Beyond Net-Zero: Setting a path for true corporate climate leadership

Posted on April, 27 2022

As climate impacts accelerate worldwide, businesses can support the huge societal shifts needed by showing true leadership. WWF’s Beyond Net-Zero guidance shows the way, writes Milan Kooijman, Climate Business Expert at WWF.
We are at a defining moment in the fight to tackle climate change. To limit warming to 1.5°C and avoid the most catastrophic impacts for people and nature, we must implement far reaching and unprecedented changes across society. The science is clear that the next few years are crucial, as the risks of climate change and nature loss are quickly becoming too much to bear.

The corporate sector has a central role to play by rapidly reducing their emissions in line with climate science. Companies are facing increased pressure from shareholders, customers, investors, regulators and civil society organisations to act on sustainability. As the impacts of climate change accelerate, these pressures will only ramp up, requiring business to take decisive action. 

The need to go Beyond

It’s now or never. We need companies to support society in realising this huge transition in ways that extend beyond their own immediate supply chains. Climate leadership should be measured by the actions companies take to reduce their impact and support people and nature. Many solutions already exist to address emissions within a company’s value chain, many of which make good business sense and can create opportunities to reduce costs and boost their reputation. 

Reducing emissions and supporting climate adaptation efforts will result in considerable benefits to society, ranging from reduced air pollution, improved human health, fully decarbonised energy systems and production processes, sustainable and fulfilling consumption patterns, sustainable agricultural practices, reduced biodiversity loss and the creation of sustainable cities. 

But the longer we hold back on putting all our efforts towards 1.5°C, the more we will need to adapt. The challenge is immense as companies in various sectors must rethink the way they do business and decouple value creation from value growth. Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions need to be balanced with reducing other environmental impacts and doing so in an equitable way. 

Luckily there are signs of hope. We are seeing a massive increase in the number of companies setting emission reduction targets in line with the Science Based Targets initiative. We also see companies starting to decouple their emissions from their business growth. 

To continue to speed up the transition and build on the Blueprint for Corporate Action on Climate and Nature, WWF and our corporate partners have continued thinking about what true corporate climate leadership looks like. In collaboration with WWF’s Climate Business Network, this project aims to further support companies in their sustainability journey and provide guidance that can support ambitious and substantiated corporate claims. We call it ‘Beyond Net-Zero’.

What corporate climate leadership looks like

Our Beyond Net-Zero guidance explains how businesses can become climate leaders and maximise their contribution to limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C. This is done by halving their emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Beyond this, the company should finance and support additional climate and nature solutions within and beyond their value chain, engage responsibly and actively in climate policy, collaborate with other companies and stakeholders and enable and inspire customers.

The work to address climate change should not happen in isolation of other activities. Climate action should be part of a holistic approach addressing sustainability and social impacts in connection to the overall business strategy. It is crucial to engage all levels and segments of a business and all social and environmental impacts.

To support companies on their climate journey, seven actions have been identified that companies are expected to engage on:
  1. Account and disclose consistently and transparently according to best available practices and against all commitments.
  2. Set climate targets in line with 1.5°C according to the SBTi near-term and net-zero guidance.
  3. Reduce value chain emissions (scope 1-3) in line with the 1.5°C trajectory by halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest.
  4. Finance and support climate and nature solutions across and beyond the value chain.
  5. Engage responsibly and actively in climate policy in line with 1.5°C and ensure internal and external corporate policy alignment.
  6. Collaborate with value chain partners, peers, employees and other key stakeholders to overcome critical barriers to scaling climate action.
  7. Enable and inspire customers through sustainable products and services, education and campaigns, and transparent and accessible information.
We will continue to work with our corporate partners to provide more guidance and examples to help companies in implementing their climate and sustainability strategies.

Will your company go Beyond?