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Business leadership for a climate neutral economy

28 October 2022 - CISL's Tahmid Chowdhury reflects on the last 12 months since the Materials and Products Taskforce was launched.

Creating genuine change can be challenging. Policymakers are under increasing pressure to navigate multiple crises at an ever-quickening pace. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent cost of living crisis and energy crisis. All the while, we face our greatest challenge – saving the planet. To do this, we must shift to a circular and sustainable model of living.

Policymakers do not have to face this challenge alone. At the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, we bring world class research to support the evolution of policy. Not only this, we also play a key role in convening leading businesses who are keen to push for greater ambition around our shift to greater sustainability.

At COP26 last year, we launched the Taskforce for climate neutral and circular materials and products. The group of seven leading businesses (which has increased to nine as Unilever and Microsoft subsequently joined) are demonstrating leadership to bring industrial decarbonisation. The vision of our Taskforce is of a group which brings together companies that are actively committed to using climate neutral and sustainable materials, and who raise awareness about the need for EU measures to achieve this.

The EU has recently made great strides towards meeting its climate goals. However, less focus has been placed on the key role that a circular economy plays. Progressive businesses want greater, more ambitious policies to speed up the transition to a climate neutral and circular economy. This counters the traditional view that business want to slow down or frustrate change. The Taskforce showcases the cutting-edge innovation of our members in building greater circularity in their organisations, and how more ambitious policies will support them in these shifts.

To showcase concrete business leadership on circularity, in July, we released our report, Digital Product Passport: the ticket to achieving a climate neutral and circular European economy?. Working with the Wuppertal Institute, the Taskforce commissioned this research to explore the benefits of a digital product passport (DPP). DPPs are a key regulatory element within the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation. The report finds DPPs could be key to helping consumers make better-informed choices and incentivising producers to increase the sustainability of their products. 

DPPs would provide industry stakeholders, businesses, public authorities, and consumers with a better understanding of the materials used in the product as well as their embodied environmental impact. This can be a real gamechanger in increasing transparency, which can subsequently lead to better design, higher recycling rates, open up opportunities for new business models as well as other numerous benefits.

I had the amazing experience of moderating the event to launch this report. We were graciously invited by MEP Jakop Dalunde to host this at the European Parliament. We heard from excellent speakers including our business members, NGOs and the European Commission.

Our advocacy has real impact. We had over 180 people joining our event and our report has had over 4000 views to date, despite only being several months old. Policymakers have directly thanked us for our research, and appreciated the work we do to connect them with progressive business views. Most importantly, we are driving the creation of better policy through practical research based upon real-world experience.

We have an exciting agenda to come over the next 12 months. We are hosting an event at COP27 where we will launch our short paper on the role of circular economy to meet our climate goals. We will hold further events, including a reaction to further circular economy legislation expected at the end of November, as well as a new research paper in 2023.

Progressive business play a key role in our shift to a more green and sustainable economy. Our work continues.

Read the Digital Product Passports report.

Learn more about the Materials & Products Taskforce here.

For enquiries, please contact:

Pascale Palmer

Pascale Palmer, Head of Media

Email | T: +44 7432 533 080

About the author

Tahmid joined CISL as a Programme Manager in August 2021, focusing on Industry. Tahmid runs the Taskforce for climate neutral and circular materials and products, and leads on competitiveness policy. Tahmid previously worked at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy within the UK Government. Tahmid worked on EU engagement and strategy, managing the UK’s participation at the Competitiveness Council and Energy Council, as well as policy work on the EU Industrial Strategy and European Accessibility Act. Tahmid also held roles at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Treasury and as a Blue Book Trainee at the European Commission.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership or the wider University of Cambridge.

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