‘No single company can address the climate crisis alone’: Business leaders on why co-operation is so important

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Whether it’s a sportsperson trying to outdo their rival on the playing field or a tech giant attempting to develop the latest cellphone and dominate the market, competition and going it alone can drive innovation and success.

When it comes to the environment and climate change, however, things are different.

As COP26 nears, calls for an approach which focuses on working together in favor of a common goal —keeping emissions low and putting plans in place to address the challenges our planet will face over the coming years and decades — are growing louder by the day.

There are always exceptions and getting people to find common ground is hugely challenging, but this focus on collaboration is beginning to span politics, civil society and business.

Thierry Delaporte is CEO of Wipro, which describes itself as an “information technology, consulting and business process services” firm.

During a recent debate moderated by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, Delaporte emphasized the need for different parties to work together. “The reality is that no single company can address the climate crisis alone,” he said.

“To really have a big impact and to really drive … real results to net zero we need to standardize [a] net zero approach to ensure the progress is made efficiently and effectively,” he went on to explain.

Delaporte also spoke of the need for a good relationship between governments and firms.

“It must be … substantially easier for companies of all size, all sectors across the globe to also move towards achieving a net zero future,” he said.

“The connection with … other companies, the ecosystem, the communication and the cooperation with administrations in the respective countries is absolutely essential for us to drive … substantial results.”

During the discussion Adair Turner, who is chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, stressed the importance of the relationship between government and business. 

“There’s this endless iterative process between government setting frameworks, setting, for instance, carbon prices, setting regulations that make it clear that the private sector is going to have to respond,” he said.

Turner went on to flesh out his argument, explaining the private sector would then do what it does, namely cost reduction and innovation, to deliver within those targets at least cost.

“This is a process that never ends but it needs to involve both strong action by governments and strong action by the private sector, including by private sector finance — asset managers, banks, etcetera.”

One example of climate-related collaboration is the Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi, a partnership between the World Wide Fund for Nature, World Resources Institute, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and United Nations Global Compact.

The latter’s CEO and executive director, Sanda Ojiambo, explained to CNBC how the SBTi was leveraging the four organizations’ strengths.

Leading companies, she said, had “been setting emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science advanced by the SBTi.”

Earlier this year, the SBTi published a progress report for 2020. Among other things, this looked at emissions reductions from 338 firms it described as having “approved science-based targets.”

“The 338 companies in our analysis collectively reduced their annual emissions by 25% between 2015 and 2019 — a difference of 302 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 78 coal-fired power plants,” the report said.

For Ojiambo, getting the message out there and communicating progress is a crucial tool.

“It’s been really important to demonstrate that, with science-based targets, progress has happened,” she said.

“For us, it’s important to have a standard and it’s important to not only raise the ambition but make sure that actions are grounded in science and we’re able to track and measure that progress.”

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