As the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 progresses in Madrid, there has never been greater recognition that Acting Now has become a global imperative to help protect our world and its people. Our planet is under pressure, from parts of the world’s oceans becoming depleted of oxygen, to the urgent need to negotiate more ambitious plans to limit global warming to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement. We need to move from conceptualization to adaptation, mitigation and means of actualization at scale to negate the deep impacts we are already experiencing across land and sea, climate, energy and ecosystems.
#TimeForAction is the United Nations’ global clarion call to raise individual and collective awareness, ambition, and action, for which we have seen our youth increasingly leading the way:
‘Youth have played a fantastic role throughout this year to raise awareness for the need for urgent Climate Action’ – Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary during Youth Day, COP25.
An inclusive multi-stakeholder approach is vital to bring together government, business, technology, academia and civil society. Within this, corporations have a critical role to play and this cannot be simply by compensating for doing harm in one area, by doing well in another. Rather, this must be a holistic approach that recognizes the strong interlinkages across the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reflects an understanding of ALL the societal impacts a company may have, alongside opportunities to make a difference. This also includes optimizing an organizations’ sphere of influence on the supply chain.
Climate action and an overarching commitment to sustainability must become embedded into corporate strategy, shaping value propositions and the development and application of emergent (and repurposed) technologies. Using Ecological Footprint Accounting as a benchmark, a range of case companies striving to actualize a One-Planet Prosperity Strategy can be found here.
Urgent action is also needed to mobilize, reallocate/redirect and unlock the transformative catalyst of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives, helping to close an estimated SDGs funding gap of $2-4 trillion per year until 2030. Current simulations by World Bank researchers indicates the number of extreme poor – those living below $1.90/day – will remain above 550 million in 2030, resulting in a global extreme poverty rate of 6.5%. To ensure ‘no one is left behind’ as the SDG agenda promises, this must be where we focus efforts, especially in developing nations.
Financial markets are increasingly recognizing the opportunities of sustainable investments, from transforming energy to reinventing protein. Other conduits for change include new instruments to target SDG linked investing and new sources of funding such as Blue Bonds (marine conversation) and SDG bonds, alongside new development institutions and private sector partnerships. A blended approach is needed, to combine a broad range of public and private finance sources alongside clear measurement of delivery.
Transparent Climate Impact Disclosure is essential to support new investment and build trust – the world will not reach net zero if the financial sector does not know how companies are responding to the challenge and stakeholders must believe in its legitimacy. One example, is Schneider Electric’s innovative CO2 methodology that can quantify the CO2 impact of offers, including induced and avoided or saved emissions, helping to inform decision making for consumers and investors alike.
The adoption of Science Based Targets (SBTs) offers a new ‘litmus test’ when it comes to corporate carbon credibility and climate risk management. These provide an evidence base for targeted action on emission cuts, enabling businesses to be more ambitious in their sustainability leadership. This is also a shared value proposition. As well as helping to limit global warming to 1.5°C, organizations actively managing in this way achieve a superior ROI than non-committed companies, including the spurring of innovation in low-carbon products, technologies and services. To navigate SBT journey challenges, 6 key steps are recommended from approval right through to engagement with peers.
Bridging the gaps between aspiration and action, perception and reality, and differing perceptions across business, consumers and employees is also key. Schneider Electric’s UK based research reflects a prioritization gap between big business and SMEs, with the former most focused on digitalisation and sustainability, and the latter more concerned for short term operational efficiencies and reliability.
Priorities for SMEs vs Large Businesses
More needs to be done to negate an ‘its profit OR purpose’ ethos and demonstrate how both can be brought together to create shared value, especially for SMEs. Achieving sustainability does not have to be at a cost. Additionally, although positive change is happening, greater attention must be given to communication of this in the workplace to ensure that the message resonates and everyone is aware, feels included and motivated to contribute.
Beyond this, consumer behavior must also evolve, especially when only 1 in 10 people reported planning to reduce energy consumption and there is a lack of awareness regards everyday impacts – whether through data streaming or simple online searches, it all adds up. And making individual adaptions to our lives cumulates to make a collective difference. We must move away from the perception that it is someone else’s duty to do more. Rather, we can come together to co-create collaborative solutions and behavior change that is both good for business and essential for achieving sustainable impact at scale. This is our one and only planet, and climate change is a reality now – it is time to treat her better.