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Prince Charles tells CEOs to stop ‘deferring’ hard climate choices to the next generation

January 30, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

The Prince of Wales has made climate issues the focus of his attention for a half century.

Now the rest of the world is starting to catch up. 

“I was intrigued after all of these years of trying to encourage corporate social and environmental responsibility—and having a certain amount of difficulty trying to raise awareness despite endless different initiatives—suddenly it seems the dams are beginning to burst,” said Prince Charles, speaking Thursday to a group of CEOs as part of a Fortune virtual event tied to the annual Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum. 

Prince Charles called on the executives to join his “Terra Carta” initiative, a new charter designed to push the private sector to put sustainability at its core. 

The royal drew a clear line between the emergence of COVID-19 and climate change. He said that in ignoring nature—and the subsequent crisis over the loss of biodiversity—for so long, we have “made ourselves incredibly vulnerable to these sorts of pandemics.” He added that if we don’t achieve the necessary reduction in global temperatures by 2030, we will face mass extinctions and that large parts of the planet will be uninhabitable. “All these things are interconnected,” said the prince.

He told the group of CEOs that they had a “vital role to play to ensure sustainability is central to business strategy” and encouraged them to look to the young people within their companies, who might “offer the keys to transforming your organization.” Prince Charles called on the business leaders to “start taking the tough decisions now, rather than just deferring them to the next generation.” Companies and their marketing teams must also tell the stories of sustainable products to their consumers, he said. 

He noted that businesses that are aligned with sustainability “are increasingly outperforming those that are not, even in the current economic crisis.” 

“This pandemic has highlighted that human health, economic health, and planetary health are fundamentally interconnected,” said the Prince of Wales—who noted that the health crisis has also proven that it is possible to mobilize resources and accelerate timelines when the need is great. “There is simply no time to waste.”