Top Hungarian companies form climate change team

Organisation modelled on Prince of Wales' EU Corporate Leaders Group

May 17, 2011 | By Zsolt Bauer

Several CEOs from prominent Hungarian companies have been welcomed aboard in joining an organisation similar to the Prince of Wales' EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change (EU CLG).  A high-profile launch event took place on May 16 at the residence of the British Ambassador to Hungary.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: Spearheading Hungary's corporate climate change initiative (L-R): Peter Olajos, Adriany Kincso, Marta Szigeti Bonifert, Greg Dorey, Borbala Czako, Sandrine Dixon-Decleve, Andras Farkas.

British Ambassador to Hungary Greg Dorey, after some introductory remarks, introduced a distinguished panel of guests on hand for the occasion: Hungarian Business Leaders Forum President Borbala Czako, EU Deputy State Secretary Peter Olajos, EU CLG Director Sandrine Dixon-Decleve, and Brokernet CSO Andras Farkas. Members of the press and other prominent figures from the Hungarian business community were also on hand to hear the panellists speak and to voice comments or questions of their own concerning the meaning and significance of the initiative in question.

Ambassador Dorey explained how the Stern Review (released in October 2006) made very clear the economic costs of inaction, and that following the foundation of the EU LCG in 2007, Hungarian participation in some kind of similar framework was considered during a roundtable discussion that took place when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited Hungary in March 2010.

"With countries like China, the US and Korea investing a great deal in low-carbon technology, Europe risks losing its leadership position," Dorey said. Getting European and Hungarian business to take the lead is vital, and commitment to a low-carbon future "represents a fundamental shift if corporate behaviour," the ambassador concluded.

Dixon-Decleve stressed that shifting to a low-carbon economy is "not all about sacrifice," and that green growth and green jobs can even be instrumental in getting the economy as a whole out of recession. She added that Hungary, as the first such leaders' group in Central and Eastern Europe, can set a great regional example of excellence, "even while decarbonising, and even while moving out of recession."

Olajos spoke of Hungary's activity during its six-month EU presidency, how it supported international efforts to reach an agreement in Cancun and is doing its best to prepare for this year's talks in Durban, South Africa. Hungary is also committed to achieving national carbon emissions of 80-95 percent by 2050, he said, adding that the kind of involvement from Hungary's corporate business sector envisaged under the EU CLG will be an important component of achieving these environmental targets.

Brokernet, a Hungarian life- and pension insurance agency, has approximately 3 million clients and some 4,000 agents. Brokernet CSO Andras Farkas explained how his company's involvement with safeguarding the long-term future is consistent with the drive towards a low-carbon economy and environmentally sound future. He recalled that the Prince of Wales had remarked during his Hungarian visit last year that "water and air have no national boundaries," and that these things must be protected for future generations. "I believe it's most important to reach children," Farkas said, "as they are the ones most likely to attain a different mindset."

CLG_RezWhile the new, yet-to-be-named organisation is still in something of an 'embryonic' stage - i.e. no hard agenda has been put forward - Dixon-Decleve claimed that approximately 30 percent of European businesses are more or less on board to make the shift to low carbon; another 30 percent or so can be brought on board by staying on message and promoting the benefits; the remaining 30-40 percent of businesses remain sceptical about making this important transition and will be harder to attract - but there is good reason to believe that many of the so-called 'dinosaur' industries will change their traditional approach.

The new organisation will have a mission very similar to that of the EU CLG, which is to communicate the support of business for the European Union to move towards a low-carbon society and low climate risk economy, and to work in partnership with EU institutions to secure the policy interventions needed to make this a practical reality.

Some of the companies that have already pledged involvement and support for the initiative are: Acciona, Alstom, Barilla, CEMEX, Deutsche Telekom, Enel, Johnson & Johnson, Kingfisher, Nestle, Philips, Renault-Nissan Alliance, Shell, Skai, Skanska, Tesco, United Technologies, Unilever and Vodafone.