Sunday, November 16, 2014

If you know anyone looking for a dynamic job in sustainable business / corporate responsibility...

...then this role below may be of interest.

At Innovation Forum, we're hiring a conference producer. But we don't really like to call it that.

The role involves a lot more. We want to hire a cool colleague, who helps us grow our company.

The job, at first, involves researching event agendas, recruiting speakers, shaping agendas around them and their company, and adding a little edge and bite to keep all attendees on their toes.

Then the job involves marketing the event, whilst organising another one.

The events are all high level, international sustainability and innovation forums.

We hold them in London, New York, DC, Singapore and anywhere else we feel there is a market for them.

The job is really one of end to end project management, it needs research skills, sales and people skills, marketing skills and logistics common sense.

It's a lot of fun. And the money is highly competitive. We offer uncapped earnings, which is unusual in the events industry.

The job is ideal for someone who can really multi-task and is looking for skills and experience development whilst learning huge amounts about sustainable business and literally helping set the agenda.

About us: Innovation Forum is a young start up with decades of experience. Based in hipsterville Shoreditch in London, the right person will join a team of five, including me, which is expanding rapidly. A new website is due shortly, but our old one shows some of what we do, here.

 If you know anyone, please ask them to contact with a short note saying why the role would interest you and a CV and also take a look here and below.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps passing this on.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sustainability: How improved trade rules can encourage better business behaviour

Keynote speech delivered by Lord Mandelson, Chairman, Global Counsel, at the Innovation Forum conference,"How business can tackle deforestation", 28th-29th October, 2014, London

From Birmingham to New York

Lord Mandelson
"As Brendan May said, you might ask what I am doing here with you this morning.  The last time I spoke at an event similar to this, a low-carbon energy summit, I had the privilege of being covered by green custard before I had even entered the venue.  Some of you may recall the incident, indeed some of you might have known more about it…

But, I have never shied away from controversy, and it indeed has never shied away from me.  But today is an important event because it shows, in another part of the climate change forest that collaboration between business, government and NGOs can make real progress in tackling the causes of climate change.

My thoughts today are informed by the work which my colleagues and I have been doing with Brendan and his team in Indonesia.  As some of you may know we have been supporting Asia Pulp & Paper fundamentally change their business model to meet the changing needs of their customers, satisfy new regulatory criteria and respond to NGO pressure.  You’ll hear more from Aida Greenbury tomorrow morning more of APP’s remarkable story.

I don’t need to tell you about the impact deforestation in Indonesia, Brazil and West Africa.  Equally, in your own different ways you also know about the progress that has been made in tackling it.  The most recent milestone agreed in New York last month.

The events in New York illustrated three broad trends in the global campaign to support the zero deforestation movement.

The first is a geographic shift of momentum in the debate around climate change, from the north to the south. It is striking that when I meet with politicians be they in Beijing, Singapore or Dar es Salaam they often have a clear sense of the need for credible sustainability policy. Not to satisfy the demands of Western politicians but to meet the expectations of their local populations, especially in managing the impact of growth on the lived environment of their citizens.

They may be suspicious or skeptical of multilateral processes like Kyoto / Copenhagen. But they are not dismissive of the fundamental need to control the impact of their industrialization and globalization on the environment – for the Chinese Communist Party this may actually become an issue of political survival.

The second is the fact that whereas previously politicians set the terms of the debate and tried to drag business screaming and kicking behind them, we are now seeing the opposite. I remember the 1998 Birmingham G8 summit, which set a lot of the current anti-illegal logging debate in motion. A lot of the work that was done after Birmingham was done in the teeth of resistance from business and ‘business friendly’ governments.

The Anti-illegal logging agenda had to advance in the face of accusations of trade protectionism – and sometimes there was a grain of truth in this. But most of the time it was just a belief that globalization and the race to arbitrage labour and input costs meant that all bets were off – ‘competitiveness’ must trump all other arguments.

Well, not any more. The New York Declaration on Forests last month was not led by governments, but by businesses. It is now the policymakers who are watching Paul Polman and his colleagues move ahead of legality frameworks and set their own terms of trade for sustainability. And the key thing is that this is not presentational. It is fundamental – it is based on auditing and retooling supply chains right down to the level of the last square mile. And doing that because the short-termist alternatives are commercially untenable in anything but the shortest term.

