Israeli Businesses Talk Climate Change

At the recent national conference on Environment and Sustainability 2050, the Heschel Center, in collaboration with the the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Environment, hosted a four-hour, invitation-only session, discussing how to best engage the business sector to address climate change.

The fully-packed room of attendees consisted of CEOs and vice-presidents of major business and industrial companies such as Aluminum Construction Group, HP Indigo, Applied Materials, KPMG, Israel’s National Aeronautics Industry, DHL Express, Unilever, and more. For most, this conference was the first time they had been exposed to the Heschel Center.  The purpose of the session was to jointly consider how the business sector can make meaningful contributions to reduce emissions, with the understanding that any plan to decarbonize Israel must have the support of the private sector.

With the assistance of the German Embassy and the support of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, we brought the keynote speaker, Mr. Hans Josef Fell, a former member of German Parliament, who is one of the leaders of Germany’s Klimaschutzplan 2050 (National Climate Change Plan). Mr. Fell spoke both during the main conference plenary to an audience of over 1000 participants, and at the session that the Heschel Center hosted, and conveyed the message about the urgent need to make our economy 100% carbon-free.

“It is not an opposition between environment and business it is more and more the benefit for business to go into renewables, or circular economy*,” he said. He spoke about the importance of transitioning to 100% renewable energy and how the German plan affected their industry, and that many different institutions aspire to become 100% clean energy including cities and major corporations such as Google and Ikea. Mr. Fell’s talk is on the Heschel Center’s youtube channel.

The session included two panel discussions to showcase climate friendly entrepreneurs from various sectors of Israel’s industry, such as Israel’s light rail provider NETA, Source Outdoors retail, an investment company that spoke about risk management with regards to climate change, and more. A few interesting quotes from the sessions include:

Gideon Friedman, Chief Scientist, the Ministry of Energy: “As we look at year 2050 and where we want to be with renewable energy, the forward looking must affect our steps today, otherwise, the future will not become the one we are hoping it would be”.

Gali Glatt-Simchi, VP for Infrastructure and Environment at NETA: “One of the most important goals of the new light rail launch is to put the customer at the focus and see a behavioral change, which requires us to also think about user experience and hope that it will encourage people to stop using private cars.”

Eli Abramov, chairman of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Environmental Industries Association at the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel said: “Congratulations for organizing this important event. The fact that this roomed is completely full indicates that this issue (Climate Change), is important to a lot of people”…

The session concluded with five round-table discussions that began formulating hands-on ideas on how to encourage Israel’s industry to be engaged with climate change solutions.

Momo Mahadav, Executive Director of Ma’ala, presented one of the round table discussions ideas: “In general, we focused on marking revolutions or disruptions that happen all around. We spoke about the concept of edible packaging, which is going to be a game-changer. We spoke about new business models, mostly from selling goods towards selling services. We spoke about a possible paradigm shift in understanding transportation – Do we need a car to get from point A to point B, or is there another way to think about mobility…”

The panel was hosted as part of the Heschel Center’s climate project and the Israel 2050 plan. It is the first of a series of events that are aimed at engaging the business community and bringing them into the 2050 process.

*(Circular Economy is a paradigm-shifting production model that aims to diminish waste and reduce usage of natural resources and energy).

Many thanks to the Heinrich Boell Stiftung and the German Embassy for supporting the event.