How big business can tackle carbon emissions and boost the economy
“It’s becoming fairly normal business practice to have a climate target. If a business doesn’t have a climate target or a climate policy, they’re left out to dry, so to speak, because investors realise that climate action needs to be fairly core to business operations,” she adds.
As businesses make emissions reductions, it won’t just help their own economic prospects; the broader economy will also get a boost, according to Dr Morrison.
Greater trade and investment from overseas will benefit Australian capital markets. And as corporations adopt green power, the renewable sector will also reap the rewards, which in turn will have more knock-on effects.
“When big business shifts to predominantly renewable sources of energy, its market share will necessarily grow, and with it, the capacity for locally designed, manufactured and supplied generation,” Dr Morrison says.
“This growth in the sector will filter down to employment and economic growth to those regions hosting renewable businesses … [and] the price of renewable energy will likely decrease for everyday Australians, giving an economy-wide boost.”
Woolworths Group is one Australian company that has decided to take action on climate. In November 2020, the retail leader launched its Sustainability Plan 2025, a roadmap that includes wide-ranging environmental commitments.
These include Woolworths’ entire operations becoming powered by renewable electricity by 2025 (South Australian operations will achieve this in the next month); a 63 per cent reduction in emissions from its business (and a 19 per cent reduction in its supply chain) by 2030; and, significantly, net positive carbon emissions by 2050.
According to Fiona Walmsley, general manager climate and environment at Woolworths Group, the 2030 targets have been calculated in line with its contribution to the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees, and validated by the UN-backed Science Based Targets Initiative – a first for an Australian retailer.
“We’ve already reduced the emissions from our own business by 27 per cent since 2015, and we’re factoring emissions reduction into how we build and run all our sites, from stores to distribution centres,” says Walmsley.
“Transparency is critical to the way we approach sustainability as an organisation – we now include emissions reductions in our half-yearly and annual financial announcements to acknowledge how central it has become to our business and our shareholders.”
Woolworths Group is aiming to have a broad positive impact. When it comes to buying green power, it is prioritising contracts that draw on energy generated by new-build renewable projects, in a bid to support new renewable infrastructure.
It is also working with suppliers to help them reduce their emissions, and investing in innovations, such as the FutureFeed program, which aims to reduce livestock methane emissions.
The company says it hopes to inspire other businesses to take action, and, with stores from Bondi to Broome, have a positive impact on communities nationwide.
“We have the opportunity – or as we would say, the responsibility – to use our scale for good,” Walmsley says.
Dr Morrison, meanwhile, believes the development of new, global climate reporting standards and more ambitious federal climate targets will give businesses further guidance, tools and motivation to tackle emissions.
She adds: “I think corporate Australia will really be able to step up its action a lot, and that’s going to be hugely impactful.”
For more information on how Woolworths Group is creating a better tomorrow click here.