Life after COP: What’s next for businesses?

The talks are over, the delegates have left and COP26 has closed its doors. But now's not the time for businesses to lose momentum on their sustainability commitments, says Will Kirkpatrick, head of sustainability and social impact at Virgin Media O2.

Life after COP: What’s next for businesses?

For all the talk of last chances during COP26, we’re waking up to a new dawn where sustainability is at the very top of the agenda for business. Of course, some global agreements fell short, like the watering down of the text on phasing out fossil fuels. But from the inside of a leading UK business, it felt like we have reached a tipping point.


The impact of green capital


In recent weeks we have seen a groundswell of movement from policymakers, the finance community and the corporate world that sends out very clear market signals: we are transitioning into a post-carbon economy. There has been a raft of announcements and mechanisms that will allow trillions of dollars of capital into climate-friendly businesses.


While this trend to ‘green capital’, and the surge in ESG investing, has been happening for some time, we’ve now seen stronger commitments from banks. This ups the pressure for action and greater transparency from businesses.


Transforming the way we do business

As we move forward from COP26, business will be won and lost on the basis of how organisations can cut emissions and support the transformation needed across the private and public sector. Over half of FTSE 100 companies now have net-zero targets. And as they look to address their full value chain impacts, supply chains are under immense pressure to decarbonise driven by the demands of business customers. But there is a growing sense that we don’t have time to wait, and businesses need to demonstrate the action they are taking now as well as in the future. As part of that is a focus on adopting and investing in existing technologies that are already at our disposal alongside new innovations.


At Virgin Media O2, we know that digital connectivity is at the cornerstone of the innovation we all need; enabled by a powerful Gigabit and 5G network. If we look back to the Government’s Net Zero strategy, we believe the role of connectivity was underplayed. However, this will not stop the march towards digital and sustainable innovation, where telcos can play an increasingly relevant role.


Building a connected, decarbonised economy


Connectivity will underpin green transformation across sectors – as we move into a world powered by smart grids, smart transport, smart cities and smart manufacturing. This will require partnerships supported by digital and the internet of things. It’s about working together, driving innovation, and accelerating the development of a sustainable horizon for society and the economy.


So, while COP26 has concluded, the work continues. Tomorrow starts today.

Keeping 1.5°C alive: The COP26 summary report for business

Compiled from our first-hand insights and experiences in Glasgow, this report amalgamates and summarises all of the key announcements and business takeaways from every day of COP26 – including notable news stories, video interviews, podcast chats, and an exclusive foreword penned by COP26 President Alok Sharma.

It was billed as the “last-chance saloon” for world leaders to keep global temperature rises to no more than 1.5C above preindustrial levels. Did it deliver?

From the World Leaders Summit on Days 1-2 through to the crucial final 24 hours when the Glasgow Climate Pact was reached – this 24-page document rounds up exactly what happened across all Zones of the COP26 climate summit, with a focus on what this all means for green business. 

Whether you’re a business leader, climate expert, environmental professional, youth activist – or just someone with a passion for all things sustainability and climate action – this document should provide a useful reference point for understanding how COP26 might shape corporate sustainability in the months and years to come.


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