Optimism and Radical Collaboration on the Road to a Zero-Carbon Future
This represents the personal perspectives of two leaders within the B Lab global network, the collection of nonprofit organizations behind Certified B Corporations. In this series, we invite individual B Lab employees and leaders to share their experiences, inspiration, hopes, and challenges as they work toward a more inclusive and regenerative world. This edition of B Lab Voices features Kim Coupounas, who serves as a Global Ambassador for B Lab US & Canada, and Charmian Love, who serves as Chair and Co-Founder of B Lab UK. Together, Kim and Charmian co-chair the B Global Climate Task Force. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 11, 2019, on the floor of the United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP25 in Madrid, Spain, Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency connected by video from the International Space Station (ISS) and spoke directly to the thousands of delegates assembled. As he floated above Earth, with the blue-green hues swirling across the marble-like surface of our planet below, Commander Parmitano made an emotional appeal for world leaders to step up their pace on climate action. “Our planet is incredibly beautiful. We also see its incredible fragility. … I have seen with my own eyes the terrible effects of climate change.” The ISS itself, the largest manned object ever put into space, was built through a historic triumph of international cooperation and knowledge sharing by 16 nations and five space agencies.
That same day, on the same stage at COP25, 533 Certified B Corporations from 33 countries committed to Net Zero by 2030. It was the largest and most aggressive climate commitment to date by a group of businesses — and 20 years ahead of the Paris Agreement 2050 targets.
Both of these are shining examples of what humans can achieve when they are united in purpose and hope.
There are now nearly 800 B Corps committed to Net Zero by 2030. This coalition continues to grow and is leading the way as part of a broader climate mobilization of the global B Corp community. These efforts are leveraging B Corps’ unique credibility as leaders of responsible business practice with the community’s readiness for collective voice and action to play a catalytic, inspirational role in advancing the business sector’s response to the climate emergency. By combining bold community ambitions rooted in justice, amplified through partnerships and collaboration, and accelerated by climate policy advocacy, the global B Corp community is advancing a global transition to a zero-carbon, regenerative economy. B Corps around the world are leaning into their role as “pace-setter” businesses; they’re doing the hard work individually and collectively to press RESET on how business is done and showing others what’s possible as they strive for an equitable, just, and regenerative future for our weary world.
B Corps Vote for Climate Action and Justice
With less than a week before one of the most pivotal U.S. elections in history, it’s important to note that as part of commitments made at COP25, the global B Corp community committed to use the power of its collective voice to advocate for policy changes necessary to align incentives and make investments that will drive the business transformation required to address the climate emergency and ecological breakdown. In alignment with the commitments, B Lab forged a unique partnership with Ceres and its Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) alliance to enable B Corps to engage in meaningful climate advocacy and to work in collaboration to support and advance policies that incentivize meaningful climate solutions and inclusive and sustainable economic behavior to secure the wellbeing of all people and our home planet for future generations. Climate-leading B Corps involved in the B Corp Climate Collective also developed a statement of climate policy principles that guide their climate policy advocacy. Thousands of B Corp leaders are actively doing work to get out the vote, protect election integrity, and advocate for public policies aligned with our vision and principles.
Bold Ambitions for Climate Action
The B Global Climate Task Force, made up of leaders from throughout the B Lab and Sistema B global network of nonprofits, is a strategy group overseeing the global mobilization of B Corporations in response to the climate emergency. This team has set three Bold Ambitions to guide the B Corp community’s strategy and work as we approach COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021.
- Redefine leadership. This includes updating our already rigorous, best-in-class B Corp standards to meet the level and scope of the climate emergency. We’ve also publicly announced that we want to have at least half (more than 1,700 B Corps) of the global B Corp community committed to Net Zero by 2030 by COP26 — and 100% committed to Net Zero no later than 2050. B Lab, the global nonprofit behind B Corps, is also committed to reaching Net Zero by 2030.
- Drive action rooted in climate justice. At the heart of this work, and serving as the engine for best-practice consolidation and sharing, is the B Corp Climate Collective. This global community with local and regional chapters is accelerating the buildout and dissemination of practices that businesses must implement to decarbonize their business models and amplify their voice to advocate for policy change. The Collective is a case study for how the business sector can live into the kind of radical, pre-competitive collaboration that is necessary to stabilize the biosphere and build a just, equitable, and regenerative economy. More than 1,500 active B Corp volunteers around the world are leading this community focused on creating open-source resources, such as the Climate Emergency Playbook for Businesses. The Action Groups tackle specific climate challenges, including greenhouse gas baselining, decarbonization and offsetting, climate policy advocacy, climate justice, regenerative models, employee engagement, sustainable packaging, and more.
- Partner widely. We know we can’t do this work alone, which is why we are thrilled to be working with a range of partners that are allowing us to share and learn with the wider world. These partners include the UNFCCC and Marrakech Partnership, TED Countdown, Oxford University and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Ceres BICEP, the Climate Collaborative, and many many more friends and fellow travellers.
Centering Our Climate Work in Justice
Climate change is profoundly unjust and rooted in both racism and white supremacy. It’s affecting people in far-reaching ways. When climate-related natural disasters strike, they hit poor communities, including the most vulnerable countries and people, the hardest and the fastest. Younger generations will suffer these consequences more greatly than their parents and grandparents. And climate impacts disportionately affect women as well: In many countries, women serve as both providers and caretakers and are more likely to die during disasters than men. Women are often left out of the conversation about adapting to climate change, even though they are sometimes in the best position to provide solutions.
