COP21 - what does it mean for businesses?
COP21 has been rated as the most important climate summit and talk ever. It actually came at a very peculiar and delicate moment: with temperatures and sea levels rising, global greenhouse gas emissions increasing and extreme weather flagellating villages and metropolises all over the world, there couldn`t be a better “momentum” for such big event.
Governments representatives and some of the most influential businesses and organisations from more than 180 countries all made their way to Paris in the early days of December to reach and sign a climate deal, an agreement about how, in the next few decades, we are all supposed to face the biggest threat to human kind, biodiversity and natural resources: climate change.
One of the interesting differences between this climate meeting and the previous ones lies in the role played in the debate by sub-national governments and local businesses and organisations: a role that, as never before, happened to be big and vital in shaping practical solutions towards a greener and more sustainable economic system. This is because these are usually the actors called to implement and test successful solutions to hectic problems within local communities, as they are the first entities who clients, customers and investors address when they want public figures to take action on general and widespread issues.
This peculiar asset boosts innovative and dynamic solutions (just think about Bristol`s case: a green capital exploring alternative ways to boost its sustainable economy in a country that is said to have turned its back on renewables and green issues), but needs the legal support of Governments and International Coalitions in order to configure an integral, complete and shareable plan and to level parameters, standards and goals.
Investors and stakeholders, as they need to find green investments appealing, need to see a stable, shared and approved framework that can work for the global market, able to make their offers and solutions comparable and understandable from a global-consumer point of view: cooperation, coordination, collaboration and, last but not least, comparability, definitely help boosting innovative and efficient solutions.
Alongside investors’ and stakeholders’ needs, the expectations of environmentalists, activists, and the general public itself were huge as the risk of an unfair and inadequate solution was seen more as a reality than a simple possibility; furthermore, is not easy to coordinate and satisfy all different and worthy competing interests.
That said, the Agreement, reached after several years of negotiation among the most influential figures and partnerships, and designed to address climate change related issues and drive concrete and effective sustainable change throughout the next several years, has been finally reached after 10 days of negotiations.
The long term goal that the nations, the organisations and the other counterparts taking part in the Paris Climate Summit agreed to set as achievable within the end of the century is a zero emissions economy, meaning a whole and entire economic system in which the energy is produced thanks to renewables and without relying on fossil fuels and carbon. To be more detailed, but without digging too much, almost 200 countries committed themselves to keep temperature rise below 2C by 2050.
This all – the negotiations, the commitment, the gathering together of hundreds of people – sounds pretty good, but how does this translate in practice? Is something going to change and change for the better?
After the Paris Agreement, different opinions and evaluations on the deal appeared on the web, newspapers and television: on one side, there are people describing it as satisfying, on the other one, there are people claiming its inadequacy.
What we can say, is that this Agreement was undoubtedly necessary but is definitely a starting point rather than a total solution: lots more and further actions need to be taken from actual organisations in order to create real change. On top of that, it goes without saying that the just partial mandatory nature of the Agreement leaves to single nations and companies` voluntary commitments the biggest job.
As the We Mean Business group – a coalition of 359 companies and 160 investors – claimed, the COP21 has worked as a catalyst to get businesses and business people together and enable them to begin a new and successful journey towards a more sustainable future.
This doesn`t mean that the Paris Agreement doesn`t have any practical content at all, but it`s definitely not enough for immediate action. Now the main role passes to companies, corporation executives and sustainability professionals, who will have to design and take action for a clean global economy.
For them, the goal is “to ensure that the new climate agreement reached in Paris is more than just a diplomatic settlement between governments but actually becomes a catalytic instrument for business leadership on climate action."
In other words, the COP21 is just a starting point from which organisations and businesses are going to start to engage themselves in even bolder commitments.
But what`s positive, is that business leaders were already aligned asking for uniform guidelines and frameworks, and none of them wanted to slow the change down or avoid confrontation: all of them were already the actual leading part of the Paris Summit.
Most large businesses and corporations are already really active and keen to improve their CSR strategies: they want to push renewables, they seek low carbon investments, they go for divestment, they want fairer and more sustainable supply chains and they are generally and genuinely looking toward a greener future.
This activity returns their investments in terms of people, planet and profits:
1. People. Boosting alternative solutions in order to tackle climate change and global warming can improve living conditions of several populations on the world, especially those ones located in developing countries, who represents the workers within the big and complex supply chains Western countries rely on
2. Planet. Reducing our environmental impact as a business means a lot not only in terms of numbers: creating behaviour change within one`s own company translates in a ripple effect on employees lifestyles who are going to create a difference within their peers-groups, families and friends, spreading good habits around
3. Profits. Nowadays, customers, clients, investors and stakeholders are really aware about what CSR is and ask for better resource management and environmental impact reduction. Setting a proper CSR plan and enhancing transparency around your activities helps your business build customers loyalty and brand reputation
What we need to understand is that the Paris Agreement opens a door of real opportunity for businesses and organisations keen to play a part in the global change. This doesn`t concern only companies having their businesses in the so-called green area, like renewables, solar panel and low carbon utilities, it concerns a broad range of all sort of organisations, companies and corporations willing to expand their markets and explore more sustainable solutions to reduce their greenhouse gas, coal and carbon emissions and increase the use of renewable and clean alternatives.
The possibilities are out there and just need to be grabbed and communicated (let`s not forget how important it is to share positive outcomes).
Whether it is switching from fossil fuel alimented cars to electric ones, preferring cycling to driving to work and around our cities, sensitising your employees to eat more vegetables and avoiding meat, getting rid of your paper supports and materials by taking advantages of modern technology or supporting your circular economy, this is the time for your business to come into play and show its potential and commitment.
Are you ready to start your journey towards a more sustainable future?
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