The first ever Climate Week Paris has drawn to a close, with businesses taking positive steps to address climate change ahead of crucial UN climate talks in the French capital later this year.
Marking 200 days before COP21 in the most important year for climate action, Climate Week Paris, convened by The Climate Group on 18-24 May, brought together global business, finance and government leaders to showcase how strong climate action makes good business sense – and how a strong climate deal means a strong economy.
Multinationals companies Infosys, Unilever, and Marks & Spencer all demonstrated leadership by joining RE100, a global initiative led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, to support the world’s most influential companies committing to using 100% renewable power.
Information technology company Infosys became the first Indian company to join, committing to being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2018, as part of its carbon neutral strategy.
Infosys’s Executive Vice President and Head - Infrastructure and Sustainability, Ramadas Kamath, said: “We are working towards building a clean energy future. Expanding the share of renewables is key to addressing the chronic energy crisis our country is facing today. By taking the first step towards hundred per cent renewables, we want to lead the way in creating a sustainable future and bring about an energy transformation in India.”
Unilever last week reached a new milestone of 1 million tonnes of CO2 savings since 2008 in its manufacturing network. Already 100% powered by renewables across its US and European operations, the company has ambitions to achieve this globally.
Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, said: "Across our supply chain we are increasingly turning to energy provided by wind, solar and biomass, converting heat from our manufacturing processes into power for our factories. We are on track to reach our target of 40% renewable energy by 2020. Climate change is having a huge impact on the environment and on business […] we are continuing to show that sustainability is a driver for growth, and the only long-term option for business in a volatile world."
Marks & Spencer is already sourcing 100% of its electricity in the UK and Republic of Ireland from renewable sources and is committed to doing so to 2020 and beyond. By this point, it aims to have made considerable energy efficiency improvements, and to be sourcing 50% of its gas from certified green bio-methane sources.
Marks & Spencer’s Director of Sustainable Business Plan A, Mike Barry, said: “Tackling climate change is critical for our business, and for all businesses. We developed Plan A with this in mind – which includes a commitment to sourcing 100 per cent of our directly procured UK and ROI electricity from renewable sources. Joining RE100 gives us an opportunity to share what we have learned and encourage other businesses to switch to renewable energy.”
The Climate Group’s RE100 Campaign Director Emily Farnworth said she expected more multinational companies to follow suit over the coming months, adding: "Science tells us that bold business action is needed to address climate change, and working towards a goal to be 100 per cent powered by renewable energy is one way that companies can make a real difference. With the cost of renewables falling around the world, 100 per cent clean power is increasingly within reach, and businesses are meeting this target more quickly."
Another of the week’s highlights was a keynote speech by French President Hollande at the Business & Climate Summit, in which he called Climate Week Paris a “milestone” moment towards COP21. He also stressed the crucial role of business investment in climate action and low-carbon growth, as the word steams ahead to the UN climate talks.
Meanwhile, finance experts were clear that moving investment portfolios away from fossil fuel assets and into low-carbon, high return rate renewables offers the smartest investment choice.
The ground swell of international businesses taking action demonstrates that this is not simply about doing the right thing, its about doing the best thing for business. This message is critical for policy makers as they enter into the final days of negotiating ahead of the climate talks in Paris.