Global leaders meet in Paris between 30 November and 11 December with the objective of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change. Earlier this fall, the world agreed on a post-2015 agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with clear targets and indicators. All UN member states are now expected to shape their policies and leadership in accordance.

Huge challenges lay before us if we are to mitigate the major effects of climate change. Regardless of how successful we are in reducing greenhouse gases in the coming years, we have to face the fact that climate change is already happening and that we have to adapt to it. Do you agree that global political efforts are moving too slowly? How can we accelerate positive change?

The courage and creativity of companies to find new solutions set the bar for how far politicians can stretch. A sustainable business approach builds the confidence to aim higher!

Companies driving change

Some may argue that business is the root cause of the grave situation in which we find ourselves, and that only governments can find solutions.

On the contrary, I would argue that companies have both a great responsibility to take action on climate change, and an immense capability to drive positive change in many crucial sectors. They have the expertise and innovative capacity to identify new techniques and solutions. This applies to how they run their own business – whereby some companies have to rethink their whole business model – but also what they can do to help their customers to contribute toward a more sustainable world.

Resource efficiency is absolutely crucial. This naturally includes energy, but all initiatives that promote doing more with less are important, together with the ability to scale-up and maximize positive impact. Company sustainability efforts do not only concern climate change and other environmental issues – the global fight to combat poverty and meeting changing social needs are areas where companies can also contribute with new solutions.

Financing the enablers

The financial sector has a particularly important role to play in bringing about positive change. We have to ensure that capital reaches the sectors and businesses that contribute toward sustainability. Whether this comprises of equity investments, bonds or direct lending or financing, we have to assess the risks and opportunities. We also have the responsibility to allow our customers to invest their money in more sustainable companies, which are coincidently the businesses that are most likely to survive and thrive in a new low-carbon economic era.

With this report, we want to focus on four of the most critical areas where strong political and corporate leadership is needed – and highlight some of the smart business solutions already in place.