Time for businesses to get a plan and communicate their actions

By Kirsty Maxey on Monday, 21 February 2022

COP26 saw many business leaders committing to climate action and participating in the summit. But it also saw stark divides, with activists, indigenous voices and young people feeling excluded from debate and decision-making.

Business in the Community (BITC) commissioned research with YouGov for COP26, surveying 8,000 people and 2,000 businesses. They found that people want businesses to act, but most either don’t think companies are doing enough, or don’t know what businesses are doing. People are worried about the impacts – extreme weather and damage to nature were top – and the implications for their children’s futures. They don’t see benefits or negative impacts being shared fairly, and don’t think businesses are doing enough to support communities. And they don’t trust that business will follow through on commitments they make.

With almost half of businesses saying they don’t have a target to cut carbon, a plan to get there, or the intention to produce one, the public’s lack of faith seems justified.

It’s easy to think that there is not much business can do. Indeed, prevailing wisdom sees the role of business as purely to deliver solid financial returns, and the rest will look after itself. But that is no longer good enough. Businesses cannot thrive in a world where people cannot afford to buy their products and services. Where our planet can no longer provide the resources we need or process the waste we produce.

So setting a robust net zero target, as close to 2030 as you can, is important, but, frankly, inadequate. Having a target and a plan is becoming a hygiene factor – for investors, government, B2B customers and the public. Going beyond that is critical.

Business in the Community’s Seven Steps for Climate Action provides a guide. It is time to involve diverse stakeholders in designing what a net zero, resilient future looks like. To ensure that people have the skills they need to thrive through the transition; to create opportunities (and make them accessible); to ensure businesses see themselves as part of an interconnected system and to recognise that those of us with privilege and make decisions that impact on others shoulder that responsibility.

This is what a responsible business does. Pushing beyond pressure to deliver short-term gain. Becoming resilience and regeneration focused, so that collectively, we can restore the social and planetary capital every business and every individual depends on. The time is definitely now and the responsibility is absolutely ours. There are no longer any excuses. Let’s get to work.

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