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Hughes Hall Centre supports international collaboration to tackle climate change

The Hughes Hall Centre for Climate Change Engagement (CCCE) is a major element of our research translation and impact initiative, The Bridge. The Centre facilitates the sharing of knowledge and best practice between academics and business, in particular boards and non-executive directors to help them mitigate the effects of, and adapt to, climate change. CCCE hosts the UK Chapter of the Climate Governance Initiative, Chapter Zero, and acts as the Initiative’s Secretariat.

In March 2021, the inaugural Climate Governance Initiative Global Summit was held to raise awareness of and increase membership to the Chapters of the Climate Governance Initiative. This aims to increase awareness of climate change at board level and build understanding of the action that needs to be taken to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, or sooner. The Chapters are networks formed of groups of boards of directors around the world, and each one works to promote the implementation of the Principles of Effective Climate Governance, published by the World Economic Forum in 2019.

Delivered across 13 countries, the summit attracted non-executive directors and convened regulators, experts, academics and corporate governance leaders to explore the risks and opportunities the climate emergency poses to the long-term resilience and success of companies.

Evolving role of boards

Held in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the opening session attracted 500 board members, executives and governance experts and was addressed by American politician and environmentalist, Al Gore, who emphasised the urgency for action and encouraged boards to abandon ‘short-termism’ and consider the long-term sustainability of their company instead. Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni, promoted the prioritisation of the climate emergency and its accountability on executive teams. A panel discussion on the evolving role of boards in relation to corporate climate action highlighted the importance of leadership and climate knowledge from the entire board to drive action forward and accelerate the transition to a lower carbon economy.

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) is not a fashion, and it is here to stay

During the session hosted by the German Chapter, which explored the significance of the German dual board system in promoting sustainable corporate governance, the Chair of the supervisory board at Siemens Energy, Joe Kaeser said: ‘ESG is not a fashion, and it is here to stay’.

Likewise, the summit showcased the surge in growth and influence of the Climate Governance Initiative; five new Chapters launched at the summit, bringing the total number to 13, with Chapters established in each of the following: Brazil, Brussels, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Nordics, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Further Chapters will launch later in 2021, and the CEO of the USA-based National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) announced at the summit that a USA Chapter should launch on Earth Day 2021.

Chapter Highlights

Chapter Zero Brazil explored the unique opportunities available to the country as a major global player in carbon offsetting, through the protection and afforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Chapter Zero Canada highlighted the considerable renewable energy resources at its disposal and how the country seeks to be at the forefront of sustainable emerging markets. Climate Governance Malaysia welcomed the President of the Islamic Development Bank to discuss the importance of building effective climate governance in the Islamic Finance Industry, calling to action the Islamic financial markets to address climate change. The UK Chapter’s interactive session, where audience members were asked to vote as part of a fictitious board in response to climate-related physical risks, exposed potential backlash from employees and local communities, and revealed the need to incorporate a carbon price in every investment decision. That session was addressed by Julie Baddeley, Centre for Climate Change Engagement Director, who said: ‘There isn’t a contradiction between doing the right thing and creating company value.’

The closing session, moderated by the Centre for Climate Change Engagement Deputy Director, Emily Farnworth, explored net zero and the necessity for collaboration to future-proof business. The panel, including Mark Tucker (Chair, HSBC Holdings plc) and Emma Marcegaglia (Chair, B20), commented on the unique opportunity provided during board level discussions for collaboration, accountability, learning and non-competitive information sharing; factors that are essential to tackle the climate emergency faced by companies and society as a whole. Global CEO of Deloitte, Punit Renjen, commented that climate and ESGs are the topic of import for any company that wants to attract top talent.

Further information on the summit sessions as well as recordings can be found here: Global Summit Registration Links – Climate Governance (climate-governance.org) The Climate Governance Initiative Chapters continue to provide the tools and knowledge required to educate board members on the risks and opportunities of climate change.

For more information on Hughes Hall’s Centre for Climate Change Engagement Centre, see here or email climate@hughes.cam.ac.uk. CCCE works alongside Chapter Zero and Cambridge Zero.