3 December 2019

COP26: Companies, partners or enemies of the climate?

COP26: Companies, partners or enemies of the climate?

The COP26 in Glasgow will open this Sunday 31 October in the presence of many heads of state. However, the role of business in the negotiations and in climate action is also major. While some are already betting on the failure of this major summit, business movements are mobilising. Their objective is to raise the ambition of a possible final agreement at the COP.

The Impact France Movement is the voice of companies committed to the climate, and will be present at COP26. Alongside the employee groups formed by the Collectives, the leaders of Impact France will defend their vision. For them, it is a tool for the preservation and regeneration of human and ecological capital. Before the COP, what do we think about the role of companies in climate negotiations? What are the mechanisms at work? And how can companies get involved in a positive dynamic for the climate?  

COP and business, between lobbying and commitments

A little historical diversions: here we are in Rio in 1992. The occasion? The Earth Summit: the third major summit bringing together almost all the heads of state. On the agenda: climate change, biodiversity and forest management. It was at this major climate meeting that the UNFCCC was signed. This is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This convention is now the framework for the COP, Conference of Parties . To understand: the conference of the parties to the convention. Since the first COP in Berlin in 1995, companies have joined the climate negotiations.

Business, a historic anti-climate lobby  

Historically, the contribution of large multinational companies to climate negotiations has been rather negative. Multinational companies organise themselves on a sectoral basis to form a strong interest group. For example, the tobacco industry mobilised in the 1950s when cigarettes were accused of being carcinogenic. It is now known that the industry funds scientific studies to provide misinformation.  

Coming back to the climate, the giants are also organising themselves effectively. The major oil majors are grouping together to protect their interests. In the journal Global Environmental Change, historians and sociologists Christophe Bonneuil and Pierre-Louis Choquet show this. Here they study how the majors manage to create doubt about climate change. During the COPs, as in Rio in 1992, this climatosceptic ideology is spread to the states and the press.

Since then, the struggle of these large companies to slow down the agreements and the climate ambition remains. At the same time, the urgency of the climate change issue is also becoming apparent and is leading to the adoption of a global green agenda.  

From the SDGs to the Paris Agreements, the start of business for climate

In contrast to the business lobby against the climate, another entrepreneurial movement has been set in motion thanks to the work of the IPCC. Thus, despite the lobbies, the IPCC has made it possible to disseminate the climate emergency to a large part of civil society and also to economic leaders. This was the beginning of CSR: limiting the negative externalities (social and environmental) of companies. The first CSR initiatives, whose effects were often limited to the scale of the company's transformation, nonetheless made it possible to anchor corporate responsibility for the climate and the environment.  

This turning point in CSR has in particular enabled the major consultation process around the SDGs: the Sustainable Development Goals. The business world was indeed consulted by the United Nations in the context of the climate negotiations. Thanks to this, the SDGs can form a shared framework between states, companies and NGOs.  

Adopted in 2015 with the support of committed businesses, the SDGs serve to further structure a movement. Indeed, the economy is adapting to climate and social development issues.  

At COP21, companies are involved in the discussions on the Paris Agreements. It is on their actions that the achievement of the climate objectives set by the States depends. The role of companies in reducing greenhouse gases is clearly established.  

Sustainable Development Goals, drafted with Climate Friendly Companies

Since COP21, companies are committed to the climate

Since 2015 and the COP21 which put climate issues on the agenda, committed companies are sometimes at the forefront of the fight against climate change. CSR has in fact moved within companies to become part of the global strategy. This decompartmentalisation makes it possible to give full scope to policies to reduce negative externalities.  

One example is L'Oréal, where Alexandra Palt, who created the CSR department more than 20 years ago, is now Vice President of the group. She has led a real reflection and action to transform the company: internal practices, product packaging and the origin of ingredients...  

This transformation of business practices has also been accompanied by a proliferation of initiatives. Business coalitions such as Global Compact, the Carbon Business Leadership coalition and Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy are proliferating. In France, this is also demonstrated by coalitions such as 10% for change, Comité 21 or C3D: the College of Sustainable Development Directors.  

More concretely, and beyond the commitments to the climate, we are seeing a multiplication of actions. The relocation of the textile industry in France is a good example, with key players such as 1083, Résilience and French underwear recreating jobs and skills while reducing the environmental impact of textile production, which is normally extremely polluting.  

Without being totally reversed, the lobbying movement has moved from a radically climate-sceptic logic to a more contrasted and plural message from actors with different interests mixing opportunism, convictions and double messages. To untangle all this, movements that defend coherent business models that make a positive contribution to the climate and society are being created, such as the Impact France Movement.

The business climate movement

The Impact France Movement is in fact the opposite of CSR, which aims to limit negative externalities. For Forbes, Caroline Neyron, Managing Director, observes this trend: "Many companies, for reasons of citizenship and economics, want to transform themselves. At the Mouvement Impact France, we offer them the opportunity to progress along this path and to make their company a tool for the transition.  

This movement of companies today carries the voice of 7,500 companies that believe that the ecological (and social!) transition is an opportunity for business and for their overall positive impact. They are pushing ambitious proposals at the political level to bring all companies into this transformation dynamic.  

What about the companies at COP26?

At COP26 in Glasgow, business will not be absent. If, as at every international summit, the lobbies will be present, this other committed movement will also be there. Eva Sadoun, co-president of the Impact France Movement will be there to represent this committed economy. She will focus in particular on showing that employees and managers can act together to transform their model and thus initiate the ecological transition of their company.  

The Collectifs and Impact France will be at the COP to remind that taking into account climate change concerns all corporate stakeholders and that each of these stakeholders is committed to ecological transformation. Together with Barbara Pompili, French Minister of Ecological Transition and Emmanuel Faber (ex-CEO of Danone), Eva Sadoun and Quentin Bordet will carry the message of companies committed to the climate. That is to say that the climate emergency requires ambitious global political action, and businesses are demanding it.  

Company committed to the climate? Join the first business and lobbying network that promotes the ecological and social transition!

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