Our vision is for all corporates to engage responsibly with climate policy. This is how we’re making it a reality.Dominic Gogol, Deputy Director, Policy, We Mean Business Coalition
Imagine if corporate advocacy matched the ambition of companies’ climate commitments. If the public affairs, legal and marketing resource that companies directed towards creating a pro-climate policy environment was proportional to the transformative change required by their science-based climate targets. Think of the platform of corporate support that this would provide policymakers in the setting of policies to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century.
Business will be central to the delivery of national climate targets for emissions reductions. Effective collaboration and transparent information-sharing between companies and policymakers will help create the policies, regulations and finance mechanisms necessary to decarbonize energy, transport, heavy industry and other sectors. And, as the ambition loop between business and policymakers accelerates action, these well-designed policies will enable companies to deliver on their own climate targets as they develop the technologies and services needed for future net zero economies.
Why we need a framework for responsible policy engagement
In order to deliver this future, We Mean Business Coalition has launched a vision paper at COP27 on responsible policy engagement (RPE) by corporates. Our aim is to create a new global framework for companies that maps and integrates existing resources and builds the tools businesses need. To deliver this, we are creating an RPE Taskforce, made up of the Coalition partners and other expert groups in this field like the UN High Level Champions, InfluenceMap, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and others.
This framework is urgently needed, because the climate policies formulated in the next two to three years will determine whether business and governments meet their climate targets in the decades to come. It is critical that companies input to help these processes – and that they do not hinder them either directly or indirectly via their trade associations. For real world examples: it’s about how companies engage with the U.S. Treasury as they design the tax incentives enabled by the historic Inflation Reduction Act, or with EU institutions as they work their way through the enormous number of policy files contained in the “Fit for 55” package.
Policymakers would benefit from consistent and transparent input from companies with a deep understanding of their own operations and supply chains, of what has worked in the past, and what has not. Policymakers would also have an external standard of best practice to point to, to call out trade associations when they are not representing their members’ climate ambitions.
The same goes for stakeholders in the wider NGO and activist space, who can assess which companies are transparently advocating for measures that will help deliver on their public climate commitments, and which are not.
We welcome the UN High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities’ recommendations launched last week. Most pertinently, the recommendations on aligning lobbying and advocacy, and for companies to match their operational climate targets with their public engagement with policymakers. As companies develop their climate transition action plans, as recommended by the HLEG, they will need to identify the role of enabling national and local policy, and how they will engage policymakers in the next one to three years. Our framework will enable them to do that responsibly.
Closing the gap between ambition and advocacy
The enormous uptake of voluntary climate action commitments through the UN Race to Zero is one of the great successes since the Paris Climate Agreement. The growth in companies setting science-based targets through SBTi is incredible – during COP27 this passed 4,000 companies. This huge increase in corporate climate ambition must be accompanied by the other ‘4A’s of Climate Leadership’: action, accountability and – of course – advocacy.
Yet not enough companies are responsible and consistent policy advocates on behalf of their climate commitments. My colleague Sophie Punte’s blog from September goes into more depth on this, but I give one additional point here to illustrate the problem. The Ceres RPE report launched this month reveals that half the S&P 100 companies in the U.S. now have science-based targets, yet only 19% publicly supported the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in U.S. history. That, in a nutshell, is the gap we need to close between corporate climate targets and corporate climate advocacy.
In our view this gap is down to two issues:
- A majority of companies’ operational climate commitments have not successfully been mainstreamed across their corporate functions to their public affairs and legal teams, leading to inconsistencies. This is especially seen in the U.S., but occurs in many policy-making processes by companies and the trade groups that represent them.
- Despite the development of several tools and guidelines in corporate climate advocacy, there is a lack of one global, commonly accepted framework on RPE. Though there are strong climate advocacy standards, most notably the Global Standard created by Climate Action 100+ (CA100+), the “how” in terms of the tools and best practice for companies to meet it are either scattered or not available.
Making a global RPE framework a reality
There is a clear need for a framework for companies that provides a single entry point. This should integrate the various RPE standards and tools that will enable companies to become more responsible policy advocates.
Below is a list of resources from across the We Mean Business Coalition and trusted partners that shows the type and quality of guides, tools and standards on responsible policy engagement:
- Ceres RPE Blueprint – a detailed review of the climate change risk assessment, governance, advocacy, and engagement practices of a selection of U.S. companies
- The B Team’s trade group misalignment toolkit
- CLG Europe’s Advocacy Toolkit for Business Climate Leaders
- BSR’s Transform to Net Zero Climate Policy Engagement Transformation Guide
- InfluenceMap – analysis and benchmarking of corporate and trade group climate advocacy
- The AAA Group Framework for Climate Policy Leadership
- CA100+‘s Global Standard on Responsible Corporate Climate Lobbying – by investors for companies by
- The UN Race to Zero – new criteria for ‘Persuade’ on climate advocacy.
However, for companies this is fragmented across organizations and initiatives, and there are clear gaps that need addressing. The RPE Taskforce will map, integrate and build the necessary tools required to deliver our vision of a global framework. We will build and test the RPE framework early next year with partners and companies, and our plan is to launch the first version of the RPE Framework in Summer 2023.
In the past week, we have seen the power of corporate climate advocacy in the form of the COP27 1.5C statement that We Mean Business Coalition coordinated with The B Team. While we still await the final COP27 outcomes, I know from speaking to people on the ground here at Sharm el-Sheikh how powerful responsible policy engagement can be – and on the flip side – how inconsistency undermines trust and confidence in companies’ climate commitments. That’s why I am so excited by this work.
Please contact me as the co-chair of the RPE Taskforce ([email protected]) if you have any questions.