Finally, the third is a change within the business community which has begun to appear. For many years customers and buyers have been the ones to talk about standards and to complain that their suppliers were not keeping up. This now too has changed, and today we see the major producers of commodities leading the debate in determining how the industry as a whole can meet higher standards of sustainability.

Why? Well, in part because they know that they have no choice but to stay ahead of the debate in their markets on sustainability – because to fall behind here can often mean exclusion. Emerging world suppliers know they are dealing with prejudice and skepticism – how could they not? – and the smartest among them are proactively campaigning to show that the emerging world does not have to be a poor sibling to the developed on sustainability.

So what has happened, and how are policymakers responding? That’s what I want to talk about today, taking our work in Indonesia as a starting point.

The moment

When we look for that moment when companies started picking up from policymakers in driving this agenda I think a couple of things strike us.

The first is trade itself. After about 2000, imports of timber and timber-derived goods into the EU boomed – doubling in about six years. For procurers and environmentally-conscious retailers this was both a boon and a nagging worry. Volumes were high, unit prices were low, and suppliers were keen - but the evidence of deforestation was mounting up and certification systems like PEFC and FSC were only part of the solution as they were not actually present in many of these markets of origin.

If companies weren’t willing to audit their supply chains, then NGOs will do it for them. In a world where you can watch a rainforest being cleared in real time by satellite from a desktop in London, there is no over the horizon anymore. And the market has in many respects started policing itself. Risk-averse companies under NGO pressure have abandoned suppliers who can’t provide the required guarantees in that total transparency world.

In both the US and the EU policymakers have seen themselves as playing catchup with these increasingly demanding consumers. Both the EU Timber Regulation of 2010 and the revised Lacey Act of 2008 criminalised the import and sale of illegally-harvested timber in slightly different ways. But the point is that they were a response to that need to audit global supply chains

Yes, they imposed a due diligence burden on importers. But they were essentially an insurance policy – against reputational risk. And if anyone thinks that that is the kind of black swan you can ignore, or the kind of irritant that it is not worth losing you no claims bonus over – well, they haven’t meant the kind of campaigning machinery that a modern global NGO can deploy when they are minded too. As some companies in both the developed and developing worlds have learned the hard way.

What was interesting about the EU is that it took this process a step further. The EU was sensitive to the charge that its rules were de facto green protectionism. It is, after all, much easier to do due diligence on a Finnish pine forest than an Indonesian of Ghanaian forestry plantation.

So the EU agreed that for states that could establish timber governance frameworks that met a set of pre-determined standards, the EUTR due diligence requirements would effectively be waived.  This recognition would be codified in what is called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

As a piece of international public policy the VPA process enters interesting and potentially very difficult territory.  It subjects the governance systems of one sovereign state to explicit scrutiny by outside parties, and ties trade privileges in a third country market to the result of that scrutiny.

It places the onus on policymakers, assisted by NGOs and civil society to make big – and diplomatically sensitive – judgements about the conduct of third countries.

And it is, for the developing or emerging economies that aim to participate in such a system, a significant governance challenge in its own right.

These markets are problematic for illegal timber precisely because their governance capacity is weak, as anyone who has ever flown over an Indonesian rainforest, as I have, and seen the evidence of opportunistic and slash and burn clearance by illegal palm oil farmers knows.

But fifteen countries have either signed or are aiming to sign VPAs – including Indonesia.

And what has been most impressive about this whole process is how it has energised Jakarta. Over the last three years I have seen a remarkable shift in the attitude and energy with which the Indonesian system has embraced the challenge.

Jakarta has come to see the VPA not as a burden or as an attempt to discriminate – which was the tone of a lot of its early reluctant engagement - but as an impetus for domestic reform of its forestry governance, for external pressure on standards.

Indonesia has embraced the VPA model. The SVLK – the Indonesian domestic legality licensing system – whilst still far from perfect - has come a long way from where we were three years ago. There is now a website where you can track the volumes of timber which are receiving SVLK certification in real time.

Looking ahead

Over the next decade it seems to me that the challenge is two fold. First, we need to keep giving momentum to the public policy process. To succeed a model like a VPA needs a deep level of trust between authorities and a very frank dialogue. The VPA process brings NGOs and civil society inside the audit process for the first time and I think that is a very good and necessary thing. We need to keep defending initiatives like FLEGT and the VPAs from glib charges of protectionism.

