Annual Report 2021

Letter from Our CEO

We Mean Business Coalition was created to bring together the voice of progressive business and support an ambitious outcome to the Paris climate negotiations. The Paris Agreement was our first victory.

In the past seven years, the number of businesses committed to climate leadership and taking meaningful action to cut their emissions has grown tremendously. At COP26 in Glasgow, We Mean Business Coalition hosted the inaugural Business Pavilion and brought the leaders of hundreds of these forward-looking businesses into the very heart of the UN climate negotiations. Once again, we helped drive the most ambitious possible outcomes from nations gathered in Glasgow, which will in turn help businesses to accelerate their own climate action.

Reflecting on those two historic moments, now is the perfect time to take stock of the Coalition’s progress, capture the lessons learned and reaffirm our commitment to take the measures necessary over the next seven years, in order to cut emissions in half by 2030.

We Mean Business Coalition has built a business movement rooted in science. Thousands of companies from the smallest SMEs to the largest multinationals are today committed to cut their emissions at a rate consistent with keeping global temperature rise below 1.5ºC.

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which was funded and supported by the Coalition since its inception, is now recognised around the world, by companies, investors and governments as the gold standard for businesses setting robust, ambitious and measurable targets. More than 2,800 major companies are now working with SBTi to reduce their emissions in line with climate science.

More than 4,000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), from over 100 countries, have made similarly ambitious, science-based commitments through the SME Climate Hub, housed by We Mean Business Coalition. To support smaller businesses on their journey towards net-zero we have provided them with training courses, an easy-to-use carbon calculator to assist in measuring their emissions and many more tools.

We know that ambition without action leads nowhere. We Mean Business Coalition is determined to support businesses to deliver climate action at the speed and scale necessary. This year, that has meant doubling down on efforts to create transformational initiatives across the six systems where businesses operate: energy, transport, buildings, industry, land and finance.

Initiatives like the Climate Group’s RE100 have shown that procurement of 100% renewable energy is possible for companies of every size, sector and location. The shift to electric vehicles by both companies and consumers, continues to accelerate faster than we could have imagined. As momentum and market forces help deliver rapid shifts across whole industries, the greatest challenges ahead lie in the hard-to-abate sectors. As a core partner of the Mission Possible Partnership, We Mean Business Coalition is working with many of the world’s most innovative organisations to decarbonise the highest-emitting industries, including steel, cement, chemicals, aviation, shipping and freight.

Whilst the leadership of forward-looking businesses has delivered incredible progress in recent years, voluntary corporate action will never be enough to halve emissions by 2030. We must move from the thousands of companies currently acting on climate, to the millions. The only way to achieve such scale is through policy changes that help mainstream climate action as the new business as usual.

Throughout 2021, the We Mean Business Coalition repeatedly aligned and mobilised business voices in support of specific policy asks which had the greatest potential to accelerate climate action. Our efforts helped secure more ambitious national climate targets from the US and Japanese governments ahead of COP26 and influenced the debate within the European Union on their landmark ‘Fit for 55’ package. Ahead of the G20 meeting, we had 778 companies, employing 10 million people, in support of a clear set of policy asks, including an end to coal and fossil fuel subsidies, support for climate action and adaptation in developing countries, and a price on carbon. The momentum of increased ambition built up throughout the year coupled with a clear message from business going into COP26, helped deliver a strong outcome in the Glasgow Climate Pact.

COP26 reflected the power of the We Mean Business Coalition at its finest. Our Business Pavilion hosted 94 meetings, with more than 2,000 business representatives, and a further 28,000 watching via livestream. The ‘All in for 1.5ºC’ messaging and branding created some of the defining images of the Conference and was a message heard in every meeting and corridor. Our inclusive approach, working with more than 50 implementation partners, and welcoming business leaders, NGOs, investors, policymakers and legislators, SMEs and everyone in between, helped demonstrate the scale of business participation and commitment in a successful outcome to COP26.

