A Just Transition – Getting to Net Positive


This is not a crisis of inequality or climate change or food security. This is actually a crisis of greed

Drawing from his book, Net Positive, Mr. Polman said that most companies know why we need the energy transition and decarbonization—but that many struggle with how. The book tries to address two simple questions: How can we profit from solving the world’s problems instead of creating them? And is the world better off because my company is in it?

“We need to move from CSR, corporate social responsibility, to RSC—becoming truly a responsible social corporation. And that requires thinking—restorative, regenerative, reparative.” He said there’s increasing evidence that it is more profitable, creates more jobs, and results in a more resilient economy. They are the
results of what he calls “net positive”—taking ownership of all impacts and consequences of your business, including Scope 3.

He says it ultimately boils down to leadership, that a company can only head toward net positive if it has leaders courageous enough to challenge business as usual. He sees that courage playing out in three key ways:

  1. Taking responsibility for your total impact. Only one third of companies, less in the oil and gas sector, publicly disclose their Scope 3 exposures. 
  2. Setting the targets that science demands. Only one third of global market cap companies set science-based targets. He asked why only 6% of companies actually disclose what they plan to do between now and 2030.
  3. Embarking on transformative partnerships. “They’re not easy,” he said, “But the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In closing, he urged the audience to ask themselves what responsibility across their company and entire value chain truly looks like? What collective actions within their industry are needed now? What are the tipping points that they could reach, and whose help do they need to reach them? And, finally, what he said is the most important question of all, is the world truly better off with their business in it?