Second, we need to be ready to move beyond these legality frameworks. To turn them into the baseline for innovative and ambitious suppliers and procurers to build on. Since the mid-2000s we have seen large retailers in Europe and North America showing their willingness to proactively start discriminating on behalf of their customers – often under pressure from increasingly sophisticated NGOs. Plenty of suppliers over the last decade have found their European and American buyers becoming more and more picky and more risk averse.

Over the last decade we have seen consumer-facing businesses increasingly understanding how striving to meet higher standards can give them an edge over their competitors. This trend is now so far advanced as to become a norm, with supermarkets here in the UK routinely competing aggressively and substantively on their green credentials.

The cynic says, well, you know, the end customer doesn’t really care. Give ‘em horsemeat in their burger. What the hell. Well, maybe. Maybe once or twice. But maybe the point is that the customer does often rely on and expect big intermediaries to make these judgements for them. Exercising sustainability judgements on behalf of customers is not patronising, it is duty and a trust.

Finally, commitments from companies like APP, GAR and Wilmar show us that it is the suppliers now who are leading the charge in many respects. What was remarkable to me about the New York Declaration is the prominent role played by not just the buyers but the producers of commodities who are now calling for change. And they are walking the talk.

I think there are some sceptics in the industry. Companies who are pursuing business as usual practices, who do not see any pressing incentive to change their practices which ultimately have been making them good money for many years. Why should they change, why should they take the risk?

For me, I think this is a short-termist attitude. We know which way the wind is blowing. In my engagement with large companies in Indonesia I have seen businesses that ultimately decide to radically change their business models, and to build new ones based on a more sophisticated understanding of resource stewardship. They do this not only because they care about forests (and of this I have no doubt) but because ultimately they understand the larger global trends that will define the timber, palm and other forest related industries over the next decade and beyond.

Does it matter that these companies are – at least for now – contemplating going further than the law requires? Far from it. In fact, I would argue that it is a sign of how far we have come."

© Global Counsel W:

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Are activist and campaigner documentaries improving?

The answer has to be yes. I used to review some of them for obscure television channels a few years ago and most were interesting, but supremely one sided and obviously ideological.

Today, the quality is improving rapidly. This is happening as groups such as Global Witness, which used to be just a campaign group but now blurs the boundaries of modern journalism (in a good way), become more high profile and recognised for their important work.

Documentary makers related to the environmental movement side too, are raising their game. They are gaining more awards, making better movies and generally showing the complexities of globalised business and governance challenges in a way you didn't see so much a few years ago.

Virunga, about mining in a nature reserve in the DRC in Africa is a good example.

It's a multiple award winner and is just out on Netflix, it's well worth a look

National CSR policy development process, a few thoughts

A few years ago I was involved in a policy development process to CSR (as it was then) in the UK.

Last week I went to Riga, Latvia, to share a few thoughts with government folks, companies and NGOs on the experience.

They, like quite a few other countries, are working on a national CSR framework.

I tried to figure out what we'd learned from the process, and how it was - or wasn't - implemented properly subsequently.

Here's the link to the slide deck I put together and the it's embedded below.

I also gave a short presentation on supply chain issues, which you can find here, and below.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Some thoughts after our recent deforestation conference

As some readers will recall, we held a conference on deforestation last week in London.

Here's a few thoughts that came out of it as a result. Thanks to Richard Donovan from the Rainforest Alliance for nuancing some of this. 
  1.  An incredible amount of progress has been made since 2010.
  2. There are three kinds of companies in the space: Those who have yet to do anything beyond the law, those who belong to RSPO only, and a third, much smaller group who are going way beyond RSPO and other standards to drive innovation.
  3. Some companies are rushing out announcement with no idea of how they will achieve them or how to handle transparency, how they will actually meet commitments, etc.
  4. Others have developed in-depth partnerships with NGOs, but are not finding implementation at all easy.  The leaders are going into it knowing it won’t be.
  5. Conservative companies struggle with this due to the age old attitude of "we only talk about what we know how to do".
  6. Social issues are becoming far more obvious barriers to change than in the past.
  7. Governance and accountability, along with social issues, is now top of the agenda.  
  8. Industry groups, such as the Consumer Goods Forum and the World Economic Forum, are starting to push for more B2B collaboration beyond just RSPO-style compliance.
  9. Increasingly, it's not just about confusing terminology such as HCV and HCS, but about "landscape management" and "smallholder engagement".
  10. The Tropical Forest Alliance represents a significant opportunity for companies to engage governments and NGOs on better governance issues. The TFA 2020 initiative has company, NGO & government partners. 
  11. The "China and India will buy all the bad wood products/palm oil" argument is disputed by some working with the suppliers at source. But others see it as a key problem yet to be substantively addressed.  
  12. Certification, whilst limited in its ability to drive systemic change, is part of the mix, but by no means the whole story.  
  13. Legal enforcement of recently enacted laws in the EU and USA have a very long way to go. 
  14. Enforcement is extremely complicated given the difficulty of proving product provenance.
  15. The dynamics around procurement policies and deforestation have engendered both dialogue and action in ways we could not have predicted. This has sharpened the focus on deforestation as a part of sustainable or responsible purchasing programs, but the challenges for such efforts are how to ensure systemic platforms that ensure continuity, and how to handle transparency. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Some good supply chain communications from Unilever (infographic)

