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Daring to innovate whilst making credible green claims: Insights from edie 23

At the beginning of March, we travelled to London to take part in edie 23, a thought-leadership event for industry and sustainability leaders. It was inspiring to see the commitment of the attendees and speakers throughout the sessions as they discussed net zero strategy, policy changes, data reporting and more. 

We consolidated numerous insightful discussions over the two-day event into three prevailing themes: calling for credible claims disclosure, bringing climate ambition to action, and balancing the tensions of climate action. 

A call for credible claims disclosure

On day one, Emma Watson, Head of Standards at The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), highlighted three key guidelines for credible and ambitious decarbonisation commitments:

 

Mateja Penava, Climate Strategy Consultancy Manager at 3Degrees, took part in the carbon offsetting session at the event. Image courtesy from edie 23

In relation to the third guideline from Emma Watson’s keynote, the carbon offsetting panel that 3Degrees joined later that day, addressed the use of carbon credits as a means to act beyond an organisation’s value chain. These provide reliable streams of finance to emissions reduction or removal projects, which would otherwise not be viable. Yet, there are uncertainties and risks to Beyond Value Chain Mitigation (BVCM) strategies, thus, project-level due diligence should be incorporated to ensure projects are high quality and in line with overall sustainability strategy and ambition.

That is why setting credible goals is of the utmost importance. Concerns around greenwashing and greenhushing are on the rise and organisations are facing strong pressures to set credible targets and disclose viable decarbonisation pathways. 

Cecilia Parker Aranha, Director of Consumer Protection at the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), addressed this at the conference with the example of the UK Green Claims Code, which sets out guidelines for ensuring environmental claims made by businesses about their products, services, and brand comply with the updated consumer protection law. The key points could also serve as guidance for speaking more broadly about climate goals and actions.

Similarly to the UK’s Green Claims, the European Commission recently proposed the Directive on Green Claims, a set of rules that will mandate companies to substantiate, verify and communicate their green claims. 

These regulations respond to an increasing need to provide guidance to organisations on how to share information around their products, services, and initiatives, as well as to halt inaccurate environmental claims that mislead the general public and bring about scepticism around corporate climate action. 

Bringing climate ambition to action

Once companies have decided on a sustainability roadmap to tackle their GHG emissions, the next step is to bring that ambition into action. “Action” is the It word in the midst of environmental transformation. The net zero transition is accelerating and many companies are trying to find the best way to bring their ambitions into action. 

In a workshop session, groups of delegates were asked to name the three most important actions for tackling emissions within supply chains. Almost all groups agreed collaboration is key, with innovation and education forming the essential pillars of a successful strategy.

Collaboration calls for openness and transparency, whilst innovation carries risks. In a keynote delivered by Paul Polman, climate advocate and former CEO of Unilever, he stressed that risks and stumbles are inherent to innovation. Therefore, to truly accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy, we must embrace the lessons of failings and successes alike and make them part of the communication of our climate actions. 

Ultimately, investors will need to accept a higher level of risk and transcend traditional ideas of competitive advantage to develop solutions that can bring about a rapid and steady transition to a low-carbon economy. With strong financial muscle, emerging companies with fresh ideas will find the support they need to grow, and established companies will be encouraged to adapt and transform. Riskier investments in the short-term will, therefore, enable long-term stability.

Balancing inherent tensions of climate action

Unsurprisingly, the question posed across sessions was how to reconcile the need for credible communication around climate initiatives with the inherent uncertainty of innovation and call for urgent climate action. This is the tricky part for organisations. They need to secure funding, reduce their emissions, be nimble, and innovate on the go whilst dealing with the constant threat of public criticism. 

Communication plays a vital role in any climate action roadmap. The traditional approach has been to announce successes and omit the difficulties. However, being specific in reporting involves publicly sharing the efforts taken for each milestone. The attitude of “if it’s not perfect, we shouldn’t do it” is causing hesitancy for action. Watson was very clear when she highlighted that companies must go further than the SBTi guidance, and Polman noted that the biggest risk we face is our own fatigue. The time to act is now.

3Degrees stands ready to support organisations across the globe with net zero solutions, climate technology advisory services and climate risk assessment and mitigation to surpass the threshold of hesitancy and bring credible claims to action. Connect with us today.


Mateja Penava, Manager for Climate Strategy on the Energy and Climate Practice team in Europe

Mateja has extensive experience in carbon and renewable energy strategy development, enabling companies with a global footprint to achieve emissions reduction targets and make legitimate claims.

 

Jo Burton, Consultant for Climate Strategy on the Energy and Climate Practice team in Europe

Jo specializes in net zero, decarbonisation strategies and scope 3 emissions reporting, supporting strategic and analytical sustainability and energy management.

 

 

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