At a Crossroads: Why Now is the Moment to Support Forward-Thinking Business

November 19, 2015 By

Many of those following international climate change negotiations for the past few years may be feeling skeptical at best as the much talked about road to Paris comes to an end in little over a week, especially if they have any recollection of failed opportunities like the 2009 Copenhagen summit and other less successful outcomes of the UNFCCC process.

Yet, this year, the general circumstances are favourable, marked by an enthusiastic organizing administration (committed to making a difference and confident that a deal can be made), a charismatic host city, a symbolic date marking the beginning of the post-2015 era, and the momentum generated by parallel processes such as the SDGs. One can only hope negotiators will feel the heat. Indeed, even under the extraordinary circumstances imposed on the city of Paris this past Friday November 13, the willingness to maintain the conference remains and the sense of urgency to build a game-changing agreement has not been lost.

To cite just one of many influencers urging to act on climate change now, Jeffrey Sachs, economist and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General, had a strong message for those underestimating the importance of high level diplomatic events like the COP21: ‘This is certainly our generation’s best chance to get back on track. Such diplomatic opportunities only come around every decade or so’.

Without getting into a full palm-reading exercise of possible outcomes, there are some points we can almost be certain of:

  • It is very likely that the final agreement resulting from COP21 will include a clear integration of the climate change and international development agendas, also strongly addressing the role of business, especially from emerging economies.
  • At the end of the day, the success of a final agreement will depend on political will, economic interests and the complexities of today’s international relations. For many observers, reaching a best-case-scenario agreement (legally binding for all countries and keeping global warming below 2°C) is utopic if not highly unlikely. Although attaining this type of agreement is not an all-or-nothing goal (the UNFCCC process would allow for an agreement based on closely monitored voluntary commitments), given the IPCC’s evidence on the increasingly harmful effects of climate change on the fragile balance between our natural environment and human economies, a legally binding agreement is a much needed outcome.

Faced by such uncertainty at the highest policy-making levels it can be tempting to simply stand by, but we shouldn’t forget two things:

 1) The power of momentum.

 2) As individuals, communities and corporations, there’s no need to wait for anyone’s permission before taking action. Having said that, little will be achieved by working in silos: Change must come by the way of cooperation among all actors of society, including business.

While there will always be reluctant businesses and governments using dilatory tactics to delay the best efforts of those working to reach consensus, a major shift is occurring, as more and more corporations are integrating the principles of the low carbon economy, based on low fossil-fuel use, renewable energy sources and growth strategies that leverage new technologies and innovative solutions.

The obvious challenge of achieving a ‘low carbon economy’ is that, ideally, it requires a collective effort, through acting on all of its components (manufacturing, extractive industries, power-generation, agriculture, transportation etc.). The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) exemplifies one of many organizations focusing its efforts in this direction. By motivating companies, as well as cities, investors, governments and policy makers to disclose their environmental impacts, CDP aims to provide decision makers the data they need to change market behavior and prevent dangerous climate change.

In an increasingly demanding context, Enablon is now entering into its 5th year of partnership with CDP as an accredited Software Partner, allowing users to account for scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

At Enablon, by assisting companies that are advancing towards the low-carbon economy and taking the lead in their sector, we share CDP’s vision and offer corporations integrated software solutions allowing them to transform an apparent constraint into a source of competitive advantage and an opportunity for growth. By going beyond compliance, companies (a) open the doors to enhanced stakeholder engagement, efficiency and reputation, and (b) are able to drive financial benefits by addressing a diverse range of areas, including workers’ safety, environmental management, supply chain management, air quality and carbon management.

Through our daily work we also see evidence of how increasing numbers of corporations are taking a valuable step forward by abandoning siloed Excel-based systems, in favor of company-wide, integrated management structures that also allow for a high level of granularity at site level. In turn, this facilitates the (critical) benchmarking process, as companies are better equipped to strengthen winning initiatives and target areas where improvement can be made.

By supporting the needs of forward-thinking companies worldwide, our unique viewpoint tells us that business will be instrumental in bringing the new climate agreement to life, and the scale of the global challenge we are faced by also necessarily means that while businesses are not alone, they also have access to a more than clear space to address climate change head-on.

We are all both part of the problem and part of the solution. The quality of ‘our common future’ will mainly depend on how successfully all actors of society are able to make coordinated efforts, embrace innovative solutions and change our vision of climate change, highlighting both its constraints and opportunities.

To learn more about our sustainability and environmental management solutions, visit us here.

Categories: Sustainability

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