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Corporate sustainability accountability: Decoding BS


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Threat’s growing awareness of the imminent threat climate emergency (combined with the power of social media), making it nearly impossible for large corporations to damage the environment without being called upon. And in recent years, many businesses – like apple and Amazon and Walmart, to name a few – have announced extensive commitments to reduce their ecological footprint. It is not possible to prove whether fear of disgrace (and the resulting lost profits) or a passionate desire to campaign for sustainability has driven these initiatives. But even if it still remains, being able to judge whether those efforts really make sense or just empty marketing gimmicks can be difficult for conscientious consumers to decipher. So how can we ensure brands are accountable for their climate initiatives?

Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task. Based on Kevin Moss, The Global Director of the Sustainable Business Center at the World Resources Institute, there is no outside organization or government examining companies’ climate initiatives, which means if You want to find out if they are fulfilling their promises or not, you have to do quite a bit of leg work. And even then, the data you can collect can mostly rely on one untrustworthy storyteller: the company itself.

But there are some strategies to cross-check a company’s promises against its performance. Below, Moss shares how your research is done and holds companies accountable for their climate change commitment.

Learn about the two organizations that compile detailed databases for corporate environmental action

first. Carbon disclosure project

Over the past 10 years, Moss said, Carbon disclosure project (CDP) has asked companies to report their carbon emissions through a standardized format. “I wouldn’t expect a consumer to really want to come and read a company’s carbon footprint report, but the reality is [companies] Reporting or deciding not to report is an important indicator of the seriousness of the issue, ”he said. “After they report, people like us and Green Peace and others can view and view the reports, so it is important that they are willing to be transparent. “

If you are curious about whether the company you support reports or not, you can check out this search engine. (FYI: Amazon hasn’t submitted it yet, but Walmart and Target do, and Apple gets an “A” for its climate change efforts. Also, an “F” is usually awarded to those who don’t report.)

2. Science-Based Goals

The Science-Based Goal Initiative (SBTi) is a program by World Resources Institute (WRI), International Fund for Nature Protection, CDP and UN Global Compact. It assesses whether companies’ environmental ambitions help meet their needs Paris Agreement. (The Paris Agreement is a 2015 pledge signed by 196 parties promising to do its part to help keep global warming below 3.6 ° F or, ideally, a 2.7 increase. ° F.) The program is only a few years old, but currently has more than 1,300 participating corporations. “More companies join each week,” says Moss.

You can easily search the website to see if there are any companies working with SBTi; However, it only tells you whether the company’s plans will is enough to help the world achieve the Paris Agreement goals, not whether it actually reduces its footprint enough to do so.

The next step for SBTi is to work with CDP to determine if a company is on track to achieve its confirmed goals. “Those goals tend to be five to ten year goals,” says Moss. “So you wouldn’t know [immediately] if they have met them, but you will know if they are on the right track to meet them. “

Create your own personal accountability index

There are many ways to evaluate companies that do not require moving through large data reports. Below, Moss shares criteria to consider.

1. Is the company reforming its core business?

Consider whether a company’s environmental plan is concerned with continuing to do what it does now, but slightly better (in the environmental sense) or whether it really changes the way economic operations joint or not – because the latter usually makes more sense. “I think it’s creativity Walmart and Nordstrom are bringing in [secondhand clothing retailer] ThredUp, ”he said. “Traditionally, I walked into Walmart or Nordstrom and 100% of my money went to buy something new. The idea begins to explore business models in which you resell something someone has previously owned? What a mess. ”

“The idea of ​​starting to explore business models where you resell something someone has previously owned? What a mess. ” —Kevin Moss, Global Director of the Sustainable Business Center

Ikea is also experimenting with its repair and resale of furniture, which Moss says is not “technically innovative, but it is operationally innovative.” According to him, Pepsi’s acquisition of SodaStream, a personal soft drink machine that doesn’t need a disposable container, is another example of a company that innovates instead of bandaging. “A lot of companies are doing things like that Their lightweight packaging. I don’t think it’s creative – it’s just a little less bad, ”he said. But with the SodaStream acquisition, Moss said, Pepsi is really helping to eliminate packaging. “That, for me, is a mess,” he said. He added, the beauty company Lush has also innovated to remove through packaging shampoo soap and shower gel. (Other companies, like Nation, Meow Meow Tweet, and Dig are doing this too.)

Ultimately, says Moss, companies have to come up with new, innovative ways to make money with a lower environmental impact than selling new products – for example, charging for repair and redesign services, selling. re-owned or completely discarded packaging. And for this to work, change must happen at the core of the business. For example, he said, a retailer can’t just put an electric scooter into its fleet and call it a day, because that doesn’t disrupt their (bad for the environment) business, but also allow it. “If you were an auto company, say your fleet would grow by 50%. [electric vehicles] Moss says in five years, it will be difficult because it is your core business.

Moss sees this example of electric cars as only a problem if they are electric to replace part of the vehicles are not powered by electricity, no add for them. So when evaluating a company, consider whether it’s just trying to get you to buy more of whatever it is selling, or is it actually changing the business model to significantly reduce its impact over time. space.

2. How is the company using its brand strength?

Brands have power, so consider how they use it in relation to environmental issues. Moss, for example, just came a Black Friday campaign in Patagonia, this has prompted consumers Not buy one of its coats. The idea behind advertising is to encourage consumers to think before making a purchase during that holiday season. “It would be hypocrisy if we were work for a change of environment without encouraging customers to think before they buy, ”the company statement says. “In order to minimize our environmental damage, we all must reduce our consumption and manufacture products in a way that is more environmentally sensitive, less harmful.”

Dutch airline KLM has tried a similar tactic. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, it ran an ad that encouraged consumers to take a train instead of a plane. Moss admits you can see these tactics through the lens of skepticism (are they really trying to discourage consumers from consuming, or are they just trying to attract conscientious consumers?), But he is. argue that both are prime examples of brands using their power to, at least, create conversation around change.

3. Who are the lobbyists?

Companies also have a lot of latent political power through lobbying efforts, because lobbying influences government action and (inaction). However, it’s not always easy to tell what the company you support is lobbying for. One tool that Moss suggests might be useful is Map of influenceOne platform evaluates firms and trade associations for its lobbying impact, but it has yet to cover many firms. In addition, he added, all you can really do is a lot of research – about what the company itself is lobbying and what trade associations the company its affiliates are doing. lobbyists.

4. Shift your focus

“It’s important to think about what we buy and how much energy we use, and whether there are other ways of buying or buying less,” says Moss. “It’s the biggest impact consumers can have.”

For example, he said, if everyone bought a Tesla, the demand for gas would gradually decrease. Gasoline pumps at stations will be replaced with chargers. Making that change is a shared responsibility between consumers, automakers and governments, which can provide incentives and mandates to make the transition.

This idea reinforces what Moss sees as the WRI’s guiding principle, which is the need for a systematic approach to the climate crisis. The responsibility isn’t just with the government, or just the companies, or just the consumers – it’s all about us. “We are all part of the system that leads companies to create what they create,” he said. Therefore, it is important not only to hold the companies accountable, but to yourself.

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