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Expert workshop report: "Corporate Action for Climate Justice & Human Rights"

Top Line Summary

Diversity of business:
While all companies are responsible for acting on climate change, there needs to be clarity around how these responsibilities differ among companies.  Distinctions that should be acknowledged include: “climate takers” (food and agriculture – though agriculture is also a major emitter) vs. “climate makers” (fossil fuels); companies responsive vs. immune to consumer demands. 

Ensuring a just transition: A transition to a low-carbon economy needs to maximise the social benefits of climate action while minimising its impact on workers and communities.  A just transition implies a package of social and economic policies which promote shared prosperity and a level of security and hope for addressing human rights impacts.   This will only be achieved through social dialogue that includes workers, employers as well as vulnerable and poor communities who will be affected, respecting human and labour rights and decent work principles.

Shared responsibility: Climate change is a collective action problem and should be addressed as such, with all stakeholders acting on their responsibilities.  This includes governments establishing effective regulatory mechanisms on a national and international level to send clear market signals to business which outlaw free-riding, and promotes innovative leadership as well as business undertaking mitigation and adaptation actions based on human rights criteria.

The power of business leadership: Although the primary duty bearers on the protection of human rights are States, business leadership on climate justice and human rights can be powerful in driving more ambitious actions globally.  Leading companies can help create a “race to the top” among their peers through leading in plans to reduce carbon emissions; supporting industrial transformation through technological and organizational innovation; and using their powerful voice to advocate for stronger commitment by governments as well as to educate consumers on more sustainable choices.

Role of financial sector: Investors have a significant opportunity to influence improvements on climate actions in the companies they finance.  The challenge remains to engage investors on climate justice at a large scale.