Companies stepped up on climate change in 2017. In 2018, they need to bring countries with them. 

It is fantastic that there are now more than 300 companies committed to set science-based targets to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Hundreds of others have committed to use 100 percent renewable energy, put a price on carbon and lobby for strong climate policies. 

To address climate change, however, business leaders will ultimately need more supportive policies from governments. They will need to inspire and support greater ambition in the countries where they source their materials and produce and sell their products.

Drawing on a joint playbook that WRI developed with UN Global Compact, here are three ways business leaders can inspire national climate action in 2018:

1. Show up and speak up.

Between now and the next climate negotiations (December 3-14, 2018), companies should showcase their support for climate action in at least two high-profile settings. 

In the United States this year, for example, CEOs published letters in the Wall Street Journal and called the White House in support of the Paris Agreement. Many business leaders from around the world showed up at the global climate negotiations last month in Germany to explain why they want national and international policies and investments to advance climate change solutions. These calls for action must continue to get louder.

When, where and how might your CEO push for climate action in 2018?  Circle these dates now, as they will be prime opportunities to highlight your company’s leadership next year:

2. Make your corporate climate goals relevant to countries’ climate goals.

Develop short fact sheets for target countries to illustrate how more ambitious national policies will help your company achieve its goals (such as support for renewable energy, climate adaptation, etc.). See, for example, the infographic Ikea developed to illustrate its climate policy priorities.

Businesses and governments must do more to make their climate goals mutually relevant and reinforcing. When national governments explicitly reference the private sector in their climate commitments to the Paris Agreement (called “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs), it helps direct climate-smart investment and corporate action. When companies articulate how their emissions-cutting efforts will support those NDCs, they encourage smarter government policy and greater ambition.

3. Meet the ministers.

Next, take those fact sheets to decision-makers in relevant government departments and ministries (trade, finance, agriculture, transportation, etc.).  

These meetings can help break down silos within and between governments, leading to a more cohesive policy framework. Ministries will need to be in close coordination if countries are to realize the huge economic rewards of climate action.

For example, according to the IFC, a majority of countries highlight renewable energy in their NDCs, but less than half include transportation. Far fewer reference energy storage or water policy, both of which could be essential to your company's success in future growth markets. Meetings with ministers who manage these aspects of a country’s infrastructure can lead to a policy framework that is more helpful to your company’s climate goals.

Climate Action Opportunity

# of NDCs

Current Global Market

Renewable energy


$297 billion

Energy-efficient buildings


$388 billion

Waste management


$160 billion

Smart urban transportation


$288 billion

Water conservation and reuse


$23 billion

Energy storage


$2.5 billion

A tip: if you are struggling to line up meetings with the right ministers, team up with other like-minded businesses, perhaps through trade associations or action platforms. Government ministers, who are setting priorities for economic growth, trade and other issues of national importance, value the private sector’s perspective and may be eager to meet with a group of companies that can speak to the needs of their industry.

Pushing Harder in 2018

Your company has an open invitation to push harder for climate action in 2018. In November 2017, the UN Secretary General addressed CEOs at the international climate talks and said: “I’m asking you to misbehave…” He urged business leaders to innovate and disrupt “business-as-usual.” He welcomed them to support stronger policies and aggressive investments. And he pointed them to the business-government playbook.

Now it’s time to get started.

Special acknowledgement to our summer intern, Neha Joseph, for her research contributions to WRI’s work on private sector signals in the NDCs.