More than half of UK's FTSE 100 companies commit to net zero

Sixty per cent of Britain’s largest businesses lead way in global transition to net-zero emissions

Canary Wharf in London. Photo: PA
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Sixty of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign – the largest global alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

More than half of the UK’s largest businesses, representing a total market capital of more £1.2 trillion ($1.64tn) and combined annual turnover of £700 billion, have committed to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by 2050.

The pledge supports British businesses’ ambition to lead the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

As the world gathers at the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, the UK government is calling on the global private sector to follow Britain’s example and join the UN Race to Zero.

Pledges from British companies have more than quadrupled since November 2020.

Globally, more than 5,200 companies of all sizes have joined the UN Race to Zero, representing sectors such as transport, technology, manufacturing, retail and finance. Almost half of these are British businesses.

The Race to Zero guides companies in changing to net zero and puts them at the front of the global race to develop new green technology, start new industries and attract private investment.

“Businesses both large and small, across all sectors of the global economy, have a crucial role to play in reducing their environmental impact and developing the green technologies that will set us on the path to net zero,” UK Business and Industry Minister Lee Rowley said.

“With over 2,500 UK companies joining the Race to Zero, including the majority of our largest firms, the UK is leading the way in showing how going green doesn’t just make sense for the planet, it makes business sense too.”

London's financial district. British Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to announce UK companies will have to publish net-zero plans by 2023 in line with Cop26 agreements. Photo: Andy Rain / EPA

More than 2,000 small businesses from across the UK have also pledged to reduce their emissions and join the Race to Zero through the Together for our Planet Business Climate Leaders campaign.

It was launched by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, this year to help small businesses go green.

The UK government says that taking action to tackle climate change does not need to be at the expense of a growing economy.

Between 1990 and 2019, the UK’s economy grew by 78 per cent while carbon emissions fell by 44 per cent, the fastest reduction in the G7.

It is also hoped that taking action on climate change will help businesses to grow, seize new opportunities, create new jobs, encourage investment and adapt against the challenges of a changing planet.

Reducing emissions can also lower businesses’ running costs, save them money and attract new customers, which will ultimately help them maintain a competitive edge locally and globally.

The commitments also build on the government’s recently published Net Zero Strategy.

It outlines measures leading to a green and sustainable future, helping businesses and consumers to move to clean power, supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and attracting up to £90bn of private investment by 2030.

“As the world seeks bold solutions to combat climate change, we need businesses of all sizes to put the environment at the heart of their operations, making tangible climate commitments that helps chart our path to net zero emissions by 2050,” said UK net zero business champion, Andrew Griffith.

“By setting out ambitious climate targets, Britain’s leading businesses are sending a clear signal to world leaders at Cop26 that now is the time to act.

“I hope it encourages other companies across the world to outline their own net-zero ambitions and grasp the economic opportunities of this global green industrial revolution.”

At Cop26 and beyond, the UK government is calling on all businesses of all sizes to pledge to go One Step Greener and sign up to the globally recognised UN Race to Zero Climate Commitment.

The pledge is designed to help organisations become more energy-efficient, switch to electric vehicles and active travel, and become landfill-free.

By doing so, they can protect the planet and their business and help start a green business revolution.

"The mobilisation of so many of the FTSE 100 behind our common goal to deliver the promise of the Paris Agreement is further proof that the global economy is irreversibly aligning to keep 1.5°C alive,” said Nigel Topping, UN high level climate champion for Cop26.

“By joining Race to Zero, these leading companies are stepping up to drive the innovation needed and show that net zero is both technologically possible and economically attractive."

Updated: November 04, 2021, 3:45 AM