Natural capital is currently being eroded at a rate faster than the planet can replenish. Many companies are making valiant commitments to reduce their environmental impacts to zero but businesses need to begin to restore natural capital - to put back more than they take out. Businesses also need to build social capital amongst the communities within which they work beyond just selling products or services.
A number of businesses have made commitments to rebuild social and environmental capital beyond the boundaries of their business operations. Ikea, for example, have committed to being “People and Planet Positive”, Kingfisher to become “Net Positive” and Coca Cola to “Living Positively”. Other businesses, such as SKF, The Crown Estate and BT have made bold commitments which require them to have a positive impact, often through influencing and enabling their customers to live more sustainably. This new approach is being referred to in business circles as a commitment to becoming “net positive”.
The concept of net positive is still in its infancy and there is little agreement over what it really means in practice, how to evaluate it and how companies will know when they’ve got there. What is certain is that achieving a net positive impact will require companies to innovate their processes, products and services and develop business models that allow them to value benefits beyond their traditional boundaries.
What we are doing: Net Positive Group
Forum for the Future, WWF UK and the Climate Group want to help companies accelerate their progress towards becoming net positive and so in 2013 we brought together a diverse group of leading UK PLCs and multinationals, including BT, Kingfisher, Coca-Cola Enterprises, SKF, Capgemini and The Crown Estate to encourage businesses to join the net positive movement. All the members of the group have already made, or are working towards, a public commitment that will ultimately mean that they have a positive impact on the communities and natural environments they operate in.
By bringing companies together in the Net Positive Group we have enabled them to exchange knowledge with a view to pushing the boundaries of understanding of the concept further and faster. The group wanted to bring some clarity to the net positive agenda and so set about defining a set of principles which characterize a net positive approach.
What we found
We launched the principles with accompanying case studies, plus a list of business benefits at the Climate Group’s Tenth Anniversary party on 28th April, 2014. The principles are intentionally broad and are designed as a checklist for companies that have already made or are close to making a net positive commitment.
We have now welcomed new members TUI Travel, Dell, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue and Pepsico into the Net Positive Group. This year the group will be focussing on the tricky area of measurement. Seeking answers to questions such as “how will you know when you’ve reached Net Positive?” We will also continue to encourage more companies to go “net positive”.
If you are considering making your own Net Positive commitment we invite you to download the report and use the principles as a check list for good practice. If your company has already made a net positive commitment or is close to doing so, and you would like to get involved with the Net Positive Group, please get in touch with Zoe Le Grand at Forum for the Future.
- Eight steps to make the idea of 'net positive' more than simply jargon, by Sally Uren
- Net positive - the next step for sustainability pioneers, by Sally Uren
- Over the overdraft, by Zoe Le Grand
- The many benefits of being net positive, by Zoe Le Grand