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Big challenges demand big thinking


18 November 2016

Niall Dunne

Blogs by author: Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.


As world leaders meet in Marrakech this week, a double weight of responsibility lies upon their shoulders.  The first is to make sure governments and businesses take away concrete plans to meet the spirit of the global agreement from COP21 made last year in Paris.  The second is to ensure that very consensus is maintained, regardless of political change.

It’s heartening and exciting to hear the determination of businesses to work with governments to build the necessary momentum for climate action, and to turn words into deeds.

Yet crucially, we need a mindset from organisations that makes sure everyone gets involved. A mindset that means those who feel disenfranchised by the political system, who feel economically locked out, still feel able and motivated to take action for a more sustainable world.

Big challenges demand more than big commitments, and individual actions need to be seen in the context of their part in global action. If we are to truly end poverty ‘in all its forms everywhere’, we are going to need huge, scalable ideas. If we are to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, we will need a global movement.  And if we are to truly tackle the threat posed by climate change to our world, we will need resilient coalitions that move forward with unstoppable momentum.

Businesses are essential to translating political promises into day-to-day solutions, and it all starts with ambition – allowing ourselves to re-imagine what’s possible.

The UN’s Global Goals are a fantastic framework for this kind of ambition. Take Global Goal 13: it calls for ‘urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. There’s no limit on the goal. We can set it. For me, that’s an open invitation to think big about what we can achieve together for our environment.

BT is doing just that. We have a proud tradition of leading the way when it comes to the collaboration the challenge requires, learning and listening, and bringing our industry and peers along with us to meet that challenge. From being one of the first to set science-based targets to commit to helping our customers cut their carbon emissions by at least three times our own end-to-end carbon impact by 2020.

Now, in the face of more challenges than ever before, we’re thinking even bigger.

We believe companies, countries and consumers can work together to extend the ambition we saw in Paris and keep temperature rises to the lower limit. So we’re investigating what companies like ours need to do in order to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C, and how technology might help.

Communications technology is a unique and vital tool to help people live and work in ways that create growth, protect our environment and support those in need.  It has the power to enable us to democratise sustainability as something that is no longer a “luxury”, but something everyone, from schoolgirls in India to businessmen in the UK, can strive to incorporate into their day-to-day work.

As a global business, we have a responsibility to show leadership at a time when it’s needed most.  For me, investigating the 1.5°C scenario is the obvious next step for a business committed to using the power of communications to make a better world. We can always go further for our climate.

Find out more about our carbon reduction goals and take a look at our purposeful business page.