The businesses urging governments to build back better from COVID-19The We Mean Business coalition
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause devastation around the world. Businesses are dealing with unprecedented impacts that, for some, have thrown their very future into question. While emergency measures are being taken to contain and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic in the near term, the conversation has already begun on how to rebuild the economy in the longer term when the worst of the virus has passed. A growing number of European businesses are calling for decisive action on climate change to be a core element of those plans.
The emergence of a new threat does not reduce the human and economic risks of the ongoing climate crisis, which is a present threat to human lives, health and the economy. Spending and policy decisions made now must address both issues, ensuring we build back better, with plans that create good jobs, reduce emissions and increase resilience in the future.
Just this week, the “European Alliance for Green Recovery” was launched by French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Pascal Canfin, chair of the European Parliament’s committee on environment and public health. The alliance saw 37 CEOs of Europe’s biggest global companies join ministers from 11 countries and MEPs, business associations and trade unions to call for a green recovery in Europe.
The growing list of corporate signatories are from a wide range of countries and sectors. This includes European power companies Iberdrola, Enel and EDP; retailers H&M and Inter IKEA Group; three of the world’s largest consumer goods brands, Unilever, AB InBev and Nestlé; along with construction materials company Saint-Gobain, water and waste utility Suez Group and automaker Volvo Group.
These companies understand the growing risks associated with climate change and are acting now to ensure they are able to minimize those risks and be more resilient to future shocks. These companies also know that the decisions governments make now will lock in the strategic direction of entire economies for years to come, either helping or hindering companies’, and the world’s ability to increase climate action at the necessary speed and scale.
“When, with the help of urgent emergency funds, the world eventually begins to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, aligning long-term economic stimulus and policy packages with climate goals will be crucial not only to create jobs and to reactivate the economy, but also for a long-term, resilient and healthy economy,” Carlos Sallé, Senior Vice-President of Energy Policies and Climate Change at Iberdrola, said.
Signatory companies are also highlighting their continued commitment to taking action on climate change by addressing their own emissions footprint, noting that the extensive disruption from the COVID-19 crisis does not reduce the imperative of acting on the climate crisis. Ingka Group (IKEA) CEO, Jesper Brodin, said the company remains fully committed to its 2030 climate positive goal and the Paris Agreement.
“During these times our ambition is to do what is right for people and for business. Early on, we realised that more or less all our plans will be impacted by the current situation – one thing that will not change is our commitment to sustainability.”
“As the European Union seeks to recover from this crisis, we support building a vibrant, resilient and green economy that is climate neutral,” he added.
This continued commitment to climate action also includes companies from high-emitting sectors such as Germany’s HeidelbergCement, which said it remained committed to its CO2 reduction targets in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It would be wrong to do away with our CO2 targets now. The climate crisis does not go away with the coronavirus epidemic,” the company said.
Meanwhile, the group of forward-looking companies committing to taking climate action themselves continues to increase. This month, the number of companies committed to science-based targets surpassed 850, with new joiners including US fashion house Ralph Lauren, Italian apparel company The Schneider Group and Chinese semiconductor company Jiangsu Pacific Quartz Co.
The number of companies committed to 100% renewable electricity through The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative reached 230 this month, with the addition of Japan’s Sumitomo Forestry Group. Meanwhile, UK energy services company Mitie joined EP100 initiative with a commitment to doubling its energy productivity and UK water company Severn Trent joined EV100 with a commitment to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
With huge funds being mobilized around the globe to help the economy recover from the impacts of the coronavirus, it’s vital that public investment builds resilience, supports jobs and helps accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon future.
Earlier this month, EU finance ministers approved a €500 billion stimulus package to help protect against the economic impacts of the outbreak, highlighting the speed and scale at which government plans are being developed.
“These massive investments must trigger a new European economic model: more resilient, more protective, more sovereign and more inclusive. All these requirements lie in an economy built around Green principles,” the Green Recovery Alliance statement reads.
Last week EU leaders said that green finance will be a ‘key focus’ of its post-virus recovery phase, as it launched a public consultation on its sustainable finance strategy, part of a €1 trillion package to make the European economy greener by 2030.
“We are currently battling the coronavirus outbreak, but we must not lose sight of our long-term sustainability objectives, including making Europe climate-neutral by 2050,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of the economy.
Earlier this month, the environment ministers of ten European countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, urged the EU to adopt a “green” recovery plan, amid concerns the economic impact of the pandemic could weaken action on climate change. Since then, the environment ministers of France and Germany added their names to a growing list of EU countries pushing for a green recovery plan.
Outside of the EU, companies are also urging governments to ensure long-term economic stimulus helps to tackle the climate crisis.
“At Mars our immediate priority is to limit the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the safety of our associates and the communities we rely upon. We also remain 100% committed to accelerating climate action and doing business in a way that positively impacts people and our planet,” Barry Parkin, Chief Procurement & Sustainability Officer at Mars said.
“We urge governments to ensure their plans to rebuild our economies prioritize the health of humans by keeping the health of the environment a core consideration.”
Anirban Ghosh, CSO of Indian conglomerate, Mahindra Group, echoed the sentiment, adding: “We want to play our part in building a better future and reducing the risk of the disruption that runaway climate change would cause.”
This is a moment where we can take a decisive turn on the road to a resilient, zero-carbon future. By pairing climate action with recovery action, governments and businesses together can build resilience, help protect against the impacts of climate change that science tells us are coming and accelerate the transition to a resilient, zero-carbon future that leaves no-one behind.