The world is facing a triple planetary crises. The crises comes in the form of climate change, pollution and waste, as well as biodiversity loss. Man has been terrorizing nature – and thereby our own existence – for a long time, and the Stockholm conference in 1972 wasn’t the first time this was highlighted. But it was nevertheless a milestone as it was among the first time that the world was coming together to address at least some of the challenges we had created. It was also the conference where UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program, was founded. Since 1972 however, the situation has, at least when it comes to the climate crises, gotten a lot worse thanks to and yet despite technological development.
Now, 50 years after the first Stockholm conference, politicians, activists, researchers, investors and other decision makers are meeting in Stockholm again. So, what can we expect from this meeting? According to the organisers, the conference will:
We will commemorate the watershed moment that the 1972 conference represents, and reflect on the current situation we find ourselves, through addressing the intergenerational responsibility, focusing on the implementation opportunities, and recognising interconnectivity between stakeholders and between policy issues.
I think we can expect a lot of talk: “opportunities presented”, numerous “call to action”, some reiterated pledges from companies and governments and perhaps a few new ones. In other words, a lot of the same things that we always hear at international conferences. Will it make a difference? Yes, let’s hope so. Talking and meeting is often an important aspect of change. The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda has changed how many governments and companies talk and even, to some extent, plan. But for those agreements to survive they need to be talked about, analysed, followed-up. There needs to be a demand from different stakeholders, or else decisionmakers interest may fade (see also the heading below: Just Do It!).
Davos – World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum held their annual meeting in Davos a few days ago. Usually, the meetings are held in January and receives a substantial amount of attention. Less so this year, is my impression. Not because the issues usually discussed at WEF meetings are less important, but perhaps because many of them are already at the top of the agenda – Russia’s war on Ukraine, inflation and climate. ABC-news reports, for example, that as many as one third of the panel discussions on the mains stage are related to global warming.
When summarizing the event, WEF highlighted 9 things to know about the forum. It includes the war in Ukraine, the economy, the future of globalization, technology and the metaverse and so forth. As always, there were also some interesting statements and discussions on what kind of economy we need:
For at least the next 8 years, we must radically change our economic system and our reliance on fossil fuels if we’re to stay aligned to Paris Agreement targets. This is the real battle of our time. -. John Kerry
Reporting standards -complex and valuable
Presently there is a lot of talk about how companies report on their impact on biodiversity, on human rights (thanks to the much talked about proposal for an EU law on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, CSDD) and also on how companies report on the SDGs (read more from GRI on that topic here).
Sustainability reporting is not necessarily that difficult. Depending, of course, on the nature of your business. And, if you know what to do and where to start, that is. Actually, for most people it is fairly complex as there is an entire ecosystem of frameworks and standards out there (for a brief overview, have a look at this website at SASB which is, together with GRI, probably the most used standard). But in my view, it is important to remember why we report, since that will help you identify what to report and making sure that you make use of the data you collect so that you can improve.
For those companies who are dead serious about sustainability and are prepared to combine purpose with profit (see also my last insight, which was partly devoted to purpose) I would recommend having a look at the B-Corp certification. It is actually more than a certification, but as a starter the B Impact Assessment. (I believe there is a free version) will probably give you a good idea of some of the improvement areas you may have.
While a lot of reporting is voluntary, there is also a fair amount of regulation. Right now, for example, there seem to be an interest in both Europe and the US to reduce the misuse of the term ESG (i.e. to reduce “green-washing”). Within a week both SEC (the United States Securities and Exchange Commission) and ESMA (the European Securities and Markets Authority) have published requirements and/or new recommendations on this topic.
I am pleased to support this proposal because, if adopted, it would establish disclosure requirements for funds and advisers that market themselves as having an ESG focus -SEC Chair Gary Gensler.
Just Do It!
Current trends indicates that we are heading towards a dead-end. We therefore have a responsibility to speed up the pace of transformation. Not everyone will like the change, which is why this is a question of ledership. For people living in poverty or for people living close to riverbanks in flood prone areas it is urgent. Every day their situation is ignored, is one additional day of moral erosion and a day closer to the the crises also impacting those of us who are still doing fine.
Yet, I still meet managers from government institutions or from companies who have little knowledge about their carbon footprint, or who haven’t taken the time to reflect on their purpose and how their business can make a difference in the lives of other people. I understand and respect that a complete overhaul of all businesses isn’t always realistic or even desirable, but time is of essence and there are still a number of low hanging fruits. That is, there are lots of things that most companies can do without having to rebuild their business model entirely or without having to make bold or painful decisions. And one way of starting could be to look at what your current footprint actually is and try to decide what parts of your impact that are material and what you can do something about.