This article has been contributed by Marina Yong. Listen to her at the upcoming CGM webinar on 11 November 2020.
It’s a race. It’s urgent. Quit avoiding the problem and hope someone else will take care of it. Start seeing that every single problem besetting us now has its origin in our long carelessness with the environment and disregard for human dignity.
We are at a historic moment of human existence with an unprecedented duty to make a collective and individual decision for the sake of the planet and its inhabitants. At no time in history has humankind been forced to think on this scale, as we have to now.
As a corporate entity with obligations to its shareholders and the public it serves, take climate action now. The benefits are manifold and multifold particularly if the action incorporates the multiple dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There is a burgeoning mountain of evidence of these benefits to convert even the worst climate skeptic. Do you know this information? If I might add, if you are not familiar yet with the SDGs at this stage, you and your organization are seriously lacking in situational awareness, which given the circumstances, is highly irresponsible for a listed entity.
Not to alarm you, but are you sure your competitors are not miles ahead of you in securing their future through sustainability efforts and climate action? Better still, have you given thought to the prospect of being outmanoeuvred by a corporate outside your sector that from day one are climate friendly and do a better job at delivering the same service you offer but at zero-carbon?
I understand the cost-averse parties are a reality in the C-suite and in the boards with their imaginary fears of poor financial returns and risky technology bets. The solution is really to put resources into determining for your own organization the maximum level of investment and technology integration that you can achieve to meet the 1.5degC goal.
If you have no idea why this magic number of 1.5degC, then be educated. It would be a better investment than putting out fascinating advertisement for a product and its company that is not climate friendly and likely to become obsolete (both the product and its company).
If by this time, you are startled at the tone of this blog, there simply isn’t the luxury of time now to be using politically correct language on climate action, couched so vaguely to avoid hurting corporate sensibilities that the outcome is inevitably inaction.
Where to start? Think about your energy use.
Why start with energy? Because energy consumption underpins every single activity in your business and in your lifestyle. Energy consumption is also the primary contributor to climate change because of the fossil fuel burned to generate electricity, power up the cars, planes, trains and ships, and fuel the industries.
What do you change? In this specific order:
1. How you use your energy (think energy efficiency)
2. What fuel you use for your energy (think renewable energy – solar, wind, biogas, hydro, and think energy storage – battery)
Get creative in how you transition to zero carbon energy, pulling your supply chain along with you. Leverage on your corporate power to enlarge the zero-carbon adoption beyond your corporate borders. Learn from the abundant examples out there how corporates are shifting and transitioning to zero carbon energy and creating new business opportunities for themselves.
By the way, don’t wait for the government to enact favorable policies, the business case is already proven even without their support. There are a few barriers that will need to be dismantled with respect to the semi-monopoly situation in government linked companies in the electricity utility business, oil and gas business and automotive business but this is no excuse for listed companies to sit back. In fact, precisely because of these barriers, listed companies should de-risk and pursue their own climate friendly energy policies.
About Marina Yong
Marina Yong has worked in sustainability issues for nearly 30 years in consulting work covering environmental assessments, environmental management systems, chemical health risk assessments, and the development of environmental audit policies and energy policies for internationally funded projects. Sector experience includes oil & gas, power generation, chemicals, metals, consumer goods, electronics, semiconductor, rubber gloves, and telecommunication services among others.
Marina graduated with a BSc in marine biology and an MSc in biological oceanography, as well as completed post-graduate training in environmental science and technology. She currently serves as a non-executive director on two boards - a water utility company and a company advising on sustainable resource management for agricultural commodities.