Businesses and Carbon Neutrality: Are they doing all they can? 

In September 2019, IKEA pledged to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030; in that they will produce more renewable energy than they consume. Climate change is perhaps the biggest force to be tackled in our generation, and a number of companies have chosen to follow IKEA’s lead in pushing fora greener world. Today’s article will look at pledges made by several companies and whether or not progress is being made; are they empty promises or is there actually meaningful change already happening amongst some of the world’s biggest contributors to the climate crisis?

Who else, then, has come forward as advocates of climate change? ‘Climate Week in mid-September saw 87 companies -who in total represent 2.3 trillion dollars- pledge to limit global temperature rise to 1.5﮿C per year, aiming for a net emission of zero by 2050. The new wave of pledges to climate change is by no means a unique movement; October 2018 saw 30 of the largest UK based companies make similar pledges, with SSE -the largest energy firm in the UK- making a further 50% reduction to the carbon intensity of its electricity output; already down 75% on 2016’s figures.  

What we can see is a definite intent in lowering emissions and there have been success stories like SSE. Steps have already been taken by many in order to move towards an eco-friendly future. In mid-September Ingka-group -owners of IKEA– bought the majority stakes in 7 windfarms, increasing the number of owned wind turbines to 534, on top of their 1.6 million solar panels worldwide and 26,000 acres of land for reforestation. Some companies such as Unilever -a UK-Dutch business for consumer goods- have made their operations worldwide run off 100% renewable energy. Even small changes show an understanding by large businesses of the necessity of a green future, with smaller companies like Patagonia and Scania closing operations on the days of climate strikes to allow their employees to continue the push for more to join climate action.  

However, there is definite progress to be made in many other areas. For example, a recent Environmental Defence Fund report found that whilst 92% of business leaders believed new technology could contribute to lowering emissions, only 59% of executives are making the necessary investments. Furthermore, an independent report on The Financial Times Stock Exchange Top 100 Companies’ showed that whilst 85% proposed reductions in carbon emissions, this will not be enough to limit global warming to safe levels. A mere 10% of the Top 100 pledged to achieve carbon neutrality. 

What can be said is that globally, companies are still in the process of realising the impact they can have in lowering the threat of climate change. Many have already begun to make fundamental changes and set an example of what can be achieved. On the other hand, the largest companies in the world are still lacking change that has been trialled and shown to be effective. Overall, the intent to make meaningful change exists amongst the leaders of the climate change movement, but larger firms still need to make bigger commitments that can be achieved.

[Mitchell Welsh – he/him]

[image: IKEA]

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