While achieving so much impact, the Coalition also consolidated its governance with the appointment of our new Chair, Sir Ian Cheshire and secured 501(c)(3) status in the US. I am proud to lead a Secretariat which provides an ever more professionalized approach to our work, coalition building, partnerships and regranting.

The past year was a defining one for climate action, and the evidence of incredible momentum from businesses around the world was impossible to miss. Yet, the latest scientific evidence from the IPCC provides a stark reminder that allowing global temperature rise to go beyond 1.5ºC risks triggering irreversible changes that will have devastating impacts for billions of people and the ecosystems that we all depend upon. The science is clear that emissions must be cut in half by 2030 to keep 1.5ºC within reach and we are not moving fast enough. That is why, this year, We Mean Business Coalition will deploy a new strategy, ‘All in for 2030’, that will play an instrumental role in accelerating corporate climate action in millions of companies and drive transformational policy shifts. I am confident we will look back from 2030, to this point with pride in the incredible things that have been achieved and renewed determination to reach net zero by 2050. We have come so far, and yet the journey has only just begun.

María Mendiluce

Letter from Our Chairs

The progress in corporate climate action over the past decade has been remarkable. Our movement has grown from a handful of highly engaged leaders to the mainstream, with thousands of companies adopting net-zero targets. There was a stark contrast between COP21 in Paris, where business was relatively thin on the ground, and COP26 in Glasgow, which could have been called the business and finance COP, given the incredible turnout of business leaders. Climate and sustainability issues are increasingly at the forefront of business decisions, having spread from sustainability departments into the Boardroom. And yet the scientific evidence is clear that, despite all our efforts, global emissions are not falling. There is still much more to do.

Amidst the ever-growing complexity and uncertainty of the modern world, business leaders need guidance on how to move from setting targets and ambition, to delivering meaningful action. That is where We Mean Business Coalition has a unique role to play: in aligning the ecosystem of climate initiatives available to business. We then support companies’ definition of what real climate leadership looks like, and help them overcome obstacles on their journey towards that climate leadership.

The We Mean Business Coalition has a clear and long-standing theory of change. The ambition loop between forward-looking business and policymakers accelerates the rate of change. The more action that business takes to scale climate solutions, the more it can be used to advocate for change. Governments then become more confident and set more ambitious climate policies, which then allows business to take further action.

As we look ahead at the crucial seven years to 2030, We Mean Business Coalition will continue to raise the business voice and advocate for the policy changes; both of which are necessary to businesses’ transformation for a low-carbon economy.

In addition, the We Mean Business Coalition will harness our expertise and clarity of purpose to become business’ indispensable partner. That includes the more than 6,000 forward-looking companies that are already committed to science-based climate action, but also the millions of businesses that are just embarking on their climate journey.

While many business leaders are no strangers to ambitious targets or radical innovation, cutting emissions in half by 2030 will require unprecedented shifts in the way businesses operate and leadership at every level within companies. Fortunately, they are not alone.

Perhaps the Coalition’s most important achievement since our founding has been to make setting ambitious targets, and delivering on them, seem normal and possible. In the years ahead we will find new ways of supporting businesses of every size, location, sector and complexity to move towards climate leadership. That means delivering across Ambition, Action, Advocacy and Accountability.

Throughout this report you will hear in detail what these 4A’s mean in practice and how the We Mean Business Coalition will use them as the foundations for an unprecedented global movement of corporate climate leadership.

We are grateful to all of our Partners across the Coalition for their invaluable contribution to the success of our collective endeavour. We also commend the tireless efforts and achievements of the Secretariat staff for all their success this year and their determination to achieve even more in the years ahead. And finally, we are grateful to the many business leaders taking climate action to the next level. And to those businesses yet to embark on this journey, come and join us. Halving emissions by 2030 is far from easy, but together we can achieve it.

Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair
Steve Howard, Founding Chair