Majority of products to be low-carbon within a decade, say firms with science-based targets

The majority of executives at global corporations which are leading the transition to a low-carbon economy believe most of their company’s branded products or services will be classed as low-carbon by 2028, new research has revealed.

The latest figures from YouGov reveal that 52% of chief executives from 185 firms in the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTI), which include KPN, Royal Philips and Lidl Belgium, think more than half of their goods and services will “cause a relatively small net release of CO2 into the atmosphere” within the next 10 years. All respondents to the survey were chief executives or C-suite executives.

The companies surveyed have already set, or have committed to set, science-based targets to cut emissions in line with the rates required to keep global warming below 2C. As part of these commitments, almost one-fifth (19%) of respondents claimed 100% of their product range would be low-carbon within the same timeframe.

The CDP’s global director of corporations and supply chains, Dexter Galvin, said the responses serve as “remarkable” evidence that a “tipping point” in the shift to a green economy is on the horizon.

“Companies are increasingly aware of the risks of dangerous climate change and the business opportunities in taking action,” Galvin said.

“This study shows that companies putting science at the heart of their environmental ambitions are already feeling the benefits.”

The research found that the most common reason for setting such a goal was boosting brand reputation, while 29% of respondents claimed that the aim had delivered bottom-line savings to their business and 63% said it had helped to spur green innovation within their firms.

Mars pledged $1bn towards its science-based target last year, and global vice president of sustainability, Kevin Rabinovitch, said that setting approved targets in line with the Paris Agreement had enabled the food and drink manufacturer to “go beyond incremental improvements” and make larger emissions reductions than it would have done otherwise.

“If every company, community and government set science-based targets, the cumulative result would enable us to live within the planet’s boundaries,” Rabinovitch added.

The new normal?

The research found that 65% of respondents chose environmental challenges as one of the biggest trends affecting business growth in the next five years, second only to technological change and ahead of economic policy.

Climate challenges have so far spurred 111 companies, including L’OrealIKEA, and Electrolux, to set SBTI-verified goals aligning to 2C, while TescoBT and Carlsberg remain the only three corporations to have received verification for more ambitious goals in line with a 1.5C trajectory. 

Meanwhile, more than 300 other corporates have committed to set an approved science-based target on one of these trajectories, including real estate giant JLL, which last month announced its intentions to set an SBTI-approved goal by 2020 after surpassing its sustainability goals three years early.

UN Global Compact, which runs the initiative alongside CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF, has stated that science-based targets are rapidly becoming the “new normal” for businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Sarah George

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