Last week, I attended Edie23, a sustainability leaders forum that attracts some of the most influential people working in the field. This year panel discussions were attended by the former CEO of Unilever, and heads of sustainability for Unilever, Tesco, Google, Capgemini and WWF. We also heard from youth activists Mikaela Loach, Elizabeth Wathuti and Clover Hogan who stressed the importance of climate justice in an event dedicated to the green agenda and business’ role within it.
Embracing radical change was the key takeaway of the event, in addition to the following:
‘We will get to 2050 deadline, but we won’t do it in a ‘just’ way’
Nigel Topping spoke of the road to net zero, and while he feels it’s achievable, he’s not convinced ethics will take priority. The climate crisis has triggered a green arms race that benefits nations that are developing new technology at scale. Climate vulnerable nations depend on action and innovation from capital-rich markets, but we mustn’t neglect sustainable development to support the developing world that strengthens their economies.
‘We need to create a world where people can live in dignity’
We’re not on the frontlines of the climate crisis. It’s easy to ignore what’s happening in other parts of the world. Businesses need to stand for something much greater and embrace a more radical mindset towards addressing the climate crisis. This is about protecting the future of humanity and creating a system that respects our planet’s finite resources.
‘Is the world better off without your company in it? Yes or no?’
This is the question former Unilever CEO Paul Polman posed to his audience. If the honest answer is no, then you need to do some serious soul-searching. What more can you be doing to be active on climate change? Have you listened to the demands of your employees? How will it benefit you to become more purpose driven?
Set goals, hold yourself accountable
This helps frame your sustainability strategy to reduce an organisation’s environmental impact. And ensure the targets you set are backed by science and directly target Scope 3 emissions. This was a huge conversation piece, and most businesses were interested to hear how others were tackling Scope 3. Track, monitor and report progress, and if you don’t reach certain goals, ask yourself why. If you don’t, you’ll end up losing market share.
ESG and its alphabet soup of acronyms
Ultimately, ESG and sustainability are the same thing. Technically speaking, ESG is a risk-based framework used by investors, but not everyone in business understands what it means. ESG needs to be much clearer about what it is, and to shift towards more accessible language to avoid intimidating and overwhelming people!
Learn to speak the language of your board
Building a case for sustainability can be difficult if you can’t quantify the ROI. Phillipe Joubert, founder of Earth on Board, had some fantastic tips for the audience. Working in sustainability can be isolating, so you need to work with specialists who can help you determine just how financially and strategically beneficial transition will be to the company.