Microsoft, Starbucks, Unilever amongst new corporate net-zero alliance

With net-zero commitments from nations

Called ‘Transform to Net-Zero’, the initiative is being supported by Maersk, Danone, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Natura & Co, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever and Wipro.

It will see each of the businesses accelerate the delivery of their existing climate targets, set stronger targets in the long-term and embed sustainability within their corporate strategy, upping investment in climate-related risk management and disclosure; the procurement of sustainably-sourced materials, and low-carbon innovation.

Transform to Net-Zero members have also vowed to deliver “robust emissions reduction and removal” across their value chains, working with suppliers and consumers to pilot low-carbon processes and natural climate solutions.

The ultimate aim is to create business models which are fully aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory. Such business models must ensure a “just” transition, in which the upfront costs are not disproportionately felt by marginalised communities and in which these communities feel the benefits of climate actions sooner.

“We will help enable conditions needed to achieve effective, just, and sustainable climate solutions for people of all gender, race, or skills,” the initiative’s declaration states.

Beyond their own operations, the businesses will seek to improve the quality and availability of research data on business alignment with net-zero. Should they develop or contribute to tools designed to help other organisations reduce their environment, they should make them available to all.  

Transform to Net-Zero also requires members to engage with policymakers and trade associations to lobby for legislation which will accelerate progress towards net-zero – whether the legislation is directly applicable to their sector or not.

Global nonprofit BSR will serve as the secretariat for Transform to Net-Zero, working to ensure that members are abiding by the declaration. The Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) is also providing support.

“The gap between where we are on climate change and where we need to be continues to widen; so does the gap between businesses that just talk about action and those that are actually getting the job done,” EDF president Fred Krupp said.

“This new initiative holds tremendous potential for closing these gaps, especially if other businesses follow in the coalition’s footsteps, leading by example and using the most powerful tool that companies have for fighting climate change: their political influence.”

Net-zero transition

Many of the Transform to Net-Zero members have already set their own net-zero targets.

Microsoft itself is aiming to become carbon-negative by 2030, having operated on a carbon-neutral basis since 2012. The firm will halve emissions across its operations and supply chains within the next decade, while investing to offset an equivalent greater than the remaining emissions. It will then work to remove the equivalent of all carbon emitted since it was founded in 1975 by 2050.

Starbucks is similarly aiming to have a net-positive environmental impact in the long-term. Its updated sustainability strategy includes 2030 targets to halve carbon emissions, water use and waste sent to landfill.

Maersk, meanwhile, is targeting net-zero by 2050; Natura & Co by 2030; Unilever by 2039 and Nike by 2050. That leaves Danone and Wipro, both of which have committed to setting 1.5C-aligned emissions targets within the next 24 months.

The formation of Transform to Net Zero comes amid warnings that the world will be locked into warming of more than 1.5C unless Covid-19 recovery efforts from businesses and nations are aligned with a net-zero trajectory.

Sarah George

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