(Click to enlarge)

Useful event coming up next week:

Business and Human Rights

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

This global event is a meeting place for corporate practitioners tasked with the responsibility of putting human rights principles into practice. Going beyond the usual theory and into the practical implications and real-world challenges of implementing the human rights guiding principles across the business.
  • Human rights and business performance A look beyond the typical academic lens and into the practical implications that human rights can have on your business and the bottom line
  • Go beyond just policy: A look at progression since the implementation of the human rights guiding principles. Discuss how framework has advanced – and what remains to be done
  • The legal and enforcement risks Understand what you must be doing, and where you can, and should, draw the line
  • What makes policy that works on the ground? Find out how to integrate human rights principles into your sustainability, and business, framework
Speakers include
  • Benet Northcote, head of CSR, John Lewis Partnership
  • Ron Popper, head of corporate responsibility, ABB
  • John Morrison, executive director, Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • Camilla Goldbeck-Lowe, CR expert sustainability and corporate responsibility, Ericsson
  • Charmaine Nuguid, team head global, PUMA.SAFE Humanity, PUMA
  • Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor, The Economist
  • Marcia Balisciano, director, corporate responsibility, Reed Elsevier
  • Will Oulton,
 global head of responsible investment, First State Investments
  • Richard Howitt MEP, Labour MEP, foreign affairs spokesperson, rapporteur corporate responsibility
Key Topics Covered
  • Big finance and human rights Discover how financial institutions view the business and human rights agenda – and how this is quantified
  • Case studies and challenges The power of experience. Discuss with the experts how to get started and what to avoid
  • Bring suppliers on board How to engage and support suppliers as they progress towards ethical practices
  • Pre-Competitive Collaboration: Buzzword or reality? Hear from companies who have undergone successful collaboration and seen the positive results

Monday, November 03, 2014

Useful shortish briefing on ethanol/biofuels

This article from Yale Environment 360 is fascinating.

Titled: "For Cellulosic Ethanol Makers, The Road Ahead Is Still Uphill"

The article has sober analysis of where we are on cellulosic ethanol as a sustainable fuel.

This would be of interest to most readers, I would guess. A few choice quotes below:

"While it has environmental advantages over other forms of ethanol, cellulosic ethanol has proven difficult to produce at commercial scale. Even as new production facilities come online in the U.S., a variety of economic and market realities suggest the new fuel still has big challenges to overcome."

"Despite U.S. government mandates requiring that some ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, the market remains constrained by the design of most modern car engines, which are generally unable to tolerate more than small percentages of the cleaner-burning fuel that cellulosic ethanol provides. Complicating matters, federal officials are now considering a reduction in those very blending mandates — a move that cellulosic fuel supporters say would stymie the industry before it ever gets off the ground.

"...three plants are slated to produce 80 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually — a substantial uptick for such fuels, but still far less than 1 percent of the 135 billion gallons of gasoline used in the U.S. last year. And that’s just a fraction of the 1.75 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol that federal guidelines currently call for blending into the nation’s fuel supply.

The U.S. quickly became the global leader in ethanol production, followed by Brazil. But scientists soon began taking a harder look at this “green” fuel. A number of studies suggested that when the entire production cycle was considered, the emissions profile of ethanol derived from food crops such as corn was only marginally better — and sometimes even worse — than that of petroleum-based fuel. And as agricultural acres were converted to grow these fuel crops, scientists began to worry about additional emissions associated with land-use changes, increased pollution from fertilizer runoff, and additional consumption of limited water for irrigation and processing.

