Climate change and sustainability: a global mobility agenda

Coronavirus might have caused the postponement of the COP26 2020 gathering in Glasgow in November. But the global climate emergency remains front of mind for campaigners and businesses alike.

From melting ice caps to more extreme weather conditions, the changing environment is a key challenge for business, especially those operating globally. It is an existential threat that requires coordination and collaborative action from all stakeholders in society.Momentum has grown on the environmental agenda over the past decades. Evidence of the havoc climate change can wreak on communities and economies has become impossible to ignore. Multi-lateral global agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, made under the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and signed by leaders in 189 countries, commits signatories to regular reporting on action to counter global warming.

Carbon-free by 2050

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.Clean growth is a key aspect of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. Estimates suggest this could boost the number of green-collar jobs to 2 million and the value of exports from the low-carbon economy to £170 billion a year by 2030.Then-Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore MP, said: “Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.”Ahead of the Paris Accord’s next deadline for updates to carbon reduction, China has this week committed itself to carbon neutrality by 2060.These developments are fundamentally changing how capital is raised and investment decisions, bringing climate change to the heart of the international business agenda. Relocate Global’s new editorial remit, outlined in the latest edition of Think Global People, reflects these significant changes.Sustainability and climate change are key platforms for our interlinked areas of focus, including 2020’s new Relocate Think Global People Awards category for best sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, which champions great practice in the global mobility and global leadership arena.

The CBI’s Green Recovery Roadmap

Earlier this week, David Sapsted reported on CBI’s first-ever Achieving Net-Zero Conference. Director-General of the business representative body, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, cited green growth as the route to recovery from the impact of the pandemic.The CBI launched its Green Recovery Roadmap, which proposes six priorities to "reignite business investment, create green jobs and kickstart a sustainable economic recovery". These are:
  1. Lifting the cap on auctions for renewable power and introduce a financing model to encourage domestic and international business investment in new nuclear capacity.
  2. Accelerating the delivery of electric vehicle charging points and introduce a net-zero mobility credit scheme, alongside government funding for a UK-based Gigafactory (battery manufacturing for electric vehicles).
  3. Becoming a world leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology – by introducing a privately-financed Regulated Asset Base model and developing plans for an auction mechanism for CCUS.
  4. Earmarking at least £1 billion of government funding for hydrogen testing programmes and introducing a variant of the Contracts for Difference auction for the production of hydrogen.
  5. Creating an Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels to secure the development of low-carbon alternatives and commit £500 million of matched public-private funding (£1 billion in total) to support the UK’s first commercial sustainable fuel plant.
  6. Delivering jobs and energy savings by retrofitting homes and buildings to be more energy efficient and switch to low-carbon heating.  And for government to publish its Heat and Buildings Strategy.

McKinsey - the path to the Next Normal

Further reflecting the seriousness with which business leaders are listening to campaigners’ and scientists’ warnings on the environment is that management consultancy, McKinsey, this week again joined other organisations to address the climate emergency.GIESF-in-text-bannerIn common with the CBI, it prioritises making the recovery from Covid-19 an environmentally sustainable one. McKinsey & Company Global Managing Partner, Kevin Sneader, said recently that “Coronavirus holds profound lessons that can help us address climate if we make greater economic and environmental resiliency core to the recovery.” Using its research, McKinsey outlines six sustainability priorities from its research that can help on the path to the Next Normal.
  1. Prioritising a green COVID-19 recovery
  2. Allocating and reallocating capital
  3. Adapting to existing physical risk
  4. Accelerating decarbonisation
  5. Protecting natural capital
  6. Transforming corporations at scale.

Sustainable development – the UN’s perspective

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015 "as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030", also highlight the role of businesses in creating “a better and more sustainable future for all”.The UN’s goals are wide-ranging and include: taking action on education, gender equality, reducing inequalities, supporting strong and effective institutions, and decent work and opportunities for young people. All of these are core areas of Relocate Global’s Think Global People media and community, which seeks to help global mobility and global leaders respond to the real challenges we all face.Corporate social responsibility matters to businesses and global mobility, and the supports inclusion, talent, quality work and strong institutions goals. “Organisations that can demonstrate care for the environment and for social causes, balancing these with business objectives, are considered to be good employers and, as such, are attractive places to work,” says Dr Sue Shortland.“This helps to promote a highly positive brand image, which can be particularly attractive to Millennials, who increasingly comprise organisational workforces and are attracted by positive CSR organisational reputations. Having a moral and ethical brand image is also attractive to customers and so can help to boost sales and organisational growth.”

Sustainable human resource management – the CIPD’s view

Edward Houghton, Head of Research and Thought Leadership at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, notes the rising interest in sustainable HRM. Citing Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO BlackRock, and his 2018 letter to CEOs, he writes that this emerging field is seeing more focus being given to a range of factors, including:
  • Long-term orientation: Workforce planning; assessing needs of future employees
  • Care of employees: Health, safety, wellbeing management; work-life balance
  • Care of environment: Fostering 'eco-career'; rewarding against environmentally sustainable behaviour
  • Profitability: Share programmes
  • Employee participation and social dialogue: Different forms of employee voice and employee participation
  • Employee development: Job rotation; training for skills development; employability
  • External partnership: Cooperation with key stakeholders
  • Flexibility: Flexible working arrangements; job rotation
  • Compliance beyond labour regulations: Involve employee representatives in decision-making where participation is a statutory requirement; financial and non-financial support
  • Employee cooperation: Teamwork; good relationships of managers and employees
  • Fairness and equality: Fostering diversity; respectful relationships; fairness as regards remuneration; career.
In conclusion, rather than being fine words in filing cabinets, the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda is fast-heading to be a business – and global mobility – key priority.


Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

Related Articles