More than 150 companies including the likes of H&M, Burberry, Inditex, and zipper manufacturer YKK Corp, have backed a UN statement urging governments to align their Covid-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science.

The companies, with a combined market capitalisation of over US$2.4trn and representing over 5m employees, are calling for policies that will build resilience against future shocks by supporting efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050.

The statement comes as governments globally are preparing trillions of dollars worth of stimulus packages to help economies recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and as they prepare to submit enhanced national climate plans under the Paris Agreement.

“Saving lives and livelihoods, and building a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future, are at the heart of our efforts to recover from Covid-19,” said UN secretary-general António Guterres. “We can beat the virus, address climate change and create new jobs through actions that move us from the grey to green economy. Many companies are showing us that it is indeed possible and profitable to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during difficult times like this. I warmly welcome the ambitious, science-based actions we are seeing from leading companies who are demonstrating to policy-makers that green growth remains the best growth strategy.”

The 155 companies have already set, or committed to setting, science-based emissions reduction targets. By signing the statement, they are reaffirming that their own decisions and actions remain grounded in science while calling on governments to “prioritise a faster and fairer transition from a grey to a green economy.” 

“Governments have a critical role to play by aligning policies and recovery plans with the latest climate science, but they cannot drive a systemic socio-economic transformation alone. To address the interconnected crises we face, we must work together as an international community to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement,” said Lila Karbassi, chief of programmes at the UN Global Compact. “As the largest ever UN-backed CEO-led climate advocacy effort, these companies are leading the way in driving ambitious science-based action and advocacy to help reduce vulnerability to future shocks and disasters.”

H&M Group’s ambition is to become climate positive by 2040 throughout its entire value chain – all the way from cotton fields to customers’ washing machines and recycling bins. As part of the Recover Better statement, the company will continue to: demonstrate that the best decisions and actions are grounded in science, invest in recovery and resilience for a systemic socio-economic transformation, and work with governments to scale up the movement.

Helena Hemersson, CEO of the H&M Group, said it is in “extraordinary situations, such as this current pandemic, that we see how interconnected human health and planetary health are.

“We have the chance to truly reconstruct a better future, and while doing it, we need to ensure that the recovery measures taken today are not at the cost of our planet.

“It is now more important than ever that companies and governments show leadership standing by their commitments in climate action, and that we take responsibility together.”

The call follows an update to the ‘CEO Agenda 2020’ by Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) yesterday (19 May), with the non-profit leadership forum urging fashion executives to place sustainability at the core of their business models to help rebuild resilient and sustainable businesses post-Covid-19.