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Companies race to become net-zero

The EU roadmap for climate targets remained unchanged despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. However, getting to net-zero by 2050 will require tremendous effort from the private sector to make timely and sufficient steps towards decarbonisation. Each industry faces different obstacles, therefore the path they choose may also diverge although the ultimate goal is the same.

In the framework of a discussion organised by BCSDH, the Hungarian branch of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in cooperation with the diplomatic missions of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany, company leaders from various segments of the economy shared their experiences and laid out their agenda to reduce carbon emissions.

Insurance companies step up for sustainable change

The insurance industry could play a critical role in combating the climate crisis and improving sustainability. Their position will be central to mobilise capital for building climate risk-resilient infrastructure. As a global insurer, Allianz Group recognised this opportunity and seeks to position itself as a global sustainability leader.

“Reconsidering the insurance portfolio has a direct effect on GHG emission reduction,” started Alexander Protsenko, CEO of Allianz Hungary. “That’s why we are committed to fully phasing out coal-based business models across our insurance portfolios,” Mr Protsenko stated adding that this decision is a clear sign for the respective industries that it is time to shift to clean energy.

According to Mr Protsenko, the sector must leverage its financial strength and use the means at its disposal to encourage sustainable transformation.

“A crucial step towards this objective took place last year at the United Nations Climate Change Summit, where Allianz has helped to set up the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance – consisting of twelve asset owners from across the globe, responsible for approximately 2.4 trillion US dollars of assets under management – to drive the industry towards CO2 reduction”, the CEO of Allianz Hungary explained.

“In the last ten years Allians reduced its carbon emissions by employees by 35 per cent globally, the same number was significantly higher – 45 per cent – in the case of Hungary,” Mr Protsenko pointed out.

Food waste, one of the biggest emitter

As the biggest retail chain in Hungary, Tesco also strives to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In the last financial year, the supermarket chain reduced its emissions on absolute terms by 37 per cent, exceeding its initial targets for 2020. But Tesco also tries to raise awareness of an important aspect of the industry: food waste.

“Around 8 per cent of global greenhouse gases emissions come from wasted food,” explained Nora Hevesi, Head of Communications and Campaigns at Tesco Hungary. “If food waste would be a country, it would be one of the biggest emitters, just behind the US and China.”

“In Hungary, Tesco is the only food industry operator that regularly publishes data on food waste generated during its operations,” added Ms Hevesi.

According to the report, Tesco has more than halved the amount of food waste generated during its operations since 2016, thus already completing the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.

The biggest emission hotspots within the company’s value chain are electricity, cooling and transportation. Tesco is committed to cover its total energy consumption from renewables by 2030.

“Through the purchase of renewable energy certificates this is already a reality in Hungary,” said Ms Hevesi.

Shell is engaging with the concept of net-zero

Oil and gas major, Shell is one of the leaders of sustainable change in a rapidly changing but hard-to-decarbonise sector. Shell was one of the five big European integrated oil and gas companies who made commitments to significantly reduce the carbon intensity of the energy they supply.

“To become carbon neutral by 2050 Shell strives to reduce the net carbon footprint of the energy products it sells by 65 per cent by 2050,” said Andrea Solti, Country Chair at Shell Hungary. This requires the diversification of the product portfolio with low-carbon solutions such as renewable power, biofuels and hydrogen.

Shell is working to cut the emissions from its own operations but also integrated this principle into its extended business operations and pivots over time towards serving the businesses and sectors that, by 2050, are net-zero emissions themselves.

“In Hungary Shell installed its first ultra-fast electric charging system this year and piloted its own charging solution,” – explained Ms Solti emphasising that favourable development of the regulatory environment such as incentives to low-carbon energy products is key to scale up investment in new sustainable infrastructure.

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