Together for our planet: One year until COP26 international climate summit

This month marks one year until the COP26 International Climate Summit in Glasgow. It will be a pivotal moment for the world to come together to solve our greatest threat.

  • 2 Dec 2020
  • by
  • Steve McCann GMT

Like countless others around the world, I recently watched Sir David Attenborough’s “A Life On Our Planet”.

Considered by many to be Sir David’s most powerful work, the documentary blends truly disturbing images of melting glaciers, fire ravaged communities, starving families and displaced wildlife with the latest data on the environmental impact our species has had on the planet.

It's poignant to hear a 93-year-old person, whose life has been spent sharing the wonders of nature and the wilderness, describe the film as his “witness statement”.

It made me think about my daughters aged 6, 10 and 14 and their likely futures if we don’t act now.

This grim future is not what I want for my children. Or for yours. The need to address our environmental challenges and the loss of biodiversity we are already witnessing is increasingly urgent, our future generations depend on it. 

We’re at a tipping point, the time is now

While the documentary is Attenborough’s witness statement, it's also his vision for the future. And how, “if we act now, we can yet put it right”.

We know the world is at an environmental tipping point and we face a harsh reality: either we continue as we are, and irreparably damage our planet, or we come together and agree ambitious steps to prevent its catastrophic warming.

This month marks one year until the COP26 International Climate Summit. It will be a pivotal moment for the world to come together to solve our greatest threat.

Working together, we can prevent and slow climate change, protect the environment and live sustainably. But we need to be bold. We need to take action. And that action cannot wait.

Looking backwards in order to march forwards

Environmental and social sustainability have been hallmarks of Lendlease since our inception – and continue to be cornerstones of our company globally. For more than 60 years, we’ve built our reputation as an organisation that creates value by doing what matters, being bold in our thinking, and courageous in our action.

Dick Dusseldorp, our founder, was an early pioneer of corporate responsibility. His vision for Lendlease was guided by two simple principles – doing the right thing and leaving a legacy for future generations.

This has forged a rich history of leadership and sustainability. From developing Australia's first five and six-star green star rated buildings to creating large solar powered communities and carbon neutral buildings and places. This has been driven by our commitment towards looking over the horizon and charting a long-term course for the future.

Looking forward, we’re committed to creating places that are resilient and are adaptable to change, are inclusive, use resources sustainably, and foster environmental and community health and wellbeing. But that alone will not be enough. We need to take greater action.

Climate is not a crisis we can self-isolate from

We know the climate crisis will hit our company, and others like us. And unlike COVID-19, climate is not a crisis we can self-isolate from. We need to tackle it head on.

Heading into 2020, off the back of some of the worst bushfires ever seen during Australia’s Black Summer, barely a week went by without climate being referenced in media headlines globally. Naturally, when the full extent of the pandemic came into focus, the headlines shifted away from our climate emergency.

However, during May and June, we noticed an uptick in climate related news stories. Interestingly, they weren’t in competition with pandemic headlines, but in alignment and support of them – an opportunity to build climate and sustainability into economic recovery and stimulus packages globally.

In simple terms, we should learn from the world’s pandemic response and improve the way we work together globally to combat a crisis of scale, like climate change.

Climate change is a complex science and inevitably there will be new theories and forecasts that emerge. What is increasingly evident though is that we have viable options which are both economically and environmentally sustainable. In other words, we are now in a position to choose a better way forward, without dismissing the diversity of perspectives that exist.

Tackling the climate crisis head on

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lendlease announced our most ambitious climate change targets.

We’re now a 1.5ºC aligned company and our focus on the environment and carbon targets is stronger than ever. We’ve recently committed to ‘Net Zero Carbon’ for scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 and ‘Absolute Zero Carbon’ across all operations, including the supply chain, by 2040.

And it made absolute sense to fully align our new targets with the goals of the Paris Agreement – and set a global benchmark for the real estate industry. We’ve made a conscious decision to be a leader in driving industry transformation to limit global warming.

I recognise that our targets are ambitious by industry standards, and it’s not going to be easy to reach them. But it will be worth the effort. We’re an organisation with significant influence and a large global footprint. Through our commitment and collaboration with companies like ours, we can make a real difference. 

Not just what the world needs, but also what the world wants

We believe that being focused on sustainability is not only the right thing to do but will continue to provide a strong competitive advantage given the rapid increase in institutional and client demand for sustainable assets.

Through our engagement with investors and stakeholders, I’ve observed an increasing alignment between social, environmental and economic outcomes. Leadership in sustainability and climate action will soon be a ticket to the game.

Our people also want strong leadership in this space. We have incredible people in our organisation who are both very knowledgeable and passionate about the environment and understand what it will take for us to achieve our targets.

They’ve inspired us to set ambitious targets and I know they will help us achieve them. I’m confident that setting and achieving these targets will attract and inspire our people today and our leaders of the future. 

Creating meaningful change, together

I’m personally committed to these targets because we as leaders cannot ask our people to stand for something that we are not prepared to commit to with passion and conviction.

I want us to achieve these targets so that my family can hope for, and then enjoy a brighter future. No one else is going to do this for us.

In 2040, when Lendlease has achieved absolute zero carbon, my youngest will be 26 years old with her life still ahead of her, and she will be very grateful for our commitment. 

I hope our targets will create meaningful change. I hope that we’ll see a dramatic shift in the way that our customers, stakeholders and supply chain, think about our collective carbon footprint and the decisions that we need to make to reduce carbon emissions.

Together that will be easy, on our own it will be extremely difficult. Let’s all come together to create the change the world needs us to achieve. Our future generations are relying on us.

#COP26Ambition #COP26 #TogetherForOurPlanet #GREATfuture #climateaction


Steve McCann
Group CEO & Managing Director at Lendlease