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Will corporate climate coalitions deliver? A progress report on 6 buyer groups

More companies are joining alliances to procure their way to lower emissions. We assessed the progress of 6 of the biggest.

General view at the High level Roundtable on Hydrogen during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 5, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by COP28 / Stuart Wilson)

General view at the High Level Roundtable on Hydrogen during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on Dec. 5 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by COP28 / Stuart Wilson)

The COP28 climate negotiations gathered a record 84,000 people in Dubai, and the volume of collaborative buying commitments made by companies on the sidelines also swelled.

These coalitions are creating new ideas, new policies, new demand and new tech in energy, shipping, food, finance, transport and construction.

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This is one of a series of articles looking ahead to the trends, innovations, opportunities and challenges that will define the business of sustainability in 2024.   

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For example, a raft of new agri-business collaborations, including the International Soil Carbon industry Alliance, is developing technologies that exploit soil’s potential for natural carbon sequestration; and the First Movers Coalition for Food, which is aiming for $20 billion in orders with low-carbon, sustainable farming techniques.

But do they make a difference? 

Here are six of the biggest initiatives founded in the last 10 years that aim to change corporate procurement habits to prioritize lower-carbon alternatives. The progress these alliances make in 2024 will be an important predictor of whether individual corporations can deliver on their environmental goals.

Agriculture

Forest Positive Coalition of Action 

Launched: September 2020

Mission: An effort organized by the Consumer Goods Forum to address deforestation, forest conversion and degradation through new sourcing strategies. 

Status: Launched with 17 retailers and food companies representing $1.8 trillion in annual revenue — including General Mills, Mars, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Walmart — the group now has 22 members. In an October update, it touted improved disclosure on land management practices related to palm oil, soy, beef and paper.

One example is a regenerative agriculture initiative in Brazil supported by Nestle, Carrefour and Metro.

Energy

Clean Energy Buyers Association

Launched: 2013

Mission: Create a "90 percent carbon-free" U.S. electricity system by 2030 and "cultivate a global community of energy customers driving clean energy."

Status: The group, formerly called the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, represents more than 400 institutional energy buyers, suppliers and service providers. It pushes for corporate procurement of solar and wind power, through educational resources and policy advocacy. Institutional procurement contracts represented 70 percent of the carbon-free energy added to the U.S. grid in 2022. Since 2014, such contracts have helped add 71 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid, or 42 percent of all solar and wind capacity added in that timeframe.

Current priorities include making recommendations for carbon accounting and greenhouse gas reporting updates being considered by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the Science Based Targets initiative, among others. It also advocates market and transmission expansion. (Disclosure: CEBA is an event partner of this site’s parent company, GreenBiz Group.)

Finance

Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero

Launched: COP26 (November 2021)

Mission: Develop resources for financial institutions with lending strategies that support an industrial transition limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Status: In a Dec. 4 progress report, the group said it represents more than 675 institutions from 50 countries, with more than 100 new signatories for alliances so far in 2023. Among specific bright spots:

  • About 250 financial institutions expect to publish transition plans by the end of 2024.
  • A partnership with the new Industrial Transition Accelerator, an industry-led initiative centered on transitions for heavy-emitting sectors.

Priorities for 2024 include "financing solutions with a nature-based lens."

Heavy Industry

First Movers Coalition

Launched: COP26 (November 2021) 

Mission: Create purchasing demand for climate tech from emissions-intensive industries such as aviation, steel, trucking, shipping, aluminum, concrete and cement, and chemicals.

Status: Launched with 35 companies, the coalition — created by the World Economic Forum and U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry — has 95 members as of Dec. 1, which have made 120 procurement commitments for low-carbon tech. Those pledges would account for an estimated $15 billion in annual purchases by 2030, and 29 million metric tons in carbon emissions reductions, according to the group’s latest update.

Two examples of the group’s influence: building materials maker Holcim’s order for 1,000 heavy-duty electric trucks from Volvo, the largest such contract to date; and the creation of a major sustainable aviation fuel hub in Minnesota, inspired by buying commitments from Delta, Bank of America and Ecolab.

Shipping

Zero Emission Maritime Buyers Alliance

Launched: March

Mission: Development of zero-emissions fuels for ships.

Status: This group, co-founded by Amazon, Patagonia and Tchibo, represents companies that rely on cargo ships. It’s part of the Cargo Owners for Zero Emissions Vessels initiative and includes more than 20 members, including IKEA, Lululemon and Nike. 

In September, ZEMBA issued a collective request for proposals seeking vessels powered by zero-emission fuels that can carry up to 600,000 containers on members’ behalf over three years. The contract, if executed, would cut about 1 million metric tons of emissions. The services are planned to begin in 2025.

Transportation

Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance

Launched: January 2020

Mission: Offer guidance on what corporate fleet owners are seeking in commercial EVs.

Status: The alliance includes close to three dozen companies, including Best Buy, Genentech, Hertz and Uber, which collectively operate more than 2.5 million fleet vehicles in the U.S. One of the most demonstrable outputs of its work is a buyers’ principles document published in January 2022 outlining the features these businesses are seeking in EVs.

More recently, the alliance has submitted at least two letters to the Environmental Protection Agency urging it to create strong federal standards that align the nation’s climate and health goals and that will accelerate commercial fleet electrification.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Dec. 20 to clarify CEBA's mission.

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