As one of the partner sponsors of CBI’s Gala Dinner during the COP 26 Conference in Glasgow, our CEO Jon Stanton gave the opening remarks of the evening. Read Jon’s speech in full below, which encourages broader industry, government and society, to think and act differently in order to reach net-zero.
Good evening distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour to be here and to sponsor this special CBI event in Weir’s home city of Glasgow, particularly in our company’s 150th anniversary year.
Glasgow has always welcomed the world with open arms. Coming from England, my family and I have felt nothing but warmth – and to be clear I am not talking about the climate – over the years. People make Glasgow and I hope that never changes.
That’s why it is so fitting to be here to talk about how, together, we can reach net zero. Because we can only do it together – business, government, capital markets, academia and citizens.
We all know global temperatures are rising and the climate is changing. We all feel public pressure intensifying, and time running out. This is now a question of how, not why.
Weir, for those who don’t know, is an engineering business. That means we solve problems for our customers through innovation and invention every day, and we have put sustainability at the heart of our strategy, focusing our engineering and R&D resources on technology solutions to climate change.
My personal fear, as a father and a business leader, is that we fail to do enough. My four daughters are growing up quickly, some more quickly than others to be fair. And by 2050, this will be their problem to solve. It’s not a burden I want to pass on.
I want them to be looking to the future with optimism, not cleaning up the mistakes of the past. Leaving a legacy we can be proud of is what motivates me as a parent and business leader. I’m sure it’s what motivates many of you too.
To meet that challenge, we need companies like Weir, alongside broader industry, government and society, to think and act differently.
For me, the focus should be on three priorities: Partnership, Pace, and Participation.
At Weir, we’re already taking a far broader partnership approach than ever, both within and outside our industry. Our biggest market is mining – an industry that consumes significant amounts of energy and water, but which produces metals critical to enabling carbon transition. For example, an electric vehicle requires four times more copper than a traditional car. Our industry’s challenge, therefore, is to help produce more while using less.
So, we’re supporting the world’s biggest miners on their net zero journey. We’re also working with partners in other industries to develop solutions for more sustainable mining. Together, we’ve already delivered energy savings of up to 40% and are committed to go even further. Stuck in our own silo, that innovation would take years longer.
Partnership works, and it requires a much more collaborative, open approach between all of us.
Secondly, we must use technology to drive greater pace in innovation. So, at Weir, we are doubling R&D spending, and deepening our great work with universities in Scotland and around the world. We’re also deploying AI to scour tens of millions of research and policy papers for innovations that can be applied to our markets. And we’re investing in the next generation of young engineers to broaden our talent pool, and tackle society’s biggest challenges.
Thirdly, as we speed up, we mustn’t leave anyone behind. Only through participation can we build solutions that work for everyone. That’s why it’s crucial to encourage global entrepreneurialism that’s inclusive, and share its benefits more broadly and fairly – reversing the growing inequalities that we have seen in recent years. Low-income citizens need to benefit from net zero technologies not foot the bill.
At Weir, we give every employee in every country free shares so they become co-owners of our business, with a real stake in our future. It means we are all driven to deliver better and innovate faster.
To me that’s a win-win and shows there needn’t be tension between people, profit and the planet.
We also need government to play its part in this. It sets the rules. For companies to succeed, we need to know where we’re headed and have confidence in the regulatory frameworks that will enable the journey. Leading a business that operates in over 70 countries, I can tell you that while many of these make it easier to invest, others make it much harder to grow.
So, my call is for governments to support and reward businesses doing the right things – whether that’s investing in innovation, helping people develop their skills, or inspiring creativity and entrepreneurialism.
These are some of the most powerful weapons we have to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.
And finally, I urge our stakeholders – including government, investors and regulators – to collaborate more closely to create consistent global standards that business can work with. Let’s spend less time filling forms, and more on solving problems.
So therein lies the opportunity. With greater partnership, pace and participation I believe we can meet this moment. We can all play our part.
Let me finish with a final observation about Glasgow. In this city, friendship comes with responsibility. In short, Glasgow expects. This is a deeply practical place. As our much-loved comedian Kevin Bridges points out, in Glasgow, ‘you don’t ponder why, you demand how’. When it comes to climate change the debate is over. It is not about the why anymore. It’s time to demand the how.
We need to get on and solve this problem. All of us. And if we do that, we can leave a legacy for our children that everyone can be proud of.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy your evening.