Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending Reuters’ Responsible Business Europe 2022 in London and representing 3Degrees on a net zero panel discussion and workshop. As it was only my fourth week in my new role overseeing our climate consulting practice in Europe, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with our team members from across North America and Europe, as well as dive into important climate target discussions with so many conference attendees and 3Degrees clients. There is certainly no shortage of questions on this topic!
It was an engaging, whirlwind of a week and, as I walked away from my first in-person event in well over two years, I kept thinking about the many recurring themes that presented themselves both in my conversations with sustainability leaders in organisations across a wide array of sectors, and in the conference sessions that I attended and helped facilitate. Here are a few highlights.
The time is now
“Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.”
This was a refrain I heard over and over again at the event – and is consistent with the counsel we provide our clients on a daily basis. Companies simply cannot afford to sit back and wait any longer to take robust, meaningful climate action, even in the face of imperfect (and sometimes confusing) policies, slowly developing technologies, and gaps in knowledge. Organisations across sectors have woken up and feel the urgency: climate action is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. Companies are experiencing pressure coming from a variety of directions – from customers, investors, employees and other internal stakeholders, and beyond. They also know they can’t get there alone. I participated in many conversations that were focused on finding the right partners to help these organisations reach their climate goals, whether that’s a net zero target or other interim targets on the path to zero. Truly, we are all in this together and I was inspired by the spirit of collaboration amidst the sense of urgency.
Scope 3/supply chain emissions: the challenge is real
For organisations that have 2025 or 2030 net zero targets, the clock is obviously ticking – loudly. Many of these companies have made significant progress addressing their scope 1 and 2 emissions, but are now grappling with the reality of a sizable scope 3 footprint and difficult-to-address supply chain emissions. This was a topic of significant conversation at the event and it was clear that even companies that are further along in their climate journey still have many questions about the most effective approach for their business. Two specific themes were:
Supplier engagement: Leaders across a variety of sectors identified this as an ongoing pain point. Challenges include having the appropriate capacity and funding to implement required change, vendor cooperation and collaboration, lack of tools for accurate measurement and reporting, access to renewable energy in certain markets across the globe, and more. Companies are actively seeking tools and support to help them make the necessary progress here.
Role of carbon credits in a net zero plan: 3Degrees hosted a customer roundtable on this topic the day before the Reuters event kicked off, and I also participated in a workshop and panel discussion on day two of the conference. A few of the key headlines:
- In the absence of clear guidance with respect to carbon credits and net zero targets, many companies are forging their own path so they can expedite action. The urgency I mentioned earlier is driving organisations to the realization that they simply can’t wait for new reforestation projects or engineered carbon removal solutions and risk inaction at this moment. While removals will play an important long-term role, there’s also a global need for beyond value chain mitigation in the near term. This could include conservation of threatened natural ecosystems and significant methane avoidance and reduction in unregulated sectors. We counsel clients to think about transitioning their carbon credit portfolios over time, increasing the percentage of carbon removals – and the durability or permanence of those solutions – as well as projects in or near their supply chain.
- There is an increasing interest in the biodiversity and societal impacts of carbon projects and there seems to be a trend towards beginning to look forward to measuring and reporting on biodiversity and other co-benefits from carbon credit projects.
- Every organisation’s journey will end up looking different depending on their goals, budget, values and preferences. And this is okay – every organisation has a unique role to play in this market.
Carbon accounting technology is increasingly important
Not surprisingly, with the rise in corporate climate commitments, there is also increased demand for accurate and easy-to-implement technology enabling these companies to more efficiently measure and report on their carbon footprint. As one of the Reuters panelists said, “You can only ask people to make different choices once you have the data.” This holds true for both internal company greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction initiatives, as well as supply chain engagement. Thus, the carbon accounting technology sector is hopping with activity right now and there are a somewhat overwhelming number of options for companies to parse through.
Overall, my week in London attending the Reuters’ conference, engaging with clients, and connecting with my new colleagues provided the perfect welcome to 3Degrees. More than ever before, I am inspired to hit the ground running, collaborating with organisations that are ready to get serious about setting – and achieving – climate targets. If you’re interested in discussing how we can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.