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Climate and business
© Unsplash Jakub Gorajek

Forward-thinking companies are grappling with the implications of climate change issues on their business. Some are taking advantage of the many opportunities and innovations that the shift to a low-carbon business and consumer environment offers. At a minimum, many companies are addressing the business risks of climate change and trade issues.

What is the issue?

South Africa has a highly carbon-intensive economy as most electricity and liquid fuels are derived from fossil fuels. This exposes business to global trade barriers and will increasingly factor into investment decisions.

The flip side of a necessary winding down of the role of fossil fuels in our economy is seen in the opportunities to be found in a low-carbon economy, which is where the greatest potential for exponential returns on investment off a low base lie. Investors are increasingly alert to low-carbon growth opportunities and the risks of stranded assets in the face of a coming carbon bubble.

Then there are businesses which are directly affected by the physical impacts of climate change and will need to change ‑ like agriculture, tourism and insurance industries, and heavy water users. Every company would do well to re-examine its business model, and to decarbonise and climate-proof its assets, operations, products and services. Decisive and swift action in this direction can create a competitive advantage for South African businesses ahead of the pack.

What are we doing?

WWF works with forward-thinking companies to find ways to cut emissions and build climate resilience.

How do we do this?

As part of a global programme with Carbon Disclosure Project, World Resources Institute and UN Global Compact, WWF assists companies in setting science-based targets - emissions reduction targets that align with what climate science says is needed.

We celebrate and foster those businesses taking climate action. We have worked with companies bringing emission-reducing innovations to market, and investigated low-carbon business opportunities, such as conservation agriculture to conserve carbon in soils, an electric orchard tractor, solar thermal applications in agri-processing, getting surplus food to people who need it rather than it going to landfills as waste, and eco-blend cements. We plan on providing climate-resilient building advisory services.

With global partners We Mean Business, Carbon Disclosure Project, C40 and Climate Action Network, WWF is pursuing the global climate action agenda in five pilot countries, being South Africa, Japan, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, in the form of climate action collaborations among businesses along supply chains and across sectors, government at various levels, and customers.

Our direct engagements with business, together with our research and policy briefs on issues such as the carbon tax, offsets and trading, provide food for thought for business decision makers in finding solutions to reduce emissions and engaging with policymakers.

We hope to inspire business to stand up for a net zero carbon economy by 2050.

Who do we work with?

We work with companies and business associations in sectors such as agriculture and food supply chains, transport, energy, construction, mining, and finance. We cross-pollinate from work with trade unions, and with policymakers in various government and in Parliament.

How did it start?

WWF has a long track record of working on various sustainability issues with the private sector.
As climate change becomes ever more of a business factor, our work exploring the impacts of and solutions to climate change with business has grown. One trigger for the work arose in the context of national policy development when some businesses and business associations invited our input, for example on the carbon tax and legislation.

What are the big wins?
  • A growing number of South African companies have committed to set science-based targets or have approved targets in place.
  • Our policy perspectives related to climate change mitigation are valued by business, to the extent that we’ve been invited by business to give inputs to inform their policy stances.
  • Our food surplus work (which aims to reduce the amount of food ending up in landfills where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions) has resulted in concrete action by a number of major retailers and non-profits.