A spike in corn prices in 2008 also sparked concern — rightly or wrongly — that ethanol production was driving up global food prices."

More here.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

27 expert tips on engaging stakeholders in emerging markets

Last week we held a training workshop on engaging stakeholders in emerging markets.

Below are the tips the dozen or so experts who assembled for the two day meeting came up with at the end. They are in no particular order.

I hope they are useful. Some are of course blindingly obvious.

1. Training helps! Everyone believes they are an excellent communicator, most people are not! Take training. Make training available. Everyone in your company is a communicator, but make sure communications are kept memorable and simple, and trust your people to do the right thing.

2. There are no secrets. Resist the urge to compartmentalize information. Treat all communications as if they were going to be posted on the internet for all to see (because, that may just happen). Act authentically but remember everything can and often will, end up on the record.

3. Perception rules! Remember there is no such thing as reality: There are only perceptions. This is why brand power works, because they are made of perceptions based on your view of the world.

4. Interest alignment. Constantly search for alignment between company/project interests and stakeholder interests. Be creative – sometimes real opportunities lie outside the box. Interest intersections, where your interests and stakeholder interests align are valuable gems. Think inside and outside the box to find them.

5. Partnerships are good. Developing partnerships with on the ground NGOs are vital. So are partnerships with governments, development agencies and others with shared objectives. Look for shared interests and objectives and build on them.

6. Help stakeholders understand why and what. Show communities what is happening with their data, or risk negative speculation about your intentions. Think of ways their data may be used to support their interests and objectives.

7. Officiousness kills. It will destroy trust and relationships. Resist the urge to hide behind policy and procedure. Work with relationships, not policy.

8. Understand your risks. Risk assessments for stakeholder management are very important. A sustainability issues matrix can help to understand, prepare and manage risks. Make the matrix fit the realities of your project and your stakeholders. One size DOESN’T fit all.

9. Stakeholders are human too. Sometimes they will lie. So will your bosses and your reports and your colleagues, and probably you too. That’s life. Get used to it.

10. Own your shortcomings. Your mistakes and shortcomings don’t go away if you don’t acknowledge them. Own them, learn from them and move on. Nobody expects perfection. Honestly owning a mistake or shortcoming and moving on can build trust and strengthen relationships.

11. Realistic timeframes and budgets for stakeholder engagement are vital - and make sure your CFO understands and approves a realistic budget. Help them to understand the cost of your failure.

12. Early is better. Stakeholders don’t expect perfection so don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you start stakeholder engagement. Engage early, engage often and build trust.

13. You are motivated by shareholder value. Own it. Don’t ever try to hide behind do-gooderism at the corporate or individual level. Your company is not a charity. Nobody will believe you if you try to present it as one.

14. Share credit – it will multiply. Credit shared is goodwill created. Acknowledge, recognize, praise and promote partners and collaborators (government, NGOs, communities, organizations, etc). Do it every chance you can. You gain much and lose nothing.

15. Press conference = you lose. If you are in a stakeholder engagement press conference you’ve already lost! A press conference is not engagement: Any kind of confrontation means you have lost and need to rebuild.

16. Smile. Let your humility and humanity show. Relax and enjoy meeting people and learning and being human: Early tension in meetings can be quickly relieved by smiling and being relaxed.

17. Do the right thing! Use the phrase: "Let's get caught doing the right thing!" to build simple internal buy in.

18. Understand before understood. Communication is critical. Listening is key. Seek to understand before you try to be understood. Think about how you say things: Use soft language, not hard, emotion generating terms.

19. Everyone is the face of the company. They should be trained in stakeholder engagement. Right person to right position: If you delegate, train and build capacity. Make sure your people know how do it right, never assume. This means your bosses, your reports and others across the company.

20. Own your stakeholder relationships. Use third parties as necessary (they can be very helpful) but don't contract out stakeholder engagement or difficult communications - your company must be the face stakeholder see and learn to trust.

21. Expectations change (but seldom reduce). Stakeholder expectations will shift and change. But, guess what, corporate, government and other expectations shift and change too. That’s life. Accept it and prepare for it. Engage, monitor, scan and adjust as required.

22. Learn from success and failure. There are lessons in success and failure. Analyze them both. Learn why you succeeded or failed and adjust.

23. Simplicity is good. Complexity will cost you. Simple guidelines beat complex prescriptive procedures every day of the week. Be realistic. If your stakeholder engagement plan, process, procedure is too complex who is going to follow it. Don't turn stakeholder engagement into box ticking! Train and trust your people. Give them room to be creative and responsive but let them know where the boundaries are.

