All businesses contribute to air pollution. People everywhere are exposed to air pollution: in the workplace, during travel, and in their homes. Air pollution has high economic costs from poor human health and lost productivity. A 2021 World Bank study found that just the health impacts of air pollution cost the global economy US $8.1 trillion, which equals 6.1% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019.
While businesses emit air pollutants through a range of activities within their value chains, the private sector’s contribution to air pollutant emissions has not been adequately quantified. The Alliance for Clean Air is the very first, private sector coalition of 16 major multinational businesses aiming to measure and reduce their air pollutant emissions.
Climate Week in New York is an opportunity for business leaders to come together to look at solutions to speed up climate action. So what can we learn from the progress made by the Alliance for Clean Air members to further accelerate corporate action on a massive climate and economic issue?
1. Transparency builds momentum
It’s encouraging to see that six of our members – including Inter IKEA Group, GoTo, Bloomberg, Biogen and Oracle – have published their air pollutant emissions inventories and are now working on setting reduction targets. This is a pioneering step forward in corporate reporting.
Our first-of-its-kind guide, developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Inter IKEA Group, has enabled our members to quantify their air pollutant emissions along their value chains and create the private sector’s first-ever inventories. This involves capturing data across six key sources including electricity generation, transport and waste. Companies’ inventories cover:
- Scope 1 – direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by a company
- Scope 2 – emissions that a company causes indirectly
- Scope 3 – any other emissions created by a company’s value chain
Companies reported the challenge with data availability, particularly from scope 3 sources within their value chains. But publishing their inventory demonstrates their commitment and this is positive progress towards embedding air pollution reporting into sustainability agendas for the private sector. These inventories help build momentum to normalise data collection across activities where data was not traditionally collected. Our long term goal is for air pollutant emissions to be represented across the value chain.
2. Corporate action influences climate policy
The Alliance for Clear Air is influencing climate action. Tanah Sullivan, Head of Sustainability at the GoTo Group, referenced the alliance at the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris in June this year as an impactful initiative for their business’ environmental priorities.
Similarly, ahead of the incoming Corporate Social Responsibility Directive (CSRD) standards being adopted by the EU Commission later this year, Oracle submitted feedback during the European Union’s consultation of the proposed standards, including the pollution standard (ESRS E2). Oracle cited their air pollutant emissions reporting and the alliance’s influential role in raising the profile of corporate air pollution.
3. Trust and enhanced brand reputation
Companies’ positive steps to tackle climate change instil trust with key stakeholders. Investment decisions are increasingly based on ESG (environmental, social and governance) ratings by investors and consumers alike. NGOs also influence public perception of a company’s efforts on climate action.
Alliance members have shared the positive impact reporting their air pollutants emissions is having on their brand. Ship it Zero, a coalition of NGOs committed to zero emission imports to the US by 2030, released their inaugural Report Card on Ocean Ship Pollution and scored IKEA a B+ reporting that “no other retailer [is] acing their work on addressing their shipping pollution”. They also shared that IKEA advocates for regulatory measures to reduce port pollution and is working towards a comprehensive breakdown of their air pollutant emissions. This demonstrates what the alliance can achieve for members individually and collectively.
Join a corporate movement for a sustainable future
Harnessing the power of the private sector, the alliance has the potential to bring tangible and meaningful benefits to people and planet. As the Alliance for Clean Air builds more momentum, the collective influencing capacity of its members will encourage more companies to take action. We can only solve the global air pollution crisis if the private sector plays its part.
Find out how your company can join the alliance.