One world, ready or not

We established CDP in the year 2000 because we could see that thousands of large corporations were playing a dominant role in organizing human society. Their rise is part of that other phenomenon sweeping across the world: globalization.

Globalization was originally understood as an economic force - a convenient shorthand to describe the process by which countries and regions of the world are veering towards greater economic integration, all facilitated by the exhilarating pace of technological change. Literally millions of executives from the world's largest companies constantly travel the world establishing standards of production, distribution and exchange.

Nations states look fragile and somewhat antiquated in the shadow of this phenomenal growth, which, ironically, they have had a hand in creating.

Now we can see that globalization is a dominant political force too. Recent events, from the referendum in the UK on remaining a member of the European Union, to the extraordinary surge in many countries of support for 'outsider' candidates and parties, must give us pause for thought regarding the broader context of the direction of society and impact of globalization.

The power to influence

Look to any list of world's most influential people, and you are just as likely to find the titans of industry mentioned alongside heads of state. Arguably no one embodies this modern status quo better than Steve Jobs, who made computers easy to use. Even though it has been five years since his death, I probably won't have to tell you who he was and which company he ran.

In 2011 Jobs attended a dinner with President Obama, who at the time was nearing the end of his first term in the White House. In typical Jobs fashion, the businessman pressed the president on the need for expanding the number of trained engineers in the US, perhaps by allowing more foreign engineers to stay. Obama explained why this could not be done.

This did not impress the tech titan. "The president is very smart," Jobs later told his biographer, "but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done. It infuriates me."

While Obama was eventually said to have been persuaded by Jobs' argument to look at training engineers, the CEO's frustration with the process of political change is something that many in the business world will be familiar with.

Innovative companies such as Apple have built their success on the ability of their employees to look past the reasons why something can't be done, and think instead about how it can be. In this era of globalization, companies have had more freedom than ever before to make their mark on the world. An engineer or marketer in New York or Jakarta can both access almost all human knowledge with the click of a mouse.

We are all too aware that this has had negative consequences. Climate change and the emergence of the Anthropocene age has been made possible because of one of our biggest systems failures: we did not question that continued economic growth was being achieved at the expense of the environment. Through climate change we have hit our first hard-stop global system limit, but there will be others.

As I have written about on here before, powerful voices across business have used their influence to argue against what they perceive to be costly climate action. Thankfully these arguments are being debunked by leading economists and experts, and the pursuit of thoughtless growth is being relegated to history. Now major companies from across all sectors, from Apple to Iberdrola, are taking an earnest look at their performance on tackling climate change.

One world

At CDP, we believe the principles of measurement, accountability and transparency can drive positive change in the world of business and investment. And we have proof. Last year investors engaging with the world's highest-emitting companies achieved emissions reduction of 641 million metric tons of CO2e. That is more CO2e than the UK emits annually.

Yet we keep breaking global climate records at an alarming rate. As the director of the NOAA said recently, "it is really telling that we really don't have a handle on carbon emissions, and we are headed for a different world." We need to get a handle, and fast.

The speed at which this needs to be done means no one group - business or government -
can do it alone. This is where globalization, for all its polarizing political effects, can play a hand in bringing us closer together.

A new study published this month offers a simple but powerful reminder of why: globalization - and the increasing connection among countries - means that the effect of climate change in one place is capable of radiating throughout the rest of the world.

Greenhouse gases recognize no border. And attempts at isolationism will not grant us immunity from the impacts of climate change. If you live here, on planet Earth, you will in some way be affected.

The time for collective action is now

The question now, is how we choose to respond. The boards of over 800 companies, whose combined market cap exceeds US$11 trillion, indicated to us last year that the solution is rooted in collective action. These companies said that yes, they would support an international agreement between governments to limit global warming. And thanks to the unprecedented support from business, investors, cities and state and regional governments, that deal is now a reality.

Like the governments who have signed the Paris Agreement, companies too shoulder a responsibility to ensure that we all meet the goals contained within it. They are in fact one of the most influential and potent forces we have in ensuring that these climate goals are realized.

At the end of this month, CDP - together with the We Mean Business coalition - will reveal new analysis quantifying exactly what impact business can have in helping the world limit dangerous temperature rises. The report will demonstrate the potential to build on ambitious commitments already made by leading companies, which we expect to be taken up by many more across the business world. The findings will be released at the Business and Climate summit in London, where we will be joined by leaders from across the business, investment and policy community.

If you are ready to be part of the conversation on how we drive forward climate action through collaboration, you can join in by following @CDP and #BusinessClimate on Twitter.