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Going net positive and doing it well


The wisdom of the crowd was particularly evident at our pivotal Net Positive conference. The attendees – 200 sustainability experts – offered many great insights for firms stepping up a gear. Their guide to going net positive is available via Green Mondays.

For a company to reach a net positive result, it’ll need to make efforts right across the value chain.  For instance, what new services could the business offer to customers to support greener and fairer living while providing new business opportunities ahead of a green economy?  What additional restorative steps could its suppliers take to generate positive results on the ground?  And to complete the package, a company can make additional social and ecological investments in reforestation, marine protection or river stewardship, as well as playing a role in improving the governance of natural capital.

The following principles are a good place to start if your business wants to embrace such initiatives and go net positive well.

Recognise the business logic

Globalisation has brought fierce competition across the private sector. In response, many businesses are doing more to address their resource dependencies, enhance their social licence to operate, and create new business opportunities. For example, beverage companies are playing an increasing role in water stewardship as well as ‘replenish’ or ‘recharge’ schemes in order to boost reputations and resources.

Give back

Net positive results are achieved by generating new social and environmental benefits across the value chain that far outweigh the company’s entire footprint.  They also require business interventions that add more than optimisation to the economy and instead drive better functioning energy, food, or transport systems.  For example, Kingfisher’s ambitions around customers creating surplus clean energy go beyond efficiencies and contribute to a cleaner energy system.

Nail relevant issues to be credible

Credibility is reached through the prioritisation of areas to focus on according to the company’s key material risks and opportunities – such as aiming to become forest positive, freshwater positive, marine positive, climate positive, or waste/resource positive. For example, when you think about issues relevant to Ecover, you probably think chemicals and plastics. So Ecover’s current work on water treatment and retrieving waste plastics from the oceans for recycling can create benefits that are particularly relevant to its industry.

Bring business model innovation into the mix

Businesses can embrace all kinds of net positive initiatives across their value chains. But in order to align with a green economy many will also have to fundamentally change direction. For example, the rapid rise of renewables towards grid parity at the utility scale and socket parity in the home in various markets is set to transform the energy landscape. Utilities would do well to adapt in order to avoid stranded assets and pursue new innovative business models to be ‘climate positive’.  See www.wwf.org.uk/innovation

The Net Positive movement will inevitably mature: companies have much to gain by getting smart about giving back. WWF will continue to support businesses in getting this right. Join us on the journey – come to the next event with our director general and our chief executive, at the B4E Net Zero, Climate Positive conference in May.

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