The climate change emergency demands some major changes to the way organisations operate, says Rob Beswick, Chamber Media Services
The morning session of the IoD Annual Global Conference 2021’s second day produced a stimulating and at times challenging debate on the practical solutions businesses needed to adopt in order to contribute to tackling the climate emergency.
There were strong words from, among others, Lilly Miller of PlanetMark and Kate Chambers from the 2050 Climate Group, who called for greater transparency around organisations’ environmental impact and product sustainability.
Too many businesses adopted ‘greenwashing’ policies which championed aspects of their operations as environmentally friendly while ignoring those that contributed both to climate change and natural resource depletion.
Dig deep into your supply chains to find areas of poor environmental performance, they urged, and beware the ‘cute’ press release that portrays you as a climate change warrior when the truth is very different: there are plenty of people ready to expose the truth of your organisation’s real impact on the planet.
Accountants may tremble at the prospect, but a new reporting standard must be the triple bottom line – adding people and planet to the traditional profit driver. Indeed, this wasn’t the only change finance directors could face in the future: Lilly Miller suggested FDs be renamed ‘sustainability directors’ and their role expanded to include oversight of future risks linked to the environment. As Lilly pointed out, a survey of the top 10 risks facing businesses found that six were directly related to the climate.
Responding to the climate change emergency is the new paradigm we all must live in, said Douglas Lamont, CEO of innocent drinks. He stressed the need to place action-orientated environmental and societal policies at the heart of your organisation’s values – make them your ‘north star’, said Wood’s Martyn Link in a Challenge and Q&A session with IoD Scotland Aidan O’Carroll. His organisation was looking to engineer future solutions for Net Zero.
Sustainability is a team sport – it’s important to share your success, said Douglas Lamont; let’s not be competitive if there are new possibilities around waste reduction and energy saving, but share them across the business world. “If innocent’s being good on its own, that’s nice, but it won’t change anything. And we need to change how we do things – at pace.”
Kate Chambers found his words inspiring though challenged innocent to be bolder in embracing the circular economy. Could businesses become ‘agnostic’ about profit? Remember, in nature nothing grows forever.
“Can’t we just be happy with thriving?” she wondered. “Do we need to be obsessed with business growth?”
A panel session discussed the extent to which investors were swinging behind businesses with strong ESG (environmental, social and governance) metrics, with a warning from Jojo Mheta that momentum was gathering globally behind making ecocide a criminal offence. If deliberate or negligent human action led to the destruction of the natural environment, isn’t it time we made directors personally responsible, she asked.