How You, as a Business, Can Engage at COP21
As part of our COP21 series, today we’re taking a look at some of the ways in which businesses can engage, act, exchange, participate and make their voice heard, before, during and after this year’s key international climate change event.
Whether a ‘best case scenario’ outcome finally materializes or not, for many, COP21 represents a last opportunity to achieve a legally binding agreement keeping global warming below the 2°C ‘safety limit’. With over 40,000 participants expected to attend and under mounting international pressure (and scientific evidence) warning about the serious consequences of failing to make climate action a global policy priority, COP21 will de facto be one of the largest climate change conferences ever organized.
If you haven’t done so yet and even before the conference starts, as a business, there are a number of steps you can take to define your position, set your course and identify how you want to make the most of your time in Paris:
1. Demonstrate commitment by signing pledges that reflect your values, goals and vision, such as the Climate Reality Project Pledge or, closer to the environmentalist movement in France, Nicolas Hulot’s, ’Osons’ (Let’s Dare).
2. Become a member of organizations working hand in hand with the private sector to support and enhance their sustainability commitments, such as CDP (the Carbon Disclosure Project), BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), the UN Global Compact, the We Mean Business Coalition or SustainAbility, a think tank focusing on sustainability and business leadership.
3. People (and their ideas and values) are the driving force behind every corporation, so increasing awareness and knowledge around climate change within your own company is a critical step towards supporting your efforts. This could involve inviting a specialist or activist to give a presentation on climate change (for instance through the Climate Reality Project’s Corps of trained volunteer climate leaders), or by encouraging curiosity and debate through team activities like documentary screenings, mission-relevant site visits, exhibitions or workshops.
4. Leverage what social media has to offer to stay up to date on what the main actors and influencers are thinking (using twitter lists like the one we created listing the 21 Twitter accounts to keep track of ahead of COP21). Take the time to find ways of raising your voice on social media and explain what you’re doing to tackle climate change. Why not start by using the #COP21 hashtag, and sharing images and videos?
While the high-level policy negotiations that will take place over a two-week period are closed to private sector observers, for whom direct engagement in negotiations is not possible, there will be a wide range of highly valuable opportunities for civil society and business observers to participate, make meaningful contributions and create lasting partnerships.
Luckily, not participating directly in the formal political discussions doesn’t mean there isn’t a space for you at the COP. On the contrary, some of the most innovative and ground-breaking discussions are likely to take place during the dozens of scheduled/official side events or as part of the ‘microcosm’ of spontaneous gatherings and talks that will emerge in parallel to the COP.
5. Events like the COP21 only come up once every few years and given the sheer size and high diplomatic stakes, for many, this conference will provide an unprecedented opportunity to exchange, network, create lasting links with like-minded peers, and in many ways, be on the cutting-edge of current thought leadership around climate policy, sustainable development, and some of the most relevant challenges defining our era and our relationship with the planet. If you can, take time to visit some of the scheduled side events (including those outside of the business bubble), such as exhibitions, installations, plays, concerts, performances, and workshops organized under cultural plaftorms like ArtCOP21.
6. When it comes to scheduled side events, once the COP kicks off, the ‘can’t miss’ business focused event will be the Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF). Taking place on 7 and 8 December, and hosted by Climate Action and the United Nations Environmental Programme, it will also be the largest business forum taking place during the COP, joining over 750 global delegates from public and private sector organizations. At SIF, You can expect to hear high-level speakers (such as the President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy and the Deputy Director General of FAO), and see business leaders from world-class corporations communicating their vision and making key announcements on their latest sustainability focused initiatives. Although COP21 is almost upon us and this event commands an overwhelming level of interest, registrations are still open.
7. The journey doesn’t stop on December 11 when conference proceedings close. With the momentum gained thanks to new ideas, a fresh perspective and new partnerships, now is the time to strengthen your sustainability efforts and fine-tune your goals for the future. Maintaining a competitive edge means keeping a critical eye and always being on the lookout for new solutions to your ongoing challenges.
8. Make it a point to continue to stay informed and active through forums, international events or local/home-based activities tackling the challenges and opportunities that arise where business meets climate change and sustainability. To get you started, on Tuesday, December 15 at 1pm ET, we’ll be hosting an exclusive webinar in partnership with Greenbiz: ‘Why Tackling Climate Change is Good for Business’. Learn more here!