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New UNGC Guide Helps Companies Report Their Positions on Climate Policy

The UN Global Compact (UNGC) today released a guide for companies to manage and report on their direct and indirect influences on climate policy. Now for the first time, companies have guidelines to help them engage in climate policy in a transparent and accountable way that is consistent with their sustainability commitments.

The Guide to Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy, produced by the UNGC along with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the World Resources Institute, CDP, WWF, Ceres and the Climate Group, sets baseline expectations for companies to provide proactive, constructive input for governments to create effective climate policies. It helps companies to connect the dots between sustainability commitments, such as efficiency improvements and emissions reductions across their value chains, with their corporate policy positions.

The report comes as the role of business in policymaking receives increased attention and negotiators prepare to meet next week at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland, to guide progressive businesses to lobby in favor of a global, legal climate agreement by 2015. Businesses and investors are also becoming more aware of the risks of climate change, and want clear and consistent climate policies in place to create a productive operating environment.

There is a mixed record on corporate public policy engagement. In a recent survey of UN Global Compact companies, only 30 percent have aligned their traditional government affairs activities with their corporate responsibility commitments, such as taking action on climate change.

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To address calls for better alignment by business, investors and other stakeholders, the guide outlines the core elements of responsible corporate engagement and translates them into three practical actions through which companies can provide constructive positions on climate policy:

  • Identify the company’s opportunity and legitimacy by creating an inventory of its influences on climate policy;
  • Align its positions and influences to ensure consistency and accountability; and
  • Report on climate change policy influences, intentions and outcomes using a three-tiered framework for transparency.

“The time is ripe for enlightened business leaders to scale up corporate sustainability by engaging responsibly on climate policy, ultimately helping to drive energy efficiency, renewables and technology in a low-carbon economy.”

Organizations from both sectors tend to agree.

“Many companies that have engaged on climate policy in the past have tried to block it and their actions are often hidden from public view, so it’s refreshing to see a path forward for companies looking to engage constructively and transparently on climate change issues,” Gretchen Goldman, Analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists, said of the Guide.

“Engaging responsibly on climate change policy is part of being a modern business,” asserted Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA.

The business case for companies to engage responsibly in climate policy has strengthened as companies are increasingly asked to track and report their policy positions.

"When it comes to climate policy, many leading businesses are struggling to match their words and their actions," said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of WRI. “This report finds that seven of 10 businesses have not fully aligned their sustainability goals with government affairs practices. Those businesses that are serious about addressing climate change will follow the actions in this guide."

The Guide is the result of research and interviews with more than 75 business and policy leaders from over 60 organizations across 20 countries. It will be highlighted at a special session of the inaugural Caring for Climate Business Forum during COP19, on November 19 in Warsaw.

Many companies around the world have already been asserting their support for governments to stop dragging their heels and create formal policies addressing climate change. 20 major U.S. brands — including Unilever, Starbucks and Mars, Inc — wrote a letter last month urging President Obama to follow through on the climate change preparedness efforts outlined in his Climate Action Plan; and over 700 companies and thousands of individuals have signed the Climate Declaration, an ad for which is enjoying major visibility on the Jumbotron in Times Square through the end of the year.