Climate warriors lead from within business

Marion RaeAAP
Australia's corporate sector must continue to take the lead on climate, one business leader says.
Camera IconAustralia's corporate sector must continue to take the lead on climate, one business leader says. Credit: AAP

Business veteran and unlikely "climate warrior" Lynette Mayne expects the corporate sector will have to continue to drive climate policy in Australia.

"Business is going to, and needs to, take the lead," she told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum on Monday.

"The government's going to have no choice but to come along, whether they feel good about it or not."

The "Women Who Lead: Climate Warriors" panel hosted by CEDA drew on experience across the generations.

Ella Simons, Australia's Greta Thunberg, was the youngest delegate at recent climate talks in Milan, held before the Glasgow climate conference.

The climate talks saw nearly 200 countries agree to speed up the pace of climate action, and to come back in 2022 to strengthen their current emissions targets for 2030 at talks to be held in Cairo.

"Australian can be a leading country in taking this action and Australia can be a leading country in renewable energy," the 15-year-old said.

"I hope to see Australian politicians setting those targets at the next federal election campaigns and to see voters really pushing for that."

The "Schools Strike 4 Climate" leader joined the movement at the age of 12 and helped organise a protest of more than 100,000 people.

"It's been a wild journey since then," she said, including taking Environment Minister Sussan Ley to court over her duty of care to protect young people from the impacts of emissions.

Ms Mayne is executive chair of B Team Australasia, the local chapter of the B Team organisation co-founded by Richard Branson and former Puma boss Jochen Zeitz.

The powerful business lobby believes companies can be very successful and do the right thing by the people and planet.

She is also a force behind the establishment of the Climate Leaders Coalition, a group of dozens of chief executives from some of Australia's biggest companies, who are setting their own agenda.

"I didn't know anything about climate action but I didn't let that stop me," Ms Mayne said.

Amanda McKenzie, chief executive at the Climate Council, said there needed to be "big mind shift" for companies, with the lion's share of action taken this decade.

"This is the time to take risks," she said.

Australia must talk about stabilising the climate and shifting our economy across the board, she said.

"What worries me is there is a deficiency of knowledge across corporate Australia, across Australia, about the scale of the problem."

Ms Mayne agreed change has to go even further across industries and value chains, referring to all aspects of creating goods and services.

She said climate considerations needed to become part of day-to-day operations.

"We almost don't want 'warriors' because we want organisations to fundamentally take it on board, whether it's finance, ops, procurement."

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