24. Interest intersections are critical. Mapping stakeholders and interest mapping is vital, and must be reviewed often. Find and develop the interest intersections where win, win, win can be found.

25. All is not the same. The importance of taking note of culture cannot be underestimated. Things change from country to country and project to project. Rigidity will often crack and break. Allow room for adaptation to culture and use it when necessary.

26. Stay in touch. Ongoing communications even when there is no obvious demand – Be open and transparent, it builds trust. Think about being counter intuitive with regular communications about the good and bad. Get the balance right. Communicate frequently enough that you are not forgotten but not so frequently that you are ignored. Don’t always wait for a big win, or failure.

27. Don’t be left at the starting line. Compliance is the price of entry. Go beyond. Don't rely on compliance, or believe that claims of legality offer you any protection. If you have to use them you’ve already lost.

Leading companies in the field of business and human rights will be meeting on November 10th in London to debate the above, and much more. Join BP, Anglo American, De Beers, Ericsson, John Lewis, RBS, Amnesty, Oxfam and many many more by taking a look here and signing up for the event.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The October-only offer on Getting to Grips with Corporate Responsibility - expires soon

Last week we alerted you to the fact you can get 30% off our main 'Getting to Grips with Corporate Responsibility' course. That discount comes to an end at the end of tomorrow.

To claim the discount, simply use the code GTG2014F at the checkout at

What's covered? It's an eight module course covering:

1. An introduction to basic concepts
2. The business case
3. CR Reporting
4. Supply chain and human rights
5. Reputation, marketing and communications
6. Business and NGOs
7. Employees
8. Making it happen for your business.
Case studies used include: Shell, Nike, Interface, Patagonia, Coca-Cola, Alliance Boots, Arsenal Football Club, Greenpeace, Clean Clothes, and many many others.

Each module is made up of between 8-16 chapters which are in the form of a 3-10 minute video with a lecturer with powerpoint slides. Once you join, you get access to a new half module each week - although if you choose to work through them more slowly you retain access to the portal for at least six months after joining.

You can see a breakdown of the full content on the website (see link below).

The 30% discount comes off the standard price of £495 GBP / €595 / $810 USD / $890 AUD.

Interested to sign up? You can do so at right now, and be working your way through module one in minutes.


Best wishes

Mallen Baker and Toby Webb

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paris 2015 climate change meeting, will it mean much?

Various people more learned than myself have been telling me that the Paris 2015 meeting on climate change is set to the most significant meeting since the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference.

That, of course, was a disappointment to most, and interest in global deals seem to have sunk to record lows in the modern era since then.

Paris though, people tell me, may be different. I've had my doubts, given that apparently 82% of global power is generated from fossil fuels today, according to the IEA.

However, this article gave me pause for thought. Here's a few extracts below. Let us hope those quoted are right.

The sceptic in me says this is UN sources looking for friendly media, but some of the numbers give one cause for eventual hope, perhaps.

Climate change: Carbon trading edges closer as UN brokers deal

"The world is on the brink of enlisting market forces in the fight against climate change on a truly global scale for the first time, United Nations officials have claimed.

After years of opposition, hundreds of the world’s major companies and investment firms – including several oil giants – have agreed that there should be a charge for the damage done to the planet by greenhouse gases.

This means that an international carbon market – in which companies buy and sell the right to produce harmful emissions – is now close to becoming a reality.

So far, 74 countries, including the EU, China and Russia, but not the US, Canada, Japan or Australia, and 1,000 businesses – from oil firms BP and Statoil to giant corporations such as Coca-Cola, NestlĂ© and Unilever – have signed up to a UN declaration in support of carbon pricing.

And a group of 354 major institutional investors, such as BlackRock, the BT Pension Scheme, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rothschild & Cie Gestion, have also agreed to call on governments to “provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge”. Collectively, they handle about £15trn in assets – more than the United States’ GDP."

This all sounds lovely, but a year ago this pensions publication was pointing out that:

"Total assets under management of the largest 500 money managers worldwide jumped 8.2% to $68 trillion in 2012, with U.S.-based managers controlling the largest market share in a decade, according to the Pensions & Investments/Towers Watson World 500 ranking."

So quite a long way to go then. Something tells me market mechanisms alone, or as currently used, are not going to get us there.