Policies should push companies beyond compliance, says new Corporate Leaders Group director

EXCLUSIVE: Policymakers should foster the creative thinking shown by the private sector in order to "unleash new business models and new motivations" that will act as catalysts to allow business to evolve beyond compliance mindsets.

That is the view of the new director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), Jill Duggan, who has called on policy makers to enable a “fundamental shift in attitude” to take place across all sectors in order to collaboratively push towards the goals established at last year’s Paris Climate Accord.

“I don’t think business success is a result of Paris, but rather that Paris is a result of the business success,” Duggan told edie shortly after her new appointment was announced. “The business movement, prior to the event, has provided bottom-up learning. One of the reasons Paris was such a success was because governments and business knew what to do and how to do it already.

“Post-Paris is an interesting time. Other countries are embarking on this process of implementing policies that will bring them in line with their Paris pledges, so again, that experience from companies that have been at the forefront of this movement, and have learnt hard way, will create real opportunities. There’s a chance to share both tough and good advice to enable companies and countries to leapfrog the difficulties that we’ve encountered in Europe, but also to give them confidence.”

Fostering creativity

Duggan, who previously worked as a senior associate for the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), replaces outgoing CLG director Sandrine Dixson-Declève. Under her new role, Duggan will oversee CLG’s drive to advocate ambitious climate action alongside a group of 24 members, including BT, Unilever and Philips, collectively worth more than £115bn in revenue generating capabilities.

Having previously worked at both the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Duggan is now keen for the UK and the European Union – which CISL provides secretariat for as part of the Green Growth Platforms – to move on from the “leap forward” it established at Paris in order to allow companies to embrace more creative ways of thinking.

But with national policies set to create a “turbulent” future for the renewables industry, Duggan has urged policy makers to establish a political landscape that will allow for businesses to evolve in order to thrive in a low-carbon economy.

“Progressive business in Europe has really taken a leap forward in their thinking on decarbonisation and how to build businesses in a low-carbon economy and I think business are ahead of the game and are ahead of policy makers,” Duggan said.

“If you look at the history of policy, it’s quite natural that when doing something new, there will be missteps along the way and these will have unintended consequences. Europe has led the way when starting these policies but also in addressing some of the missteps and trying to correct them.

“One of the most important things that we’ve learnt is that actually fostering creative thinking of companies will allow us to think about the businesses and industries of the future rather than thinking about decarbonising the businesses of today. We need to help them evolve into new businesses rather than looking at what we have now. This will require a fundamental shift in attitude and we need policy makers to foster this shift.

“The opportunities are there and various things can happen with domestic policy in the UK to help bring those businesses that perhaps aren’t at the forefront to begin moving into this space. Companies want to survive and thrive, and this is the area where policy makers need to step back and join-up across departments to create holistic and systemic change.”

Compliance mentality

Two areas that Duggan believes will shape this collaborative approach, is the development of a carbon price alongside the growing influence of the Internet of Things (IoT) concept. With companies ready to investigate the potential of an internal carbon price, Duggan feels that these two concepts could enable more creative thinking while simultaneously lowering carbon output and business costs.

“I think we recognise that IoT will play a huge role in how we change our economies, but there are some barriers to overcome in regards to infrastructure,” Duggan added. “We’ve also seen that cutting carbon will cut costs and some companies are beginning to use CO2 as a metric globally. This wouldn’t have happened 15-20 years ago, so we need to remember how far we’ve come and we’ve learnt that looking at carbon in our companies is a very good way to judge efficiency.

“If you look at how transform a business into a zero-emissions business then these concepts can unleash a huge amount creativity, new business models and new motivations, but I think those who engage with the debate sooner rather than later will get more benefits. The compliance mentality from businesses is beginning to evolve, leading to a much more creative way of thinking to help shape the future.”

Matt Mace

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