Green Growth: New report shows how leading European companies are thriving and making climate progress

By Helen Spence-Jackson and Thorfinn Stainforth

The European Commission has just proposed a new 2040 climate target of -90% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990 levels. At the same time a recent official scientific report shows that there is still a lot of hard work and policy setting to do to reach it. While reaching the target will be a major challenge requiring speed, investment, coordination, innovation and careful planning, it should also be seen as an opportunity for business.

This broader trend is clear: the European Union’s economy is 66% larger than in 1990, but emissions are down by over 30%. Other regions such as China and India are also making progress to decouple GDP growth from emissions, demonstrating that emissions cuts do not come at the expense of economic opportunity and prosperity.

Ambitious progress

European Business DecarbonisationThe Environmental Defense Fund is taking the opportunity to highlight businesses that are advancing serious steps toward reducing their greenhouse gas emissions while building strong, profitable businesses that are creating jobs. These businesses have seized the opportunity to innovate with circular economic principles, renewable energy and leading technologies to provide the goods and services people need today.

Although challenges exist, the support of proactive and inclusive government policy and ground-up innovation is creating real, substantial progress. The companies featured in the case study analysis have shown that there is no contradiction between reducing emissions and prosperity – quite the contrary.

The new report highlights inspiring, regionally diverse examples from the packaging, steel, cement, agri-food, transport, and retail sectors showing businesses which are advancing ambitious goals through circularity, innovation and new partnerships to slash emissions and thrive in the European economy. The featured case studies offer several scalable solutions for other companies to consider.

For example, Novelis, an industrial aluminum company with major operations in Europe, has reduced its absolute CO2 emissions by 14% since 2016, by leaning into recycling and circular economy models. It has also significantly increased its revenues in recent years, going from US$12 billion in 2021 to US$18.5 billion in 2023.

In another case, cement manufacturer Ecocem’s revenues have tripled since 2015 and it expected revenues of around €230m in 2023 while developing cement products that are around 90% less than traditional cement. Using Ecocem’s cement in the Olympic Village construction will help save 3382 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

Supportive environment

European businesses have benefited from the proactive legislation in the EU and its Member States over the last 15-20 years. For example, the greening of European energy systems allows businesses to tap into high levels of renewable, low carbon energy. A clear carbon price in some industries has allowed ambitious businesses to gain an advantage and benefit from funding generated by the pricing.

Much more is still needed to help businesses bring their emissions down to zero and to reward those ambitious businesses which are moving forward if we are going to meet our climate targets. Governments around the world should work with businesses in the coming years to understand the barriers to further reductions and help them catalyze their important work so far. It is clear from these examples of on the ground business success that there is no need to slow down ambition for the sake of business – in fact, policy ambition and business innovation can become mutually supporting.

Net Zero Action Accelerator (NZAA)

To help corporate leaders bridge the gap between climate commitments and action, Environmental Defense Fund has launched a new, free web platform with trainings and resources. The Net Zero Action Accelerator is a guided journey toward decarbonization with practical guidance from experts who have been working alongside companies for 30+ years to accelerate sustainable action. Explore our suite of free resources and trainings to learn about how you can take action on your climate goals today.

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