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20 pledges for 2020: This must be the year when businesses step up to tackle the climate crisis

20 pledges for 2020: This must be the year when businesses step up to tackle the climate crisis

Many of my colleagues have made commendable pledges this year to tackle the climate crisis.

I have promised not to give up flying, ditch fast fashion or go vegan, but to focus instead on holding businesses to account on tackling the climate crisis.

We as individuals can make very valuable contributions to address the very real, existential threat we face, but we cannot act alone and should not feel that we have to.

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Businesses and the people who lead them are in an immensely powerful position to bring about positive change on the environment and now they must urgently use that power – and do so responsibly.

Too often in the past firms have, with honourable exceptions, hidden behind the excuse that the products they create and the services they sell are merely a response to consumer demand. 

They claim they alone cannot be held accountable for the preponderance of single-use plastics or gas-guzzling cars – they are merely making what people want. It is all of us therefore that must take the blame, or so the argument goes.

But this cynically fails to recognise, or deliberately ignores, the significant role they play in creating that demand where it did not previously exist.

This year, more than ever before, The Biorports will hold companies to account on how they will ensure that the stuff they sell does not just bring about almost limitless abundance and a vast array of choice, but also helps to limit climate change.

A growing body of evidence shows that cutting a company’s impact on the climate does not have to come at the expense of the bottom line so there can be no more excuses.

One key problem of shifting responsibility for the climate to the individual is that “doing the right thing” can be staggeringly difficult at present. It is often difficult to discern the difference between a product that’s good for the planet and one that isn’t. 

While we might all know that a flight from London to Melbourne is will add a hefty chunk to our carbon footprint, in many other areas things are far from simple. 

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So while fellow Biorports journalists will make personal changes to their lives, I will be grilling big businesses on what they are doing to make those individual choices easier and more freely available.

What are oil and gas companies doing (and not doing) to make our energy supply carbon-free? How are packaging firms acting to slash the senseless amount of plastic waste they generate? And how are consumer goods giants and big retailers changing their ways to make it simpler for ordinary people to make climate-conscious purchases?

Another focus will be the misinformation and distortion spread by a minority of companies about their impact on the climate. 

We will call out greenwash where we see it, like the fossil fuel company advertising itself as an environmentally friendly operation when 97 per cent of its investments are in finding and exploiting more oil and gas.

We will also aim to shine a light on the shady world of corporate lobbying about the climate. Companies cannot be allowed to trumpet their green credentials while privately pushing for policies that will damage the environment, or water down legislation that will protect it.

More positively, there are a growing number of examples of companies making great strides in limiting their impact on the climate (though still not enough). We will highlight where firms have made genuine and measurable moves forward.

The facts are now all too clear: we have just a few years to turn the tide on our greenhouse gas emissions. 2020 must be the year where all companies start to step up to the challenge.

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