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Associate professor Panikos Georgallis (ABS Strategy and International Business section) believes that governments, people, and organisations know we have to urgently do something about climate change, and businesses need to be part of the solution. He received funding from A Sustainable Future (ASF) to acquire data on corporate emission targets, climate protests against corporations and how activism affects the climate targets companies set for themselves.

‘I’ve always been interested in understanding how firms interact with their environment. My research focuses on why some firms respond differently to dealing with climate change and why that matters’, says Georgallis. This project started because of 2 things the researcher noticed. First, many companies said they want to reduce the pollution that causes climate change because they face increasing pressure from society. And second, these companies differ in terms of how serious they are about it. ‘We wanted more insight into companies that agree to do more to fight pollution because of pressure from activists. Why are some companies more ambitious than others when it comes to tackling climate change?’

More clarity needed

‘Understanding what companies plan to do about climate change is really important for everyone. Some of the world’s biggest companies have promised to reduce their emissions, but it's crucial to know exactly what they're promising’, explains Georgallis. ‘‘When we know what that is, they can be pushed to change the way they operate so they keep their promises. And if they don't, people can criticise them for it. This study identifies conditions that prompt ambitious corporate climate change targets. These findings can be used by people organising climate change campaigns to make their activism more effective. When these are effective, corporations are more likely to switch to more sustainable production practices.’

Does climate activism affect climate targets?

Georgallis: ‘The initial results we’re seeing suggest that firms do respond to activism by setting more ambitious climate targets. We will carry out further tests to look at how different companies are susceptible to pressure from activists. We will also explore how a company’s climate performance relates to its climate goals.’