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Air Pollution

Global companies reduce air pollutants in supply chains

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A corporate alliance is committed to measuring and reducing air pollutant emissions Image: Chris Robert / Unsplash

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  • World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that 99% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution levels exceed WHO guideline limits.
  • The World Economic Forum and the Clean Air Fund launched the first global private sector initiative to tackle air pollution at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
  • The alliance of companies are committed to measuring air pollutants, championing change and using their assets innovatively to accelerate clean air solutions.

Why air pollution?

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 99% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution levels exceed WHO guideline limits. Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of respiratory diseases, stroke, heart attacks, diabetes and links to dementia. Children are also highly susceptible to poor air quality as their lungs and brains are still developing.

There is a clear public demand to act on clean air. A YouGov survey carried out on 1,000 citizens across five countries showed that most people support stricter regulations on air pollution.

Furthermore, improving air quality has a significant impact on the economy. Air pollution hinders productivity and cognitive abilities, even at relatively low concentrations. Research has found that the UK economy could benefit by £1.6 billion annually by meeting WHO guidelines for air pollution. The World Bank estimated that the cost of the health damage caused by air pollution amounts to $8.1 trillion a year, equivalent to 6.1% of global gross domestic product.

The sources of greenhouse gases and air pollution are generally aligned too - transport, the power sector and industrial emissions. By improving air quality, we can deliver faster climate action and lower the burden of disease attributable to air pollution.

What’s the problem we need to solve?

Leading businesses recognize that they have an important role in reducing air pollution alongside greenhouse gas emissions. Business activity contributes significantly to air pollution globally but air pollution is not prioritized nor integrated into climate action.

The Alliance for Clean Air was launched to spark private sector efforts to improve air quality across their value chains. The Alliance – an influential group of multinational companies – has committed to measuring air pollutants from their operations and value chains and reporting the results in their sustainability reports. They are also exploring the impact of their existing climate strategies and ways to increase their ambition through specific air pollution mitigation measures.

The Alliance includes the following global businesses: Accenture, Biogen, Bloomberg, EY, the GEA Group, Google, GoTo Group, GSK, Haleon, IKEA, Maersk, Mahindra Group, Moderna, Oracle, Siemens and Wipro.

The companies used a science-based method to measure air pollutant emissions that was developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Climate & Clean Air Coalition and Inter IKEA Group. So far, Inter IKEA Group, Maersk, GoTo, Bloomberg, Biogen and Oracle have published, with others expected this year.

They concentrate on the air pollutants identified by the WHO as having the largest impact on human health including nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter. The practical guide is freely available for all companies wanting to create air pollution emission inventories.

Alliance members have made an important step to deliver on pledges made at COP26 in Glasgow. The progress clearly shows their intent to integrate air pollution into their climate strategies and move from commitment to action.

Pim Valdre, Head of the Climate Ambition Initiative at the World Economic Forum
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How can you get involved?

In 2024-2025, the Forum aims to scale the Alliance by working with more multinational companies and large national corporations. All current and future members will measure air pollutant emissions, act as champions with stakeholders and harness their innovation capability.

By joining the Alliance, companies can get ahead of increasing public pressure to demonstrate corporate action as well as build resilience for future clean air legislation and policies, such as the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which requires companies to communicate progress including on air pollutants.

Companies interested in learning more can access Making Clean Air Your Business: Key Messages about Clean Air for Decision-Makers and Clean Air Business Case Framework created in collaboration with Accenture and Clean Air Fund.

The Forum will also explore ways to work with existing corporate initiatives to inspire other companies and bring air quality squarely into the climate movement.

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Related topics:
Air PollutionSustainable DevelopmentClimate ChangeSupply Chain and Transport
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Partners:
AccentureA.P. Møller-MaerskBiogenBloombergClean Air FundClimate and Clean Air CoalitionEYGEAGlaxoSmithKline (GSK)GoTo GroupIngka Group (IKEA)Inter IKEA GroupMahindra GroupModernaOracleSiemensStockholm Environment Institute (SEI)Wipro
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