Why should COP28 matter to businesses?

Alice Regester, Co-Founder and CEO of communications agency 33Seconds, explains why COP28 is significant
Alice Regester
Cop28 flag

Over the years, COP, the UN Climate Summit, has gone from an event only acknowledged by those working in specific industries, to one that’s widely reported on and discussed across both traditional and social media, and beyond.  

This year, over 70,000 participants are expected to attend COP28 in Dubai, including government representatives, charities or ‘observer’ organisations, plus climate experts, various other stakeholders and, of course, the world’s press. 

COP28 has already been generating headlines for months, mainly due to the contentious appointment of the CEO of a large state-owned oil company as the summit’s president. As CNN reported recently: ‘The UAE is hosting the world’s biggest annual climate summit. It’s also planning a massive fossil fuel expansion.’ 

For some critics, these contradictions have understandably been hard to resolve. However, it can also be argued that for talks to have a significant and lasting impact on climate change, big business must have a place around the table alongside world leaders.  

After all, reports have shown that since the late 1980’s just 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But companies also innovate, set ambitious targets and implement solutions to encourage and perpetuate behavioural change. 

Perhaps in the future we will see the CEOs of major brands such as Nike, Apple and Google sharing the stage with government representatives and decision makers, as well as startups, entrepreneurs and growing companies who have much to offer when it comes to insight and innovation to help solve the planet’s most pressing problems. 

Although this is yet to be fully realised, what is discussed at COP will still have a huge impact on companies, brands and their audiences. Agreements made in Dubai will filter down into national targets, laws, regulations and policies, of which businesses will need to be compliant, in terms of output, actions, marketing and messaging. 

But as well as this, despite not necessarily being on the invite list, companies are still using the milestone of the Summit to enable voices to be heard. This year, over 130 companies, including Unilever, Vodafone and Ikea urged world leaders to agree to a timeline to phasing out fossil fuels in an open letter ahead of COP28. 

Businesses are keen to take a proactive approach, in no small part because it matters to their customers. Recent studies, including from the Harvard Business Review, show that consumer sustainability demands are rising. For example, when Gen Z and Millennial customers believe a brand cares about its impact on people and the planet, they’re 27% more likely to purchase it than older generations are.

In our own research from 33Seconds, conducted among climate-aware social media users on Earthtopia - one of the largest eco communities on TikTok - we found that this demographic is also, despite the mixed coverage COP28 has received, generally optimistic about climate talks, with over half (53%) stating they feel these conferences do have a positive impact.  

And this positivity is not unfounded - according to experts, global emissions are projected to peak and decline this decade due in no small part to the work of the UNFCCC and COP framework. Already most countries have NDCs (Nationally Determined Commitments) and have agreed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

These goals and predictions act as a galvanising force, enabling governments, businesses and consumers to work together to tackle climate change through collective action. As COP28 kicks off and we look ahead to COP29 (location to be confirmed) and COP30, which will be held in the Brazilian Amazon, it’s likely that we will continue to see the increasing importance of these climate talks to companies, entrepreneurs and their audiences across the world.

Written by
Alice Regester
Written by
November 29, 2023