The path to net zero - Why and how for business and financial markets

Think people and products to achieve net zero, say experts

Oxford Saïd panel suggests practical approaches to the global challenge

The path to net zero needs to start with putting people at the centre of planning; and will involve transparency and cooperation, not just between ‘physics and finance,’ but across academia, government, business, and civil society. These were two of the key points made by expert panellists during Oxford Saïd’s Business: the Next 25 Years event on 23 February 2022.

The discussion, chaired by Rupert Younger, Director of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, focused on how businesses and the financial markets can deliver on net zero pledges. But it quickly opened up because, as Anne Simpson, Global Head of Sustainability at Franklin Templeton, pointed out, ‘All the money that really matters in these issues comes from the savings of ordinary working people around the world … pension funds [and] insurance companies.’

In the same vein, while all speakers acknowledged the overall complexity of reshaping a system that is dependent on fossil fuels, they emphasised the need to concentrate on the ‘possible’ rather than the ‘perfect.’ Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange, talked about the confusing ‘alphabet soup’ of different standards and metrics, but said that the TCFD’s guidance was ‘designed to be straightforward to apply … those who say it's too hard I think have not read the framework properly.’

Unilever CEO Alan Jope was keen to dispel the myth that sustainability costs more: ‘We believe we've saved about a billion Euros over the last eight years through sustainable sourcing.’ And Professor Myles Allen, Director of Oxford Net Zero, urged companies to stop trying to make all their activities net zero and think instead at a product level: ‘We didn't save the ozone layer with system change or changing consumer attitudes to personal hygiene by rationing deodorant. No, we changed the ozone layer by fixing the product that was causing the problem.’

The event concluded by addressing the difficult question of how to ensure that the transition is equitable and just. Allen was clear about where the responsibility for this lies: ‘Those who benefit most and have benefited most from the use of fossil fuels in the past have an absolute duty to stop fossil fuels from causing global warming.’

The path to net zero: Why and how for business and financial markets was held as part of the Business: the Next 25 Years series on 23 February 2022.

Watch the full discussion.