2020's New Year resolution Net zero?

The month of January almost inescapably prompts reflection on personal goals and aspirations for the year ahead. However, the new year doesn’t just provide an opportunity for individuals to lay out their goals, but firms too.

For half a century, the Swiss Alps have provided a backdrop for some of the world’s biggest firms to – among other things – set out their vision of the role of business. An assortment of the ‘Global Elite’ take to the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss major societal challenges, and what business could – and should – do about them.

This year, as expected, climate change featured prominently. With this topic high on the agenda, the event’s organisers wrote to corporate participants calling on them to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier. Several companies used the conference to announce their plans to limit their respective environmental impacts even further. Among them was Microsoft: the global software giant publicly committed to become carbon negative – meaning it will remove more carbon than it emits – by 2030.

Investors also used Davos as an chance to urge the companies they own to do more on climate change, with BlackRock setting environmental sustainability as a core goal for its portfolio companies. Societal pressure also loomed large with Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg in attendance, while Prince Charles called for business leaders to “lead the world out of the approaching catastrophe into which we have engineered ourselves”.

While not in Davos this January, the IoD has been considering its own climate impacts and how to support members wanting to do business more sustainably.

Previously, in our Policy Voice surveys and at events, we have found great appetite for this among IoD members, with widespread agreement that business has a crucial role to play in promoting sustainability. Reflecting this, our recent Corporate Governance Manifesto set out concrete measures to help facilitate this, such as harmonising reporting climate standards.

As part of the IoD’s growing commitment to recognising Sustainability as one of the leading issues affecting business today, we are proud to have launched our Sustainable Business campaign in November 2019, with the aim of expanding the resources we offer across this important and varied topic area.

For society at large, net zero is likely to be one of the most sought-after goals for many years to come. In the year ahead, it may be worth considering what that means for your own organisation.

Visit our Sustainable Business hub for more content throughout the coming months, or email the policy team to offer your views on the topic.

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