Companies taking action to meet SDG 13 – Towards a low-carbon economy by setting science-based-targets

by Katy Shields

Lukas Meyer, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Graz, kicked off a lively workshop on the role that businesses can play in achieving a transition to a low-carbon economy. He asked us to think about inter- and intra-generational justice, as well as the historical responsibility of developed nations in setting carbon budgets. However, he also pointed to the limited political appetite to date: current national reduction commitments (including Austria’s) fail to put us on a pathway of warming below 1.5 or even 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.

So, what role can companies play in driving the transition? Alexander Farsan (Global Lead Science Based Targets, WWF International) – the workshop was organised by the World Wide Fund For Nature Austria – reminded us that 100 companies control 66% of global emissions via their value chains. To this end WWF Austria set up the WWF CLIMATE GROUP, a consortium of Austrian companies committed to reducing their carbon footprint. WWF also supports the Science-based targets initiative, which takes the carbon budget still available and encourages companies to sign up for measurable goals that represent a fair share of the burden. Importantly, around 90% of targets relate to scope 3’, or indirect emissions. Right now commitments by almost 500 members amount to the emissions of Germany.

Martin Bruckner, Chief Investment Officer, Spokesperson of the Board of Allianz Investmentbank AG and Board Member of Allianz Pensionskasse AG, which is part of the Climate Group and has set a science-based target to get to zero emissions by 2050, said that we mustn’t forget about the important role of the finance sector, which has an indirect responsibility via its investments.

Participants also discussed the best approaches in getting more companies to make climate-related goals. The need for strong leadership was a common theme. Verena Anger, Sustainability Manager at Gugler GmbH, the sustainable printing company and fellow Climate Group member, cautioned that the impetous shouldn’t just come from the top, and that getting employees on board has played an important role in her company’s achievements.

Other statements came from Peter Eitzenberger, Head of Corporate Sustainability, VBV-Vorsorgekasse AG, and
Irene Jakobi, Head of Corporate Sustainability, A1 Telekom Austria Group.