In September, the BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Survey confirmed climate change as a top business priority for the seventh year in a row. Businesses desire stronger regulations to act on climate change, including a clear commitment to decarbonization from governments. Here at BSR, our work on climate is expanding due to member demand. At the time of writing, 13 BSR member companies are involved in our climate-facing collaborative initiatives and are taking on climate commitments as a part of the We Mean Business coalition.

Last month, BSR outlined companies calling for an effective outcome in Paris, and these numbers continue to grow as the American Business Act on Climate Pledge now boasts 81 signatories. COP21 provides a powerful platform to capture current private-sector ambition on climate, but also can spur increased ambition in 2016 and beyond. To do so, the Paris agreement must set a clear course for the future, facilitating the adoption of comprehensive, long-term, and effective policies and mechanisms to support investments for a low-carbon economy, such as research and development, innovation, performance standards, carbon pricing, and the removal of fossil fuel subsidies.

As a sector that is highly dependent on specific climate conditions, agriculture is particularly threatened in this era of unprecedented climatic changes. Adding to this stress, we now know that 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the world population by 2050. Food and agriculture businesses are increasingly aware that this vulnerability necessitates a responsibility to address climate change, and vocal CEOs like Paul Polman have paved the way for discussion and advocacy.   

This sector has signaled loud and clear its readiness to help build a low-carbon economy through ambitious action and leadership, as evidenced by a COP21 side event hosted by BSR, Field to Market, and PepsiCo: “From Field to Market: Leadership and Collaboration in U.S. and Global Agriculture.” As part of this event, food and agriculture corporate leaders will highlight their own actions to promote awareness and collaboration regarding the need to achieve carbon reductions while fostering productivity and global competitiveness.

  • PepsiCo has demonstrated its commitment to collaboration as a way to achieve more rapid progress toward farmer sustainability and food security. A member of BSR’s Future of Fuels collaborative initiative, PepsiCo helps companies understand the impacts of transportation fuel and is an active collaborator in working to create a system that is sustainable, resilient, and affordable. The company is also a member of We Mean Business' Low-Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative, providing a multistakeholder platform to discuss low-carbon technology solutions that will limit global warming to below 2°C. Within its own operations, PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Initiative helps both large and small farmers address environmental, social, and economic issues worldwide. 
  • Unilever has been very vocal about the need for governments to send clear signals to spur low-carbon innovation, participating in BSR’s Climate Science Initiative, which helps companies understand the latest climate science, what it means for their business, and how they can respond by reducing risk and increasing resilience. Unilever has ambitiously committed to six We Mean Business commitments, including adopting a science-based emissions reduction target, putting a price on carbon, procuring 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources, and participating in responsible corporate engagement in climate policy.
  • General Mills has made two We Mean Business commitments—adopting a science-based emissions reduction target and removing commodity-driven deforestation from all supply chains by 2020. General Mills also collaborates with stakeholders across its supply chain, such as engaging with wheat growers over the past five years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing yields, facilitated by Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Acknowledging that collaboration with others is key, General Mills is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, the New York Declaration on Forests and Climate Counts, and the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
  • Mars has ambitiously aimed to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2040 and has joined two We Mean Business commitments: procuring 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources and adopting a science-based emissions reduction target. Mars also works with various partners to develop innovative farming techniques that reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Mars joined with the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Rice Research Institute to launch the first globally-recognized standard for sustainable rice cultivation, which will be used to make improvements throughout the value chain.

These companies demonstrate that businesses are doing more than talking the talk when it comes to treating climate as a priority; they are walking the walk.

Follow along with us at COP21 in Paris over the next two weeks with our COP21 Daily Dispatch to get BSR’s insights on the policy negotiations and their implications for business and a sustainable future for our climate.