Christian Arno

2020 in review: A roundup of this year’s best corporate climate action

8 min Read
landscape of wind turbines along a mountain road, against a cloudy sky

2nd of December 2020; almost 5 years to the day since plans to keep global temperatures below 1.5/2°C were agreed. While the sustainable, low carbon future that the Paris Agreement is striving for is still a way off, and the bumps in the road haven’t been small (don’t get me started on Trump’s withdrawal) there’s also been good headway made, and I think 2020 deserves a little time spent on that… Don’t you?

The very voices that played a pivotal role in forwarding the agreement in 2015 have been working hard to lower their environmental footprint, which is rippling out to businesses further up/down the supply chain, and to consumers, as you read.

Corporates are hugely important in the fight to reverse climate change. This is a roundup of my favourite corporate climate action that’s surfaced in 2020; a digital ‘cheers’ to those out there getting behind our future.

Ørsted - the most sustainable company in the world

‘If countries and corporations work together to really speed up the green transformation, we still have a chance to keep global warming within 1.5°C. As I see it, we owe it to the world.’

- Henrik Poulsen, CEO, Ørsted

Ten years ago, Ørsted guzzled fossil fuel; in fact, it was one of the most fossil-fuel intensive energy companies in Europe. Today, this green energy multinational has transformed itself into one of the most sustainable companies in the world. Its achievements include:

  • Reducing carbon emissions by 86%
  • Growing their share of green energy by 63% in 15 years. By 2023, Ørsted is on track to be almost 100% renewable.
  • Reducing the cost of offshore wind by 60% in 7 years

The headway that Ørsted has made in the green space has propelled it to the frontline of sustainability, even gaining it the first place spot on Corporate Knights’ 2020 Global 100 index of the most sustainable companies in the world.

Brewdog - making Earth great again… fast

‘Brewdog is giving some of the leadership the world so badly needs… They are raising the bar for the business world.’

Professor Mike Berners-Lee, Brewdog’s (and Pawprint’s) scientific advisor

In 2018, the IPCC gave us 12 years to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or we risk reaching an irreversible tipping point. Brewdog is one of a handful of companies taking this deadline seriously, having reached ‘carbon negative’ this year (10 years before 2030). Its achievements include:

  • A fast-track carbon reduction plan which ensures that, alongside offsetting, the company will have minimised its carbon footprint within 2 years.
  • Removing twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as it puts in each year. This includes supply chain emissions.
  • Only working with top quality carbon removals projects, rubber-stamped by Mike Berners-Lee.
  • Reducing waste through upcycling food waste and beer cans.

By taking climate change seriously, Brewdog has managed to turn its beer into something that genuinely has a positive impact on the planet every time someone drinks it.

Microsoft - climate negative by 2030, historical carbon removed by 2050

‘While the world will need to reach net-zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so.’

Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

Before 2020, Microsoft had been proudly ‘carbon neutral’ for 8 years, primarily through offsets. The problem, they realised this year, was that the offsetting programs they were investing in focused on paying someone not to do something, e.g. not to cut down a tree. Emissions were avoided, not removed.

With too much carbon already in the atmosphere, Microsoft recognised they weren’t doing enough. In January it announced its ambitious goal to reduce and ultimately remove its entire carbon footprint, starting with yearly emissions but then moving on to historical output.

By 2050, Microsoft pledges to have removed all of the carbon it has ever emitted—over its 45-year history—from the atmosphere.

Key commitments of the pledge include:

By prioritising the 2030 deadline laid out by the IPCC, then going a step further so that its footprint shrinks below zero beyond 2030, Microsoft is setting an example for other businesses looking to support green transformation. It’s so much more than a box-ticking exercise; it’s part of a future we will all benefit from. One where people and the planet thrive.

Other companies taking awesome climate action in 2020:

Inspired to start taking corporate climate action today? Pawprint for Business is a tool that empowers employees to fight climate change, facilitates green thinking and an eco-conscious culture, and gives businesses data about their carbon impact.

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