In early 2020, the B Corp Climate Collective forged the Climate Justice Task Force. While early in its work, the task force is focused on centering all climate action and advocacy in climate justice and strengthening related literacy throughout the work of the Collective, B Lab, Sistema B, and the global B Corp community. Climate justice links everything we are doing in addressing the climate emergency to human rights and development, taking a human-centered approach and placing people and equity at the core. It recognizes that those who are least responsible for climate change are most likely to suffer its gravest consequences.
Truth in Action
While these ambitions may sound lofty, they are grounded in the moral imperative to act that B Corps feel deeply and the choices these companies are making every day. Around the world, B Corps are innovating in some pretty radical ways to address the climate emergency.
As Sir David Attenborough said, when it comes to climate change “we cannot be radical enough.”
- In Brazil, Natura has preserved almost 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian rainforest and supported 4,300 small farmers to develop sustainable business models that benefit them as well as the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
- In the U.K., Pukka Herbs, by calculating its Scope 3 emissions, recognized the largest carbon impact is boiling the kettle for its teas. So the company launched a public campaign to encourage tea drinkers to only boil as much as they need. Pukka has been carbon neutral from crop to cup since 2019. The global publication, The Guardian Media Group, has changed its language to recognize the severity of the climate crisis — choosing climate emergency, crisis, or breakdown instead of global warming or climate change — and no longer accepts advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies.
- In Spain, Holaluz is transforming energy production toward a distributed model by providing free solar panels through its Rooftop Revolution program — with the aim of doubling the amount of renewable energy produced.
- The Dutch B Corp Dopper, which makes great water bottles, has moved to a fully circular model with cradle-to-cradle certification.
- Sendle in Australia is a carbon-neutral shipper using wasted space on delivery trucks resulting from next-day deliveries.
- In the U.S., Allbirds has created a Carbon Fund from a self-imposed carbon tax that then funds 100% carbon neutrality through emission-reduction programs. And B Corps Dr. Bronner’s and Patagonia have spearheaded the creation of a Regenerative Organic Certified Standard, recognizing the important role of sequestering carbon into the soil and ecological land management.
- Also in the U.S., companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Burton, Beautycounter, New Belgium Brewing, W.S. Badger, Legacy Vacation Resorts, Patagonia, and many others are standing up for democracy, doing their part to get out the vote and to ensure a safe, accessible, and fair election — while setting a high bar for businesses in civic engagement and leadership.
There are literally hundreds of inspiring stories just like these around the world. These B Corps are using their individual and collective voices and power for real and tangible impact; targeting behavioral, societal, and structural change at scale.
So What’s Next?
There is much work to do on the #RacetoZero, including on the road to COP26 and to 2030. We look forward to racing alongside many of you!
- In November, we will join the UNFCCC for its #RacetoZero November Dialogues hosted by COP high-level climate champions Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz.
- In December, we can anticipate the launch of another wonderful resource, the “Climate Justice Playbook for Business” produced by B Lab, Provoc, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, and numerous climate justice experts. This will be a landscape analysis that will inform a collective learning journey for all B Corps and beyond. We’ll also join with many others to mark the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement, which underpins so much of our work today. Five years have now passed, so let’s double down on our race to zero.
- In April 2021, we will host the first B Corp Global Climate Summit, culminating on Earth Day 2021.
- COP26 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021.
2020 has been a year. A pandemic, systemic racism, societal upheaval, political division, and the devastating impacts of climate change are playing out in the daily headlines throughout the world. As our colleague Hannah Munger says, it’s been a “time of reckoning and resetting, of strained spirits and immense loss, of personal responsibility and collective interdependence.”
The challenges we face go beyond anything we’ve experienced as a species to date. Yet human courage, determination, and ingenuity are vast, renewable resources. With the vision of the just, equitable, and regenerative future we know is possible as our North Star, all we need is to take the leap into the radical collaboration and ambition that this moment demands.
As U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman shared in Earthrise, the time is NOW. NOW. NOW. We need everyone everywhere to join in this #RacetoZero.
Let’s do it. Let’s Get to Zero!
This article shares the insights and updates about the global mobilisation of B Corps to do their part to solve the climate emergency in a recent global webinar, Let’s Get to Zero! — A Global Update on the B Corp Net Zero by 2030 Ambitions and the #RacetoZero by the B Global Climate Task Force (Manuel Conejeros, Kim Coupounas (Co-Chair), Luisa Goldaracena, Mindy Leow, Charmian Love (Co-Chair), Yeliz Mert – B Lab Europe, Hannah Munger, Dan Osusky, Kate Sandle, Daniel Truran, and special guests Laura Vélez Villa, Dr. Ellonda Williams, and Kaya Axelsson) and featuring Gonzalo Muñoz, UN High Level Champion for Climate Action, B Lab Global Board Member, Co-Founder of Sistema B; Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner of Global Optimism, and also a beloved Costa Rican diplomat and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; as well as Paul Polman, Co-Founder of IMAGINE, Former CEO of Unilever, and longtime B Corp Champion.
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