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Circular Tayside: Prince Charles launches 'earth charter' for businesses tackling nature and climate crises

The Prince of Wales is hoping to get major businesses to commit to "accelerating and mainstreaming sustainability", by signing a new charter on the green recovery.

Developed after the prince’s call for a “marshall-like plan for nature, people and planet” at Climate Week NYC in September 2020, the so-called “Terra Carta” outlines ten areas of action for businesses looking to respond to the scale of the interconnected climate and nature crises and to shape a green recovery from the economic fallout of Covid-19.

By signing the charter, businesses formally recognise that 2050 is the absolute cut-off point for setting net-zero targets and commit to going further and faster if possible.

More broadly, they commit to recognising the interdependency of all ecosystems and of individual, community, economic and planetary health – and taking a holistic approach, rather than working in silos.

There is also a commitment to scaling investment in sustainable solutions and producing innovative financing mechanisms – particularly for large cross-border and long-term projects. As such, the Prince’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, which is hosting the charter, has created a Natural Capital Investment alliance targeting $10bn by 2022. The alliance will work with private sector and public sector actors as well as philanthropists.

Commitments designed to improve worker wellbeing across operations and supply chains; to create a strong green skills pipeline and to take an intersectional approach to social and environmental sustainability are also detailed.

Among the first corporate signatories of the charter are AstraZeneca, Refinitiv, Heathrow Airport, EY, BP, Signify, Drax Group and Compass Group. From the financial sector, it has received the support of BlackRock, Fidelity International, the Bank of America, Freuds and Schroders. Cleantech start-ups are also represented, with backers including Polymateria, CCM Technologies and Lanzatech.

The Prince of Wales said the launch of the charter comes at a “tipping point” for many crises, including biodiversity loss, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. He described the charter as “the basis of a recovery plan for nature, people and planet”.

He said that only the private sector and finance sector are “able to mobilize the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy” – but that they must “harness the precious, irreplaceable power of nature” if economic systems which go beyond ‘doing less bad’ and have a net-positive impact on sustainable development are created.

The Sustainable Markets Initiative will report annually on the charter’s members and their progress against its commitments. The Initiative will also be tasked with updating the commitments in line with the latest environmental science.

A new kind of economy

Prince Charles has been involved in the climate and environmental conversation for several decades now and, after claiming that his actions often fell on deaf ears in previous decades, has racked up considerable support from the private sector in recent times, through the Corporate Leaders Group and Sustainable Markets Initiative.

Recent months have seen the Prince making bolder calls to action for the economy as a whole, arguing at high-profile summits that systems change will be needed. He used his platform at Davos 2020 to urge governments to cease subsidies and strings-free bail-out packages for fossil fuel firms.

With Davos 2021 postponed, time will tell what the Prince has to present this year. But the green recovery theme is likely to be prominent across the board at the event. December 2020 saw the Vatican launching a ‘Council for Inclusive Capitalism’, consisting of executives from major businesses including Kering and Visa. This ‘coalition of the willing’ was set up to accelerate the private sector’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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