We Mean Business Case Study

The coalition aggregated the voices of business leaders who were demanding a stricter climate deal in the lead up to COP 21.

We Mean Business played a key role in the lead-up to the Paris COP in 2015 by aggregating the voices of business leaders who were demanding that their governments agree on a stricter climate deal.

In the lead-up to the Paris climate change conference, with the stakes for the environment higher than ever before, a group of progressive business leaders decided they needed a fresh voice. Various business networks and sustainability coalitions, plus large numbers of individual companies, had been working to promote greener industry for years. But these fragmented strands of advocacy had failed to unite across sectors. Something new was needed to provide a strong and coherent business challenge to the defenders of the status quo.

The result is We Mean Business, a “coalition of coalitions” attempting to turn the sustainability community’s collaborative rhetoric into concrete action and give enlightened business leaders greater sway.1 Its founders, including BSR, The Climate Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), represent thousands of top world-class firms and investors.2 Since 2014, they have worked to send a unified signal to governments that businesses everywhere want smart climate policy. The hope is to catalyse meaningful climate action in both the private and public sector.

As part of this effort, the coalition has created a common platform for companies and investors to take – and be recognised for – bold action on climate change, such as committing to 100% renewable power, putting a price on carbon or, for investors, pledging to disclose the carbon footprint of their portfolios. To date 471 companies, with combined revenue of over US$8.1 trillion, have signed up, plus 183 investors representing more than US$20.7 trillion in assets.3 Industry players from Tetra Pak to Facebook have made commitments. As well as individual pledges, the group seeks out opportunities for partnerships that can help shape a business friendly, low-carbon economy.

From the outset, We Mean Business has also emphasised the need for an aligned and strategic approach to communications that gets its message to the right people. In the lead-up to the Paris talks, this paid off, as the call from business for the strictest possible climate deal was kept in the spotlight.4 Example actions include taking ad space in areas where negotiators would travel during the 2015 Bonn climate conference, and securing a deal with Bloomberg to broadcast live interviews with business leaders from a purpose built studio during Climate Week in Paris.5

None of this is radically new. From the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) to Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), there have been many attempts to create forums for collective corporate action.6 Fans of We Mean Business say this one is proving more effective, in large part thanks to the servant leadership of CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project Nigel Topping who is determined to build an effective organisation that only rewards real commitment.7 The founders also hope they can learn from earlier mistakes. As BSR president Aron Cramer put it, “our organisations don’t always do the best job of actually collaborating.” Fixing this could dramatically boost their impact. 

References

1 Makower, J. (2014) “A powerhouse corporate climate coalition says, ‘We Mean Business’” Green Biz, 9 June. https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/06/09/powerhouse-climate-coalition-we-mean-business.

2 The Climate Group. “We Mean Business”. https://www.theclimategroup.org/project/we-mean-business.

3 We Mean Business Coalition. http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/.

4 Private conversation on industry background.

5 Grieve, C. “We Mean Business – changing the climate challenge narrative”. Climate Savers. http://climatesavers.org/we-mean-business-changing-the-climate-challenge-narrative/.

6 Makower, J. (2014) “A powerhouse corporate climate coalition says, ‘We Mean Business’” Green Biz, 9 June. https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/06/09/powerhouse-climate-coalition-we-mean-business.

7 Private conversation on industry background.

8 Makower, J. (2014) “A powerhouse corporate climate coalition says, ‘We Mean Business’” Green Biz, 9 June. https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/06/09/powerhouse-climate-coalition-we-mean-business.