Speakers: Kate Sandle (B Corp UK), Charmian Love (B Lab UK), Kaya Axelsson (University of Oxford), Manoj Kumar (YCL Fellow), Marina Porto 9YCL Fellow & Sustainabiilty Consultant).
Lesson: The private sector has the potential to innovate and work towards solutions, which could subsequently mobilize both society and policy-makers.
The moderator of this panel was Steven Carlson, who works as a Catalyzer and Interim U.S. Lead for Youth Climate Leaders (YCL). Steven is leading the conversation with Kate Sandle, Charmian Love, Kaya Axelsson, Manoj Kumar and Marina Porto. This specific panel will be about the role of the private sector in declaring a climate emergency. Steven starts the conversation with a powerful invitation for everyone to join and fight our biggest challenge: The climate crisis.
The first one to speak is Marina Porto, she is a Brazilian economist with a master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Copenhagen. She currently lives in London, where she works as a sustainability consultant at SOFIES, where she helps companies with the sustainability transition. Marina is also a YCL fellow, she participated in the 2018 immersion in Kenya, where she helped to develop a sustainable and equitable model for local communities. Marina is also the Co-chair of the Youth Policy Advisory Council of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, where they promote awareness, lobby and the policy restructuration, mainly focussed on seabed mining and the Blue New Deal. For businesses, it is important to step up on climate because the private sector is one of the main stakeholders related to climate change. They are not only responsible for a large part of the greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) through offering services and products, but also cause pollution and extract natural resources. But this is only one side of the story, there is also another side. The business sector can also innovate to work towards solutions! The private sector can innovate way faster than the public sector, which could have a huge potential to create a positive impact on climate action. So stepping up means sending a signal to both society and to policy-makers, we need to make sure that they care and show them that it is possible to change, so they can stimulate engagement at all levels. If you develop new products for consumers, you can engage your competitors in acting different and you can challenge the status quo of the current policies in place. Marina also recommends a playbook called ‘The B LAB UK How to Declare a Climate Emergency & Take Climate Action’. It is important for companies to make a thorough assessment of their impact and the risk related to climate change and work through restructuring their business models. There are already great examples of this (e.g. companies with a zero waste model), but there is still space for more!
The second speaker is Manoj Kumar, he is an electrical engineer and also a YCL fellow, he was part of the Germany immersion in 2019. After working for 3 years in different corporations, he got an inner calling to switch his career to the social sector. He joined a fellowship program in Bangalore to work on a unique rejuvenation project, where he was responsible to work with community members to promote agroforestry. When he was working with the community members, he realized that everyone is effected by the adverse effects of climate change. Manoj gives the example of the villages who are already forced to get water through a deep well, but are never sure if there will be water or not. Manoj talks about how organisations could come together to integrate everyone in the entire supply chain of the products and services to tackle climate change and make it more sustainable. He was looking for an opportunity to integrate the farmers with the market and right now he is working for Verstegen Spices & Sauces as a Agroforestry Project Manager, which is actively working on mitigation and creating a green supply chain. Manoj finishes his part by explaining the value of the private sector in fighting the climate crisis. Private companies are the first to bring innovation and to bring the latest technology and to deploy in society!
