The most important challenge for society today
The Hughes Hall Centre for Climate Change Engagement was established to increase awareness of climate change mitigation and adaptation on the boards of private companies and the need for urgent action.
The effects of climate change are already reaching key thresholds that will adversely impact upon sustainable development. The need for education and action for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance has never been more urgent; individual citizens, corporations, non-governmental organisations and governments all have a role to play.
- To engage the corporate and financial sectors at the highest level (involving chairs, non-executive directors and senior executives) together with government, and academics and others within civil society.
- To encourage scholarship in legal, regulatory, financial and other levers that will enable the scaling up of action across the corporate sector.
This situation is especially acute within the boardrooms of listed companies where, with few exceptions, board members are not yet engaged sufficiently with the climate agenda. Many boards have not given it the priority that it deserves, and some have not discussed it at all. Although the UK’s share of worldwide emissions is small and reducing, UK business has a global reach through its supply chains and provision of capital and can have a significant impact in tackling climate change.
The financial sector, banks and investors, are equally crucial. They, with company boards, must address these issues in a comprehensive fashion to bring benefits to their own businesses and shareholders and to allow them to contribute to a growing green economy.
The Centre provides general guidance and toolkits of assistance to boards and non-executive directors.
A general focus of the Centre is on how levers are best used to get the boards of corporate organisations to accelerate action. The emphasis is on the role of law and regulation, of reporting requirements for corporations, and of how the financial sector including banks and investors can exert influence on corporations. We need a better understanding of the proper balance between the use of “sticks” and “carrots” as levers; and of techniques of persuasion using insights of marketing and psychology.
The research element of the Centre encourages scholarship in law, regulation and governance but also in fields such as psychology, marketing, economics, finance and management. Legal studies could include aspects of company law, such as the fiduciary duties of directors and investors; finance and investment law; consumer protection law; competition law; the role of insurers; regulations that govern the financial reports of companies; and other incentive structures for corporate boards. The Centre also enables PhD and post-doctoral researchers interested in climate change to advance their academic objectives by engaging with the Centre.
The Centre seeks to act as an independent and trusted intermediary between Cambridge academia, the corporate and financial communities and government, drawing on a wide range of disciplines alongside climate science and law. We work across the University but in particular with the University’s Cambridge Zero initiative and its Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
Working together to combat climate change
- Industry: Companies, through board leadership, increase their actions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change by addressing their own individual risks and liabilities; to shape future regulatory frameworks; and to participate in a growing global green economy.
- Hughes Hall: The College, as part of its Bridge project, has a platform to facilitate the participation of graduate students, senior members and alumni, and thus engage the next generation of academics and business leaders in taking action on climate.
- Academia: Research impact is increased by informing changes in legal, regulatory and other systems to support climate mitigation and adaptation, and by translating insights to enable businesses to contribute more effectively to the sustainable development agenda.