Multinational companies across sectors have a vital role to play in building a sustainable, thriving economy that equitably benefits society. Over the past decade, there’s been a rise in corporate ambition to facilitate needed change.

Still, this is not happening at the scale and pace necessary to limit the worst impacts of climate change. Companies must incorporate sustainable and equitable business practices across their entire value chains now to ensure a resilient and prosperous future for all.

Systemic problems require systemic change. Here’s how companies can accelerate solutions:

Set Science-Based Targets

Science-based targets (SBTs) — actionable, measurable and timebound objectives — provide companies with a defined pathway for reducing emissions, protecting the global commons (air, water, land, biodiversity and ocean) and operating within planetary boundaries. By setting SBTs in partnership with the Science Based Targets initiative and the Science Based Targets Network, businesses can manage their footprint and:

  • Increase the confidence of their investors, parent companies and other stakeholders.
  • Improve their medium-to-long-term profitability.
  • Get ahead of regulation and policy changes.
  • Strengthen their brand reputation among consumers, employees and society.
  • Catalyze innovation that’s good for the planet and for business.

Join the 1,600+ companies that are already taking action with the SBTi and participate in the SBTN corporate engagement program.

Adopt Sustainable and Equitable Business Models

A global economic system that enables human and environmental well-being is possible. Creating this system and meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow requires companies to adopt sustainable and equitable business models. The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) brings leaders together from across business, government and civil society to develop a collective agenda and drive ambitious action.

A circular economy is an integral part of the needed transformation. In contrast to a traditional “take-make-waste” linear model, the circular economy offers businesses with a way to:

  • Decouple business success from finite resource use.
  • Prevent economic activity that causes damage to human health and natural systems. 
  • Keep products and materials in use.
  • Reduce waste and pollution.
PACE Circular Economy Action Agenda - Food, Electronics, Textiles, Plastics, Capital Equipment
PACE Circular Economy Action Agendas (Food, Electronics, Textiles, Plastics, Capital Equipment)

 

In addition to finding new ways of doing business, companies must consider the impacts their operations and business models have on the people in their supply chains. Companies can start by:

  • Prioritizing gender and social equity.
  • Identifying the people who are (or will be) affected directly or indirectly by a new business model.
  • Gathering information about the effects and the opportunities to maximize benefits for direct and indirect stakeholders.  
  • Developing metrics and targets for positive social effects.

Address Unchecked Consumption 

Our economic system is designed to extract natural resources, use them and throw them away. The rate at which society is consuming resources has tripled since 1970. If business as usual continues, consumption could double again by 2060.

Infographic - each year we throw away 300 million tons of plastic, 50 million tons of electronic waste, 1/3 of all food produced. Creating a circular economy offers a $4.5 trillion economic opportunity by: avoiding waste, stimulating business growth, creating job opportunities.

Instead, companies must determine how to de-link business success from materials consumption, and then implement this strategy across its business cycle: design, innovation, manufacturing, distribution, brand and marketing. WRI’s global network of experts, research and data can collaborate with companies to facilitate this transition.

Image Credit: Easswar Kalyan / Pixahive