B Team leaders kicked off the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA78) and Climate Week NYC together last Sunday, at its annual general meeting, thanks to Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya who hosted the gathering at its headquarters. The meeting concluded with leaders fervently committed to catalyzing courageous leadership in the week ahead, after unanimously nominating Ester Baiget (CEO, Novozymes) as vice chair. The event then expanded to include other members of the business community, university deans, youth leaders and board directors focused on how to inject bold leadership into company boardrooms and business education.
Speaking at the Action Speaks Summit on Tuesday, B Team Chair Jesper Brodin (CEO, Ingka Group IKEA) outlined the opportunity facing business: “The world is still underestimating the economic advantages of being climate smart. Being climate smart, is being resource smart, is being cost smart. Everything we do to address carbon means we are addressing unnecessary cost. That gives me hope."
Sharan Burrow (former General Secretary, ITUC) placed people at the heart of discussions on how business can courageously lead a just and inclusive transition to a net zero economy: "Stop talking about stranded assets only and start talking about what we do about stranded people and communities." She highlighted the need for bold leadership on pricing carbon, repurposing fossil fuel subsidies, and scaling up renewables, at an event co-hosted by The B Team, BSR and the We Mean Business Coalition. She also reiterated the need for governments to collaborate with finance to de-risk green investments.
Later in the day at the “One Home One Planet Dialogue,” Ilham Kadri (CEO, Solvay) reiterated that “sustainability and profitability has to be the mandate of any CEO, any board of directors” and warning that if not, “they are just going to have the ‘Kodak moment’ and they will disappear.”
On Wednesday, Ajay Banga (President, The World Bank) called for collaboration to “finance a different world” at the UN’s High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. Speaking alongside the UN Secretary General António Guterres and Kristalina Georgieva (Managing Director, IMF) he warned against “another period of emission-intensive growth” and invited the “scale, resources and ingenuity” of the private sector to meet the climate finance challenge. He also highlighted the role of subsidies: “If we all repurpose subsidies that currently go to fossil fuels, agriculture, and fisheries, we could unlock $1.25 trillion dollars, in much needed financing, and, avoid $6 trillion dollars in costs every year.” Later in the day, Oliver Bäte (CEO, Allianz) represented business at the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit: “Transforming our economy is actually a huge opportunity. The cost of not transforming dwarves the investment needed for the transformation. Not working on the transformation -- or slowing it down -- is foolish and ever more irrational.”
The week also saw the launch of the Planetary Guardians – a new collective of leaders seeking to enable decisive global action on the planetary boundaries framework. Richard Branson (founder, Virgin Group and co-founder, The B Team) and Jean Oelwang (founding CEO & president, Virgin Unite) addressed the group, which includes Hiro Mizuno (former CIO, Japan Government Pension Investment Fund - GPIF) and Mary Robinson (Chair, The Elders). Mary said at the kickoff event: “We have to get back to a real sense that we are nature, we’re not different from nature. We’re not looking after what is helping us to sustain our future.”
Ahead of the World Bank/IMF fall meetings and the November UN Climate Change Summit (COP28) in Dubai, we recall the words of The B Team's chair, Jesper Brodin: “The future is not about a political debate. It is about a race to actually resolve this human crisis.” In order to transform energy systems, climate finance and our relationship with nature, we need courageous leadership more than ever.