Sustainability in Business
What did we learn from COp26?
With the furore surrounding COP26 continuing to calm down, it’s now that the real work starts. Looking back at the conference provides an opportunity to review the four main goals of participating nations and understand what this means for businesses.
The four overarching goals that were set for COP26, which guided the course of negotiations were:
- Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
- Mobilise finance
- Work together to deliver sustainability commitments
Secure net zero by mid-century
The UK’s six million small businesses make up 99% of the UK’s enterprises, employ 60% of the UK workforce and generate £2.2 trillion of revenue to the economy. Therefore, they play a vital role in the transition towards net zero.
One announcement made during COP26 was the fact that most large UK firms and financial institutions will be forced to show how they intend to hit climate change targets, under proposed Treasury rules. By 2023, they will have to publish detailed plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future – in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. While the UK government shied away from making this mandatory for all businesses, there is definitely a sense that the business community is being looked upon to drive net zero gains.
This may seem a daunting prospect for your business, but small steps can be made which make a huge difference overall, and especially if businesses embrace these changes collectively. For example, installing energy saving light bulbs, switching to electric vehicle fleets and other cleaner forms of transport, embracing environmentally friendly packaging options, integrating circular design principles into operations, or encouraging employees to cycle to work, can all help.
Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
There were several moves forward at COP26 in terms of protecting natural habitats. In addition to various countries signing an official agreement, there was also a series of commitments to various mitigation and conservation efforts, including a deforestation pledge, a methane abatement pledge, and an agreement to end overseas financing of oil and gas projects.
This one may seem out of reach of the business community, but biodiversity affects every industry. Every company is threatened by the loss of species and ecosystems. At a very simplistic level, without healthy ecosystems it is difficult for farmers to grow crops that feed both humans as well as livestock. The pharmaceutical industry would struggle to create drugs. Furthermore, without coastal wetlands, insurance companies cannot minimise the impact of storms and extreme weather events. Nature provides us with economic goods and services that can and do have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line, and it is time that this was valued, not just in the financial sense but also in terms of what this means for our very own survival as a species.
This one is perhaps the most significant. Without mobilising funds for sustainable practices and funding new initiatives, we will all be unable to meet our globally shared climate goals. COP26 committed developed countries to double the collective share of adaptation finance within the $100 billion annual target for 2021-2025, and to reach the $100 billion goal as soon as possible. Parties also committed to a process to agree on long-term climate finance beyond 2025. These funds will enable net zero and climate-smart practices to go beyond development and into implementation, making a real difference.
This goes back to the sheer size and scale of the SME community in the UK: if every small and medium-sized business worked to put aside a sustainability fund, using this money to initiate green practices, the overall difference it makes to the country’s green goals would be significant.
Work together to deliver sustainability commitments.
“We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together” – that was the rallying cry of global governments ahead of COP26 and is a statement that also stands true for the SME community. In our experience, more often than not it is when supply chains pull together in the same direction when real change can be made.
Sustainability commitments go beyond net zero and climate pledges; they must also incorporate overcoming challenges such as rising inequality, exploitation of non-renewable resources, fair treatment of workers and much more. These require huge systemic changes that can only be overcome with the mutual collaboration and the shared vision of multiple stakeholders.
We’re already working with entire supply chains to implement sustainability initiatives and while private sector led collaboration is encouraging, it is important that actors across every value chain pull together and take collective action if we are to achieve the goals of The Paris Agreement within the timescales set.
To achieve all of these goals, it is important that your business starts from the beginning: with its sustainability strategy.
Wylde Connections has decades of experience supporting SMEs and large businesses with their sustainability strategies. We achieve this through our unique blend of consultancy, learning and development and communications services, and we are releasing a brand-new set of courses and programmes in January 2022.
If COP26 has inspired your business to make a difference, get in touch with us today, or sign up to our course platform, and we can help turn your visions into reality for the benefit of everyone.
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