In 2023, China Hongqiao Group, one of the largest aluminum producers in the world, shut down 1.5 million tons of smelting capacity and moved it across the country—unplugging from coal electricity and connecting instead to cleaner hydroelectric power. By itself, the move is expected to slash carbon pollution from those smelters by 30%.
It’s the kind of business decision that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, and a dramatic example of a nascent but important trend: business taking direct action to fight climate change.
Solving climate change requires bold new styles of business leadership. It also requires mobilizing massive amounts of capital—recent estimates vary from $3 trillion to $5 trillion annually over the coming decade—into practical solutions that reduce emissions, restore nature, and improve quality of life. Scientists have identified the problem and can evaluate our options; activists and organizers can amplify the conversation; but businesses are often best positioned to actually deploy solutions on the ground, at scale.
This is starting to happen. The U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act, considered the most important piece of climate-related legislation ever, represents about $370 billion in investment over the next decade, and a new generation of business leaders is taking advantage of its incentives to build better products, services, and companies. But unfortunately, business is still moving far too slowly, and most people have no idea that these transformations in commerce, law, policy, technology, community leadership, and science are taking place.
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In fact, the so-called greenhushing effect—companies intentionally staying quiet about actions on climate change and nature, for fear of harsh public scrutiny—was stronger than we expected when making this list. Examples of tangible business action were not top of mind, even among climate experts. But, when we looked, we found countless hopeful examples of business leaders driving positive action right now—even in the world’s most heavily polluting industries like shipping, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy.
To identify the true changemakers, TIME’s editors spent months with our in-house climate experts at TIME CO2 (Isabella Akker, Bee Hui Yeh, Simon Mulcahy, Shyla Raghav, Andrew Wu, and me) vetting nominations from across the economy. In line with the latest scientific and economic thinking, we prioritized nominees from five systems most crucial to change: energy, nature, finance, culture, and health. We valued measurable, scalable achievements over commitments and announcements. We favored more recent action. In the end, the inaugural TIME100 Climate list produced no single perfect instance of complete climate action, but multitudes of individuals making significant progress in fighting climate change by creating business value. We asked them to talk about it, hoping their words will stir others to do the same.