It is undeniable that the world is rapidly approaching a climate change catastrophe. According to the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in March 2023, global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels has been reached due to the burning of fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use over a century. At this point, it is very likely that the ambitious climate target, limiting warming to 1.5 °C above preindustrial temperatures by the early 2030s, will be exceeded.
What can we do? And what can the UN do? It is high time that all sectors, especially the private sector, including the Government, join hands, commit and take necessary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rapidly. The ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) - the only private sector network of ESCAP - has initiated, launched and adopted the Asia-Pacific Green Deal for Business declaration to accelerate business actions to tackle the climate crisis. It has urged businesses in the Asia-Pacific region to commit to aligning their core operational strategies with environmental, social and governance principles through five priority action areas: 1. Advancing a zero carbon, affordable and resilient energy system; 2. Building smart, low carbon, water-secure and climate-resilient cities, infrastructure and mobility; 3. Mobilizing public and private finance for green transformation; 4. Accelerating and scaling up innovations for sustainable development; and 5. Changing towards a more circular economy. At the 79th session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific last month, ESBN firmly committed and dedicated to working in partnership with other businesses, governments and communities towards a greener world.
The ESBN Secretariat welcomes all businesses to join forces by applying to the ESBN membership, which is open to any entity formally registered as a private or public sector business organization, a private sector representative organization, or a non-governmental organization working with businesses to address sustainability issues.
To apply for ESBN membership, the entities should be a signatory to and adhere to the principles of the UN Global Compact (for business and organizations), the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (for investors), the Principles for Responsible Banking (for banks), or equivalent globally recognized standards for socially and environmentally responsible business. They should also issue annual sustainability reports in accordance with reporting standards. ESBN activities and projects are mainly done through their relevant Task Forces. With ESBN membership, businesses will have opportunities to participate and network in ESCAP intergovernmental meetings, Asia-Pacific Business Forum and ESBN events. Members will also have a chance to develop their business strategies and showcase their pilot projects through these major regional events/meetings.
Businesses and organizations can pledge support to Asia-Pacific Green Deal for Business and work hand in hand together with other businesses and the Governments to effectuate the green transformation in the region. ESBN has recently launched the Green Deal digital platform to facilitate and showcase the commitment and good work of businesses of all sizes. Green Deal pledgers who meet basic criteria will receive a green badge as a recognition for their green commitment. Pledgers also have an option to disclose carbon emission information voluntarily, and a silver and a gold badge will be awarded to those who meet the criteria, respectively. The badges do not only represent an award of recognition for efforts undertaken to align with ESG principles, but also represent the aspirations of as well as dedication and commitment to a sustainable and green future.
Climate resilient development will not be realized without business action. Environmental responsibility does not rest with large corporations alone. It also rests with Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) which represent 90 per cent of all businesses. Those who pledge support to the Asia-Pacific Green Deal Business are not only the pledgers to the declaration, but also impactful actors, and implementers. It is worth noting that Asia-Pacific Green Deal for Business initiative is closely linked to other globally recognized standards. Therefore, this pledge will enable companies, especially MSMEs, to take the first step on their ESG journey and to align with globally recognized standards for socially and environmentally responsible business.
Despite the survival challenges faced by businesses following the COVID-19 pandemic, going green is still good business. Being a green-conscious company is increasingly becoming a prestige symbol. Among 3,000 companies around the world who have committed or are in the process of committing to an emissions reduction through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), 670 companies from Asia-Pacific have committed to both SBTi and the Climate Disclosure Program (CDP). The market for green businesses in Asia is expected to grow to $5 trillion , businesses that move and act fast to address climate challenges and become green, are likely to have a competitive advantage over others. In this exciting context, ESCAP invites companies across Asia and the Pacific region to join ESBN to help create a more sustainable and better future for all.