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01 November 2021
COP26: how to leverage the sustainability opportunity
Business will be crucial to meeting COP26’s 1.5°C target, but most major companies are failing to put their heft behind the effort, a new study finds, reflecting a clear opportunity missed for brands and the need for climate-focussed thinking to pervade an organisation.
With COP26 kicking off this week, the climate should be front and centre of business and governments’ thinking.
Firms need a combination of climate-focussed action, communications, and leadership in order to drive sustainable behaviour change, according to research from the sustainability-focussed consultancy Salterbaxter, which underpins a new tool to help businesses identify how they can pivot toward net zero called ProgressPoint.
Most (76%) of businesses in high emissions industries, for instance, might be making changes behind the scenes, but are falling short on communications. While around half are struggling to lead.
Of the 57 companies analysed, in collaboration with World Benchmarking Alliance just 10 had action and communications. Though most were investing in sustainability, potential impact was being left on the table.
It’s interesting, however, that 12 of the 18 highly rated climate communicators were car brands, reflecting their need to grow the electric car category. But on the flip side: many of these score low for trust in their sustainability leadership.
Different from greenwashing
The problem is that many brands are now talking about their green credentials, but lots of people aren’t buying it with around four fifths of consumers deeply sceptical of sustainability claims. Hypocrisy is a difficult reputation to change. The brands in the Salterbaxter study, however, are putting in an effort but are failing to fully activate the impact of that investment.
“Too many businesses continue to trade in promises when the planet needs action,” says Kathleen Enright, Managing Director.
“If COP26 is to be a tipping point, we need to see our business leaders benchmarking themselves against the future, measuring their success against the change they need to make in order to go beyond net zero”.
Not only is a business’s impact on the climate part of the mainstream business conversation with increasing interest to investors using environmental, social, and governance metrics (ESG) to analyse performance. When the money cares, everyone starts to care.
Measurement is key, and initiatives like Ad Net Zero, the UK advertising industry’s collective response to the climate crisis in association with the AA, ISBA, and the IPA is launching a new course to teach advertising professionals practical techniques to measure and reduce emissions from comms work. It launches ahead of the association’s Ad Net Zero Global summit later this week.