I had a Zoom call yesterday with Patrick Frick, co-founder of the Global Commons Alliance based in Copenhagen. I knew Patrick from the World Economic Forum as a passionate advocate of sustainability. Now he has organized a group that aims to establish specific targets for our Global Commons for companies and cities that reflects “their share of the problem, going a step beyond the Sustainable Development Goals.” The aim is to restrict global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels along with protecting nature and people.
Frick defines the Global Commons as ocean and freshwater, forests and wetlands, the climate and biodiversity - that underpin the health and wellbeing of humans, and all life. He advocates a “management approach that is based on systems thinking, to protect areas beyond national jurisdiction, including Antarctica, outer space, the high seas and the atmosphere.” He added: “These shared resources are being overused by some at the expense of others, putting people and the planet at risk.”
This Alliance was launched in June 2019 at the EcoProsperity Conference in Singapore. Now there are almost 60 partners in philanthropy, science, media, business and advocacy around the world, including Ceres, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and WWF.
The initial mandate was providing companies with nature science-based targets, building on existing climate science-based targets. Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and now honorary chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, describes nature and climate science-based targets as “the most important thing for business to do this decade.” There are 1,200 companies that have already committed to science-based climate targets, and over 60 committed to road-test the newly developed nature targets. Frick says it is essential that companies see both nature loss and climate change as business-critical issues and commit to “treating nature in a sustainable way.”
Frick describes the ecological issues as the “ultimate communications challenge. We have seen the Yellow Vests in France rebel against gasoline taxes intended to promote conservation, on the basis that they believed the rural poor would have to sacrifice their living standard in order that the urban wealthy could enjoy cleaner air and a stable climate.” That is why the organization has founded NowThis Earth, a media channel that is a fast content producer with 600 stories in the past twelve weeks reaching an audience of just over 110 million people. The material reaches 70 percent of U.S. millennials; 40 percent of the audience is in developing markets such as China and India.
I believe this is a worthy effort and that companies should consider setting climate science-based targets and get started on nature targets. There is a special need for U.S. food and agriculture companies to be involved, to make the case for its plans to make food production a climate and nature asset instead of liability. One way in which Edelman will be doing its part is with a special edition of the Trust Barometer covering the major global economies for the COP26 convening in Glasgow in November 2021.
Richard Edelman is CEO.