, three advanced energy trade associations, and a range of forward-thinking companies – Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. These are companies that are worth over $1.7 trillion and have stood up for smart policy in addition to creating more efficient and sustainable supply chains.
RE100, the global collaborative of companies committed to 100% renewable power, recently welcomed Bloomberg and HP into this group of influential leaders.
Nate Hurst, HP chief sustainability and social impact officer, said, “HP Inc.’s commitment to use 100% renewable electricity supports our ongoing efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions across our technology portfolio, operations, and supply chain. We know that lowering our carbon footprint is critical to our long-term business sustainability and contributes to our customers’ success.”
"By embracing the use of renewable electricity to power our operations — and encouraging companies in other industries to do the same — we demonstrate how, through innovation, we can drive business efficiencies and those of our customers and partners in a cleaner and more sustainable way."
As of this writing, 58 companies have joined the RE100 campaign, up from 36 in September 2015. You can join industry leaders like Nike, Starbucks and Walmart that have made the commitment to 100% renewable power. Make a commitment this Earth Day to go 100% renewable.
Internal Carbon Pricing
Another initiative that should not be overlooked by corporate leaders is carbon pricing. Internal carbon pricing helps companies get ahead of government policies that put a price on carbon and enables companies to be prepared when policy impacts their markets.
At COP21, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) was launched to “expand the use of effective carbon pricing policies that can maintain competitiveness, create jobs, encourage innovation, and deliver meaningful emissions reductions.” The coalition brings together governments and business to accelerate carbon pricing around the world.
According to the Executive Guide to Carbon Pricing Leadership, report by the United Nations Global Compact, there are now more than 1,000 companies reporting that they price carbon internally or plan to do so in the next one to two years.
Global giants like Unilever and Nestle are some of CPLC’s private sector partners, but more U.S companies need to be part of the dialogue to ensure the goals of the Paris Agreement are met.
Look for a "declaration" from the CPLC on the eve of the Paris Agreement signing ceremony that asks more countries to price carbon emissions and encourages businesses to set internal prices.
"The Paris Agreement sends a powerful signal that the de-carbonization of the global economy is inevitable, that it is beneficial and it is already happening," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Placing a price on carbon is an important element of the transformation of our world.”
Smart business minimizes risk while preparing for the future. The business leaders of tomorrow will be the ones that align their strategies with a new clean energy future.
Join the ranks of corporate leaders who are shaping policy rather than being shaped by it. This Earth Day make your sustainability voices heard loud and clear inside and outside your corporate office.
Follow Tom Murray on Twitter, @TPMurray