60 FTSE 100 companies pledge net zero by 2050 on the 5th day of COP26

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Britain is once again showing itself as a leader in terms of a global shift towards net zero emissions, with over half of the UK’s largest businesses committing to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by 2050, representing a total market capital of over £1.2 trillion and combined annual turnover of £700 billion. The UK government is calling on the global private sector to follow the UK’s example and join the UN Race to Zero,

Globally, over 5,200 companies of all sizes have now joined the UN Race to Zero, representing sectors like transport, technology, manufacturing, retail, and finance. Nearly half of these are British businesses, with the UK private sector demonstrating international leadership in global efforts to tackle climate change.

As these businesses are demonstrating, taking action to tackle climate change does not need to be at the expense of a growing economy – between 1990 and 2019, the UK’s economy grew by 78% while carbon emissions fell by 44%, the fastest reduction in the G7. It seems taking action on climate change will help businesses grow, seize new opportunities, create new jobs, encourage investment and adapt against the challenges of a changing planet, all while reducing running costs, saving them money, and attracting new customers, ultimately helping them maintain a competitive advantage locally and globally.

Similar ideas are explored in Paul Hawken’s ‘The ecology of commerce’, which – already renounced for being ahead of its time – is once again proving accurate in regards to it being in Businesses best interests to become green. His book is mentioned in this article on waste.

In November 2020, Boris Johnson appointed Andrew Griffith as the UK’s Net Zero Business Champion to support the country’s business community in making credible plans to net zero by 2050 or earlier. In his role, Mr Griffith works closely with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and COP26 President Alok Sharma to encourage as many UK businesses as possible to commit to net zero targets.

Key FTSE 100 companies making the commitment

GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical industry company, recently announced a research and development programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are committed to using 100% renewable electricity by 2025, with major solar and wind energy investments in the UK and US.

National Grid has reduced its emissions by 70% and has committed to reaching Net Zero by 2050 through actions such as converting its global fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. By 2025, it will have 8GW of interconnector capacity between the UK and Europe and estimates this will prevent around 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions between now and 2030.

Sainsbury’s has cut its carbon footprint by 47% in the last 17 years despite its property increasing by over 40%. To further cut emissions, Sainsbury’s will install 100% LED lighting across its supermarkets by the end of this year, reducing lighting energy consumption by 70% and store energy consumption by 20%. This follows an extensive financial investment of £320 million in the past ten years, funding more than 3,100 sustainable initiatives.

SSE, a multinational energy company, is investing £7.5billion in low-carbon energy and electricity projects, including building the world’s largest offshore windfarm in Dogger Bank, off the coast of Yorkshire. It is also investing in Scotland’s largest windfarm in Seagreen off the coast of Angus, and one of Europe’s most productive onshore windfarms in Viking on the Shetland Islands, supporting thousands of jobs and creating opportunities.

Closing remarks

This news marks a huge and much needed shift in the private sector towards reducing climate change, however, this progressive step will be no where near sufficient unless the global private sector spread across other developed countries follow in the UK’s footsteps. This however is a lot more likely than it seems as, as the UK firms which have taken the plunge have greatly benefitted, it seems that the most profitable business model for businesses amid this ensuing crisis is to be more green.

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