Profitability and sustainability not mutually exclusive

June 02, 2022 12:02

Many governments have tasked themselves to tackling climate change with ambitious goals. At the UN General Assembly in September 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Here in Hong Kong, the government pledged to fulfill the latter before 2050 in a climate action plan unveiled in October 2021. Top-down initiatives have definitely emboldened participation and cooperation from the business sector in regard to tackling climate change.

In fact, businesses have been playing a crucial role in climate change. Profitability and sustainability do not have to exclude one another. Instead, businesses can create shared value for their shareholders and the environment. The crux is that business must act now. It’s time for companies to do something that makes a difference to Planet Earth.

Give Net Zero a try. The United Nations (UN) is calling on businesses to commit to science-based targets that will limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Many companies around the globe have signed the UN “Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge”, and have rolled out their Net Zero programme accordingly.

While companies are responding to the UN’s Net Zero call actively, business sectors face different scenarios in their share of carbon emissions regarding market demand, production costs and employment. According to global consulting firm Mckinsey, for the agriculture and food sector, emissions would be reduced as a result of producers deploying greenhouse gas-efficient farming practices and some consumers shifting their diets away from ruminant animals that generate significant quantities of methane.

More businesses are now part of the movement to take decisive measures to address climate change, by focusing on advancing regenerative agriculture and other actions along the value chain.

While one of the focuses in sustainable sourcing is to avoid and eliminate deforestation, a global food company has achieved zero deforestation for key ingredients such as sugar and soya beans in Hong Kong.

Other aspects of the operation have been changing as well. Companies are turning to the direction of using more renewable energy in the manufacturing process. On logistics, companies are working to enhance the operational efficiency and switch its global fleet of vehicles to lower emission options.

An article published by the World Economic Forum points out there is mounting evidence that it is possible for corporations to transition to net-zero business models profitably, especially when compared with a future of inaction.

Companies’ top management and boardroom must recognize that business and sustainability do not have to contradict each other.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked, “Humanity is waging war on nature. Nature always strikes back, and it is already doing so with growing force and fury.” It’s high time for all of us to act immediately, and of course that includes business. Act now before it’s too late.

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General Manager, Nestlé Hong Kong Limited