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Thursday 17 December, 2015


COP21: An Unmissable Opportunity In The Fight Against Climate Change

Last week a historic global milestone was reached in Paris as the first ever universal climate agreement was made during the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP21). The conference presented an opportunity for us to hold the third roundtable in our Rethinking Business event series to discuss shared challenges and possible solutions to the issue of climate change.

Together with the Financial Times and the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, we gathered business leaders and policy influencers to discuss what role the business community needs to play to ensure the collaborative effort continues well beyond COP21. Hosted by Andrew Jack from Financial Times and Hubert Patricot, our European President, the main themes coming out of the discussion were: 

Non-state actors are now recognised as playing an increasingly important role. Increased commitments by the business sector (and the full range of non-state actors) to sustainability have contributed greatly to this. As François Moisan, Director of ADEME noted, the UN's NAZCA database – which registers commitments to climate action by companies, cities, subnational regions, and investors to address climate change – now lists more than 10,700 commitments from various companies, regional governments, city councils, and others. 

Forward-looking businesses need to bring their partners into the fold to ensure a bottom-up wave of support for the agreements made at COP21, rather than the limited 'top-down' approach that we saw following Copenhagen. It was noted that a majority of businesses still fail to act on climate change, and exhibit a lack of ownership of the societal problems caused by emissions and pollution. 

We need to find new ways to inspire action from companies who currently fear a low-carbon circular economy. Three things will be key: providing greater awareness of breakthrough technology; unlocking finance for energy-intensive industries to ensure their ability to invest in new technologies; and simplifying the often-complicated language used around COP. 

Considering how to hold contributors accountable to the commitments they have made will be a crucial next step. Chris Hood, President of European Operations for Kellogg’s, noted that 'shaming' could discourage bolder commitments or encourage "small, incremental ones that they know they can deliver, because they're afraid of being punished." WhileSandrineDixson-Declève, Director of the EU Office for the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, argued that it is vital to avoid letting 'perfect' be the enemy of 'good' as this could deter companies from joining the low-carbon cause. 

A new wave in entrepreneurial activity is occurring. This is not only in new enterprise. Indeed, politicians and non-state actors alike must constantly re-invent themselves, in order to match new trends and economic indicators which will doubtlessly arise as the world is re-wired to focus beyond GDP and profit.

At the end of the discussion, however, one key question remained: Are there enough businesses lining up to take action and tackle climate change?  

Our participants had differing views on this matter but one thing that we can be confident of going forward is that the positive Paris agreement will ensure this tipping point is reached in the future, helping us to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.

You can read a fuller report of the session here or watch a short video of the viewpoints of some of the attendees at the top of the page.

The full list of dinner attendees:  

- Andrew Jack, Head of Curated Content, Financial Times

- Hubert Patricot, President, Europe Group, Coca-Cola Enterprises

- Joe Franses, Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Enterprises

- Michael Alexander, Head of Water, Environment and Agriculture Sustainability, Diageo

- Bruno Berthon, Global Managing Director, Accenture Cross Industry Strategy M&A, Digital Strategy, Sustainability and Managing Director, Accenture Strategy France & BeNeLux

- April Crow, Global Director, Environment & Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company

- Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Director, The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group

- Nina Ekelund, Programme Director, Haga Initiative

- Gerben Jan Gerbrandy, Member, European Parliament

- Chris Hood, President, Kellogg Europe

- Philippe Joubert , Chair, Prince of Wales’s EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change

- Lila Karbassi, Head, Environment and Climate, UN Global Compact Office

- Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group

- Francois-Michel Lambert, Green MP and President, Circular Economy Institute

- Eric Maucort, Deputy Vice President, Sustainable Development, EDF

- François Moisan, Executive Director, ADEME

- Véronique Morali, Chairman of Fimalac Developpement, Vice-Chairman, Fitch Group, Inc, and Non-Executive Director, Coca-Cola Enterprises

- Juan Ramon Silva Ferrada, Chief Sustainability Officer, Acciona          

- Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Medical Officer, BUPA

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