COP26: Real Sustainability starts now…

Green Shoots, Green Scores

The green agenda is complex and urgent. With plentiful warnings that we’re reaching a tipping point, where climate shifts become irreversible, COP26 set out to agree a worldwide plan for tackling global warming. Countries pledged to accelerate the shift to cleaner power, with the world’s two biggest polluters – the US and China – agreeing on a surprise collaboration to boost climate cooperation. It sent a message loud and clear, particularly to organisations that are on the back foot with the green agenda, the time for change is now.

Many organisations still find themselves in a state of paralysis however, not knowing where to start, overwhelmed by the scale of the task ahead. That’s why we created the Sustainability Framework, helping organisations to kick start their green agenda, ensuring they are compliant to future regulations and demands. So what is it?

Data – Capture it.

COP26 set in motion the importance of data, with nations agreeing to follow standardised emissions reporting from 2024. A notable success from the event, it means that organisations and countries won’t be able to hide behind excuses of poor data collation or differences in benchmarks.

In fact the IFRS Foundation launched an International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), creating a global reporting framework that standardises sustainability metrics – allowing greater transparency and accountability in ESG reporting. Organisations will need to show how they collate data and are actively addressing practices that are damaging the environment.

Despite India watering down its promise at the 11th hour, a historical pledge was made amongst 200 countries during COP26 – agreeing to speed up the end of fossil fuel subsidies and reduce the use of coal. Some housing associations may already be transitioning to heat pumps and solar panels, to help reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating for example, but if they don’t know how well this technology is being utilised in homes, data can be skewed.

4OC can help ensure that data is watertight, to meet forthcoming regulatory requirements, whilst identifying quick fixes for organisations – such as the need for better education around heat pumps and solar panel technology, how it works and how it can be fixed.

Compliance – Just Do it

With COP26 highlighting that compliance regulations will only be getting tighter, investors and customers alike will demand greater transparency with green data. 4OC can support organisations in acting now to ensure they are prepared for increased scrutiny.

For energy intensive sectors, such as construction and social housing, organisations need to consider how to reduce carbon output, retrofit houses to improve efficiencies, and ensure new builds are both cost and environmentally considerate. Particularly from a compliance perspective, sustainability needs to be looked at holistically, ensuring that no stone is left unturned when it comes to challenging how green practices really are.

Procurement – buy well to end well

Supply chains need to be much more vigorously vetted for their green credentials. Forward-thinking organisations are challenging supply chains to prove how green their operations are, including any initiatives taken to minimise negative impact on the environment and the use of local supply chains.

4OC can help organisations to ensure that this stance is taken company-wide, ensuring that sustainability is genuinely embedded and not just a tick box exercise. As highlighted during COP26, the practice of greenwashing is also being rapidly clamped down upon. This means that organisations need to be much more challenging when it comes to assessing sustainability practices during the procurement process. We can also assist with transforming procurement practices, ensuring green due diligence occurs, supporting sound reporting too.

Evaluation – do it right

While we take stock of COP26, organisations need to do the same by evaluating where they are now and where they need to be. For those that have already embarked on a green change management project, it’s important to ask: are sustainability initiatives genuinely cascading throughout the organisation? Have customers changed their behaviour to be more aware of the impact they can have on the environment?  If the data says not, then further changes need to be made to green programmes to make it more impactful.

Company-led communications around environmental concerns may not resonate with customers, for example. They could be reluctant to change to greener habits when they have other concerns around their own welfare. Organisations need to be mindful of their customers, ensuring they are engaged with the environmental cause and being taken on a journey to greener living – rather than being alienated from it.

Collaboration – together is better

Addressing serious environmental challenges is going to require a significant amount of collaboration, but it can be done. As John Kerry, the US climate envoy, said at COP26 “[the US and China] have no shortage of differences, but on climate, co-operation is the only way to get this job done”.

Ensuring sustainability expertise is embedded across all areas of an organisation, from finance to HR, or working with customers directly to encourage behavioural changes, collaboration is central to the entire green agenda.

4OC can support with stakeholder communications, ensuring a collaborative effort in achieving greener practices. When considering how to utilise outdoor spaces, for example, organisations can conduct local consultations. It may be that spaces can both support biodiversity and local communities – giving people access to green areas, that can have a positive effect on physical and mental wellbeing.

Closing Speech

COP26 has served to bring together nations in a way that rarely happens, agreeing that drastic action is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. It’s both a moral imperative and increasingly a legal obligation for organisations to transition to greener practices.

While organisations may be feeling daunted by the scale of the task ahead, what we can do is to help create a starting point and a clear path for transformation. Protecting current and future generations from potentially devastating climate changes is a global priority and organisations need to get to work now.

If you’d like to speak to Fran about some of his ideas on sustainability or alternatively about some of his favourite card tricks, you can get him here fran@the4oc.com.