My team, Sustainability Advantage, holds major events for its Partners each quarter. This one was called “After Paris” to update our business community on the COP-21 conference in Paris, the Sustainable Development Goals and the recent global trend of businesses innovating to net zero. This article is to summarise the day. The morning included Bob Willard and Sam Mostyn’s keynotes, presentations from sustainability and environment managers at Lend Lease, Brambles and Unilever. The afternoon was a split agenda where I hosted workshops on carbon leadership and renewable energy.

Bob Willard's presentation at "After Paris" (own photo)
Bob Willard’s presentation at “After Paris” (own photo)
Impossible to unstoppable 

The introductory speeches from Alice Cahill and Tom Grosskopf set the scene about how Paris was a tipping point. Their message was about “the change from something being impossible to something being unstoppable”, a quote by Alice Cahill that Bob Willard echoed in the first session.

Bob brought in the global trends to demonstrate this movement. He cited several landmarks:

  • World Economic Forum Global Risks 2016 including climate change at the top for the first time
  • Papal Encyclical’s major mention of climate change
  • the medical community’s message that “climate change is a medical emergency”
  • NATO’s concerns that climate change is a “significant risk multiplier” to security
  • the Bank of England risk report on carbon intensive investments (as covered in this previous post)
  • China’s aggressive plans for decarbonisation and its air pollution issues
  • the RE100 group that is passionate about only using renewable energy (I also wrote about this in the IT sector and last week as a source of immediate business benefit)
  • the new economic opportunities being made available via government and private investment and incentive, and
  • the two Sustainable Development Goals on climate change (goals 7 and 13) and the business movement towards SDG integration (yet again, this has been covered in a previous post).

The Sustainable Development Goals 

Sam Mostyn's presentation at "After Paris" (own photo)
Sam Mostyn’s presentation at “After Paris” (own photo)
Sam Mostyn carried on with an insightful and detailed speech about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), how they compare to the Millennium Development Goals, the inclusion of the business community, and  how they should be used. My takeaways were that they should be applied as a framework from which to focus, a common language across other businesses and stakeholders, and an important pathway to business model and product innovation. It was also great to learn the supporting tools available such as the SDG Compass Guide, UN Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Lachlan Feggans from Brambles then came on to give an example of how to apply and integrate the SDG’s into a global sustainability strategy. He ran through a fancy website (see it here). He and Sam Mostyn commanded centre stage in the “SDG Discussion Panel”, with some tactics on how to quickly win senior leadership buy-in to strategic significance of the SDG’s. The first advice was to integrate the SDG’s into your decision making framework to making the goals most practically relevant down the organisational hierarchy. The second idea around engaging senior leaders in volunteering was believed to be very powerful, too.

The morning continued its more practical orientation with corporate sustainability influencers like Unilever, Interface and Lend Lease. These organisations shared common ambitions to achieve net zero energy, water and/or waste. Some advanced initiatives undertaken by organisations on the pathway to zero include:

  • A long-term and holistic approach to energy involving all of energy efficiency, onsite renewable energy, community energy partnerships and renewable energy certificates
  • Waste offset schemes with landfill contractors
  • Daily reports on waste sources, types and volumes
  • Training every three weeks

The morning closed off with an energetic call to action and discussion to inspire and encourage participants to integrate the learnings into our organisations.

An afternoon on carbon leadership

One of the slides shown at "After Paris" (own photo)
One of the slides shown at “After Paris” (own photo)
The morning led on nicely to an afternoon learning more about how businesses could practically go about achieving some of the topical business initiatives coming out of the Paris summit. These included Science Based Targets, 100 percent renewable energy, internal carbon pricing and reducing carbon upstream and downstream the value chain. The Sustainability Advantage program has updated its carbon module from the basics of calculation and reduction to cover these more current approaches. A project I am delighted to be leading!

As it always does, the day kicked on into a lovely casual drinks and canapés where the community bonded more socially. I had to leave quickly, and in thanking and seeing people off, it was interesting to hear what resonated most for the community. The two topics that stood out most were the Sustainable Development Goals and carbon leadership.
Views expressed in this article on my personal blog are my own and do not represent anything of my employer’s. 

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