Changemakers for the future

Ed Collins, InfluenceMap

The IKEA Foundation helps many organisations accelerate their efforts in combating climate change. Facts and figures speak for themselves, but who exactly are the people behind this extraordinary work? In this storytelling series we spotlight brave individuals who move mountains in their climate action strategies and solutions. Today: Ed Collins, Director of InfluenceMap.

‘You have to be able to measure a problem if you want to change it’

Everyone working on climate, from time to time, feels it can be an exhausting, incredibly frustrating thing to work on. You feel like you’re making some positive impact, things are going well and then, all of a sudden, it swings back on you. Then you feel like you’re where you were five years ago, and nothing has changed. I think it comes with the territory, but you carry on. You keep pushing, and still believe in what you’re doing and its impact

I got into InfluenceMap five years ago, as an analyst. It all stemmed from a real interest in understanding the power and influence companies have on key things happening in the world. I’ve always been quite fascinated by this. It’s something I studied when I was at university. Wanting to work on that developed into a career trying to make an impact for the better.

Probably not as much as many other people, but I’ve noticed s changes. They’re currently reasonably mild, living in the UK, but of course you notice the hotter summers and the more intense storms. It’s a nagging feeling, and it’s hard to ignore.

Influencing climate change policy
InfluenceMap is focused on systemic change. We’re the data people. Our key objective is to analyse how the corporate world is attempting to influence climate change policy globally. A mantra we think really important is: you have to be able to measure a problem if you want to change it.

By doing this, we help more powerful actors address the climate lobbying issue – like institutional investors.  InfluenceMap’s data is now directly feeding into the Climate Action 100+ process, an investor initiative bringing together $55 trillion in assets, that is challenging the world’s largest and most polluting companies on climate. Many of these companies have, respectively, been reviewing their lobbying practices, including the actions of third-party lobbyists they pay memberships to.  This is having tangible influence on the way these entities engage with climate legislation.  Similar processes are happening in the campaign, legal, media and policymaker spheres off the back of InfluenceMap’s data.

Pretty soon after joining an organisation like InfluenceMap, you realise you’re feeding into something a bit bigger. We’re just one of many actors working together on these issues.  Over the last 5 years we have seen some very big, and very powerful companies become less obstructive of climate policy, including the likes of Shell, BP and Volkswagen.  At the same time, a new class of climate leader has started to emerge, consisting of companies from sectors like utilities, industrials, along with a few consumer goods companies, that are genuinely pushing policymakers to go much further when regulating on climate.  

This is shifting the balance when it comes to developing robust climate policy.  These dynamics are probably most advanced in Europe, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is where we see some of the most advance policy efforts to deliver a transition to a net-zero economy.

Hopes for the future
If I had 10 minutes to speak to world leaders at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, I would say: listen to the science.  In the run-up to COP26, we’re going to see an explosion of PR commitments, positive posturing, and the promotion of so-called solutions from companies not aligned with science-based pathways to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals.

We’re past the era of flat-out climate science-denial. This is just not an effective strategy for organisations that don’t yet want to see a robust response to climate change. However, there are a multitude of more nuanced strategies being employed by vested interests to derail a consensus on the need for robust and urgent regulation on climate. Its critical for participants of COP26 to be wary of this.  These tactics are as dangerous now as climate denial was 10 years ago.

Obviously, I’m desperate to see progress on climate, biodiversity loss and various other critical sustainability challenges.  I’m desperate to see governments that are confident enough to take the necessary science-based measures. But for this to happen, I think we are going to need a far more mature approach to policymaking. This means significantly more transparency around which interests are influencing the policy process, it means placing short-term and narrow concerns in the context of issues such as planetary health, and it means genuinely listening communities and experts on the front line of these challenges.  

I’m looking forward to working with InfluenceMap. We’ve got a lot of ambition and a lot of work ahead of us.  I’m looking forward to expanding on the work we do and helping deliver that larger vision.

Ed Collins is Director of InfluenceMap. Ed has led InfluenceMap’s research on lobbying and corporate influence since 2017, having joined the company in 2015. Working with a team of dedicated analysts, Ed manages InfluenceMap’s system for tracking and assessing the climate change lobbying of world’s largest 350 industrial companies and their key trade associations.

InfluenceMap is an independent think tank using evidence-based assessments to provide data and analysis on how business and finance impact the climate crises. IKEA Foundation is supporting InfluenceMap in its work to provide governments, investors and campaigners with clear and accurate information on where companies stand on climate policy and action.

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