“We need bold business aspiration if we’re to achieve net-zero emissions”

Like Virgin Racing’s Race Against Climate Change programme, Virgin Unite is a foundation helping to create a positive impact. It’s ‘B-Team’, has recently unveiled a new report – Progress Towards Net-Zero by 2050: Challenges, Trends and Teamwork – showcases key business commitments that are taking positive action on climate change.

Throughout the report The B Team assess achievements, share challenges, and provide examples for businesses considering the journey to net-zero.

‘Progress Towards Net-Zero by 2050’ highlights a recurring B Team message – that individual action from companies is not enough – and that to build the net-zero economy by 2050, companies need to commit to working and learning together.

“This B Team progress report is a small contribution to demonstrating what we have learned as part of our commitment to a just transition to net-zero by 2050,” comments Mary Robinson a Co-Chair of the programme’s Working Group. “By sharing our experience and progress to date we aim to inspire other business leaders to undertake their own net-zero journeys.”

B Team companies working towards net-zero are from a diverse set of industries, each facing unique challenges and opportunities – though in spite of this diversity, common challenges can be identified.

The report identifies nine key challenges – some can be solved within a company’s own operations – yet most require that a company go beyond their four walls and work in partnership with other actors. Taken together, the following challenges (and the responses to them) build a picture of how the whole economy can transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050…

Challenge 1: Planning engaging and implementing – setting an emissions reductions strategy. An often overlooked stage of the corporate journey to net-zero is the planning process a company undertakes to kick off the journey. Each of the B Team companies have developed customised strategies that match the character, mission and culture of their business.

Challenge 2: Doing more with less – driving efficiency throughout the business. Across the board, B Team companies working towards net-zero must lower their emissions by reducing the amount of resources needed to produce the same amount of products and services, or the same revenue.

Challenge 3: Cleaning up our energy supply. 2016 represented a record rise in renewable energy capacity installed, up 10 per cent on 2015, and also delivered yet further decline in the price. Solar PV costs alone have reduced 85 percent over 7 years, out-competing fossil fuels in many regions of the world. Yet it remains the case that cleaning up an entire company’s energy supply continues to be an immense challenge, especially for heavy-emitting sectors such as power, cement, chemicals and steel.

Challenge 4: Reducing emissions in supply chains. B Team companies know that to achieve a net-zero economy, companies must go beyond reducing emissions in their own operations and seek innovative ways to influence the indirect emissions generated by suppliers as well.

Challenge 5: Building a net-zero world through our products. Companies have the opportunity to reduce their indirect emissions further by considering the emissions from the use and disposal of their products. Doing so requires innovation and investment, but, as many B Team companies have found, can also lead to new business opportunities and competitive advantage.

Challenge 6: Empowering boards of directors to effectively govern a company’s transition to net-zero. Climate change poses material risks and opportunities to every business, and therefore requires full board-level oversight.

Challenge 7: Making the right investments for the net-zero economy. One of the paramount challenges in transitioning the global economy to net-zero emissions remains that trillions worth of public and private money is still invested in high-carbon industries.

Challenge 8: Ensuring we make a just transition. Although B Team companies are confident that a transition to a net-zero economy is possible, the outcome of the transition for those currently excluded from prosperity in the current economy is far from certain.

Challenge 9: Encouraging transformative policy. The majority of businesses today cannot reach net-zero without overcoming political and systemic challenges that define the status quo of today’s economy.

When analysing these challenge types, it becomes evident that no one company is going to pull off a just transition to net-zero without collaboration, though as stated by Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group, there is reason to be positive. “This report marks another important milestone in our battle against climate change. I’m happy to see so many companies taking a positive and proactive approach to safeguard our planet for generations to come. We need more businesses to use the examples here as inspiration to change their own businesses for good.”

This article was first published on in February 2018 and is used with their full consent.