Some of the most unlikely of corporate suspects are going green – or paying lip service to the cause – bowing to pressure from customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.
The Minerals Council is the latest to change its tune. The mining industry body has announced a climate action plan amid mounting pressure on major members such as BHP to quit the organisation.
The pressure on the Mineral Council comes from activist groups such as the Australasian Centre of Corporate Responsibility, which is calling on individual companies to cancel their memberships to industry organisations that are weak on climate action, including the Minerals Council of Australia.
Climate Action 100+, which is a climate action group made up of major super funds and fund managers such as AustralianSuper, First State Super and HESTA, is also pushing for companies and the industry associations representing them to do more on climate action.
Last week AustralianSuper’s head of environmental, social and governance issues, Andrew Gray, pointed a finger at the Mineral Council’s weak stance on climate action.
“They’ve got a very high-level statement about alignment with Paris but I want to see them do more,” he told The Guardian.
The new strategy, due next year, might have more substance. According to the announcement from Mineral Council chief executive officer Tania Constable on Tuesday, the association supports “practical actions” to bring down Australia’s emissions in line with the Paris Agreement
“The Australian minerals sector supports a transition to a low emissions global economy.”
She also said that its members understand the need to plan for possible environmental changes down the track that might affect their businesses and the regional communities in which they operate.
BHP, for one, has doubled down on this sentiment, with the company signalling a move away from a “licence to operate” business model to one that actually provides social value. The company is now turning its attention to Scope 3 emissions, claiming the activities will help “protect demand” for its products.
It isn’t the only company trying to do better – or attempting to convince people as such. The contribution from Australia’s largest producer of gas, Woodside, involves teaming up with Greening Australia to plant up to 5000 hectares of native trees in Western Australia.
Also this week, Unilever made headlines for its pledge to cut its virgin plastic packaging by 50 per cent by 2025.
The company, which owns some of the biggest household brands in the world such as Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton and Omo, also wants to help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
This could see refillable shampoo stations become commonplace.
“This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products,” Unilever CEO Alan Jope said.
“It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Jope said environmentally conscious Millennials are concerned about “the conduct of the companies and the brands that they’re buying”.
“This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market.”