Businesses will lead the charge to net zero

November 3, 2021, 10:20 AM UTC

Good morning.

With COP26 underway in Scotland, Fortune yesterday assembled 20 CEOs from diverse industries to talk about business efforts to achieve the net-zero goal by 2050. The lively conversation, held in partnership with Salesforce, was further demonstration that business now plays a leading role in driving the climate conversation. Some excerpts:

“Health equity is a very big part of our agenda. When you look at who really suffers from the poor outcomes of our climate strategy, it’s very often the same people who are disadvantaged through inequitable access to health care. They often carry the biggest burden of the cost of climate, one way or another.”
—Sir Andrew Witty, CEO, UnitedHealth Group

“We reached carbon neutrality by 2020 in all of our operations. We are 100% on renewable electricity. That’s 10 years ahead of what we had planned. Which is why we’re now beginning to advocate externally. How do we get employees to play a role? How do we get our customers to participate in this race to net zero.”
—Sasan Goodarzi, CEO, Intuit

“We’re really focused right now on the metrics. How do we make sure that our key stakeholders…not only investors, who are of course critically important, but also our employees, our customers, our NGO activists that we’re actively in conversations with…How do we get these audiences the data that they need on sustainability?”
—Sunya Norman, VP, ESG Strategy, Salesforce

“The biggest impact (in our industry) is deforestation in cocoa…We believe one of the biggest keys to making progress is all about public and private partnerships. None of us can do this alone. If you think about a very difficult part of the world like Ghana, to get things done we need partnerships with government, partnerships with agricultural types of organizations.”
—Michele Buck, CEO, Hershey’s

“What we’re focused on very directly, at least in the short term, is how do we address the impact from changing climate, rather than what can we do to change the future. We’re just dealing with the risk that is out there.”
—Wayne Peacock, CEO, USAA

“Next year, 100% of our flip-flops will be made with a bio-based material…There’s a small company that Allbirds and Old Navy are using to bring that innovation to scale.”
—Nancy Green, CEO, Old Navy

“Our products are being sold in 150 different countries, and we have production facilities across 50 countries. And we often look at that with the idea that we have a choice to do things better, and we can act upon the challenges that our communities face in order to make a positive contribution.”
—Michel Doukeris, CEO, AB InBev

“We have operated our cloud business completely carbon neutral since 2017…so we’ve been in this for quite a while. I think now we’re focusing on little things but they’re having impact. At headquarters, we have charging capabilities for 320 electrical vehicles. And we use solar panels on the roof.”
—Chano Fernandez, co-CEO, Workday

“Our tools sit front and center in not only the design processes, but the construction processes and the manufacturing processes. So our focus right now is, How do we help our customers make incremental improvements in the embedded carbon of their buildings, their infrastructure, their machines, and all the things that they are used to doing.”
—Andrew Anagnost, CEO, Autodesk

“I think we have a lot of work to do to get the construction companies, the farmers, the trucking companies to really understand how technology can deliver not just efficiency and productivity, but sustainability as a byproduct.”
—Rob Painter, CEO, Trimble

“There are about 3,800 financial institutions that have signed up for the United Nations principles of sustainable investing. That’s $120 trillion worth of capital. But nobody knows yet what those principles mean.”
—Doug Peterson, CEO, S&P Global

“One of our key messages is to put sustainability into the compensation of the leadership.”
—Chris Villavarayan, CEO, Meritor

“If we can strip away the politics and move toward applying science to solutions, then we will win.”
—Brian Napack, president and CEO, Wiley

“Over 50% of our greenhouse gas consumption is travel…We need to figure out how to manage travel going forward.”
—Mohamad Ali, CEO, IDG

“I think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of our employees in this discussion.”
—Tony Bates, CEO, Genesys

“Engagement by the employees is a very powerful force for us. The more engagement we get with them, the more impact we have.”
—Bruce Broussard, CEO, Humana

More news below.

Alan Murray


Vaccines for kids

After advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday gave their thumbs-up, COVID-19 vaccines will start rolling out to 5-11-year-olds this week. This vaccination round will be different from the others in that it will take place in smaller, trusted settings. Fortune

$130 trillion

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a coalition of international financial companies that is led by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, says it has secured up to $130 trillion in private capital, to help economies reach net zero. Carney: "We now have the essential plumbing in place to move climate change from the fringes to the forefront of finance so that every financial decision takes climate change into account." Financial Times

Facial recognition

Bye-bye, tag suggestions: Facebook is shutting down its facial-recognition system, and deleting over a billion records of users' faces. The system has been highly controversial over the last decade, particularly in privacy-first Europe, but its removal now comes in the context of intense scrutiny over Facebook's negative effects on society. Fortune

Yahoo out

Yahoo has closed down all its services in mainland China. It's the second big withdrawal by a U.S. tech firm in weeks, following Microsoft's LinkedIn, but Yahoo has been winding down its Chinese operations for the last eight years. South China Morning Post


Microsoft's metaverse

Microsoft is effectively entering the metaverse race by introducing 3D, A.I.-animated avatars to its Teams, so people can have "immersive" meetings without needing to turn on their webcams. The Verge

South African coal

South Africa's rickety power utility Eskom has been desperate for foreign donors to help wean it off coal (it's the world's most-polluting power company) and, at COP26, its wish has come true. The EU, Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S. have pledged to give or unlock $8.5 billion in grants, loans and investment over the next three to five years, to support South Africa's shift to renewables and the coal workers who will be affected by the shift. Daily Maverick

Biden, Bezos and Gates

President Joe Biden had a big speech at COP26 yesterday, in which he called out Russia and China for their absence, while also calling on Russia and OPEC to pump more oil, to tamp down soaring energy prices. He also talked up his own, severely at-risk climate legislation, saying "I think we'll get this done." Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos used his speech to pledge $2 billion to the fight against climate change, after being reminded on his recent space jaunt that our planet is fragile, and that nature "gives us life." Bill Gates also spoke about how "the cost of transition must be low enough that the whole world can afford it." Fortune

Not "sustainable"

You might think of the outdoor-wear brand Patagonia as being quite sustainable (it even co-founded the Sustainable Apparel Coalition alongside Walmart) but, according to the company's EMEA environmental chief Beth Thoren, the company shuns the word. Why? Because it hasn’t figured out how to drastically cut emissions along its supply chain. It is however trying out a new concept called "insetting" that it hopes will improve the situation. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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