The third speaker is Charmian Love from B Lab UK. Charmian starts her part with expressing her admiration for Manoj and Marina. Both of these stories show a shift from thinking, to conceptualizing (the opportunities and challenges) and acting upon it. It is important to acknowledge it when someone switches from thinking to doing, because this is an important step in mobilizing more people. We need to get people to think, and subsequently act! Charmian continues her part by sharing information about the B Corp Movement, as well as the materials and tools that they are pulling together. The goal is to get as many materials out to businesses as quickly as possible in order to mobilize them, so they can be part of the ‘ambition loop’. We need the private sector to really get going and then (hopefully) mobilize governments and civil society through their actions, even though this is not necessarily this sequential. Chamrian explains that the ambition loop to her is something that wherever we are or whatever sectors we operate in, we all need to figure out how we can step up when it comes to addressing the climate emergency. It is especially important to bring people together and have a system view. Our individual actions matter, but our collective actions even more! That’s where the change is really going to happen! Charmian explains that the B Corp Movement has a certain ‘enchantment’. She cites the English biologist David Attenborough, who says that we can never be radical enough. We should constantly think: How can we stretch ourselves? How can we move further? How can we move faster? How can we do this together? B Crops are for-profit businesses that have been certified by B Lab, because they need the highest standard in terms of their business model and how they operate. They even change their legal articles to make it explicit that as a business, their directors duties must equally consider shareholders and stakeholders. These include workers, the supply chain, partners, community, environment, and future generations. The businesses in this community are walking-the-talk and use their business to create a better planet. We are declaring a climate emergency, so we will have to be radical with the goals and objectives that we make! Right now there are around 800 businesses that have made a net zero commitment by the year 2030. There is still a lot of work today, that includes business model discussions and looking at the strategies of those businesses. The B Movement also recognizes that those businesses cannot do it alone, so the movement cultivates a community of businesses that can work with one another. To finish, Charmian highlights the importance of the ‘playbook’, which is a tactical book with practical steps for businesses to follow. You can find the playbook HERE.
The fourth speaker is Kate Sandle, also from B Corp UK. Kate continues the conversation about B Corps UK though giving some examples. Some B corps have moved to a more circular model, who were able to capture their value within their packaging. A good example is Patagonia (clothing/footwear), Dr. Bronner’s (soap) and Innocent (smoothies). This last company has an interesting story, they not only wanted to make a carbon neutral factory, but also limit the GEE through travel distances. As much of the fruit comes into the port of Rotterdam, the UK-based business ended up moving to The Netherlands. Another interesting B Corps is ‘Business Declares’ which is a volunteer-led network who recognizes the importance of businesses declaring a climate emergency. They want to make sure that every business understands how important it is to declare a climate emergency, how important it is to set interim targets, and how important it is to be public in that declaration. Another company is Leap, who relocated their office because of the travel time of many employees to get to the office. Not only did they manage to create a more sustainable building, they also massively reduced the travel time for their employees. Another company is Wholegrain Digital, who made a website calculator recognizing that no one really understands the carbon emissions of websites. This company also encouraged all their employees to move to renewable energy, all employees would get 200 pounds or an extra day of holidays if they would switch to renewable energy. The company is also doing an important job in recognizing digital footprints, something that we often overlook. For example, how much does a Zoom call impact the environment? Wholegrain Digital works together with Business Declares to understand what businesses can do. One of the biggest challenges is that the data is not available. T
o really understand the footprint of a zoom call, we need to have access to the data. The large tech companies are not talking about this, so how can we capture this data? And how can we acknowledge that footprint as we move into a more and more digital world? The reality is that when aviation was at its peak, it represented only 2% of global emissions, whereas the global digital footprint now already amounts to 3%. Kate wants us to reflect on 2 stats: ‘If Ronaldo posts one Instagram photo to his 239 million Instagram followers, it’s enough to put 10 houses on the UK grid for a year’, and ‘If you watch one hour of Netflix. It’s the same energy as putting 2 fridges on for a year.’ We feel like we can relax and sit back while using the internet and cloud technologies, but there is still so much that we need to recognize and reflect on when it comes to our digital footprint. Kate ends her part with a piece of advice: 1) Keep your laptop and phone as long as possible, 2) buy refurbished, 3) delete and clean up all of the stuff you don’t need on your computer and phone, 4) don’t stream unnecessarily, 5) try to use Wi-Fi instead of 3G, and 6) don’t forward unnecessary emails.
The last one to speak is Kaya Axelsson from the University of Oxford. Kaya builds further on Kate about the digital footprint and why it should be a key theme for businesses. Kaya doesn’t want the people of today or of the future to worry about things like ‘should I not send this email?’ or ‘should I not eat something?’. Instead, she wants young people today sending 2 extra emails to their local utility company to ask if they are 100% renewable. Young people should ask for their utility commissioner or go to their school/university and ask all the hard questions about the environment, such as where they get their power from. She especially mentions the Sunrise Movement, who asks hard questions to the people in power to shift the frame of what is possible nowadays, what is considered radical enough, and what is considered a standard policy. In the recent U.S. elections, there was an incredible increase of dialogue about climate and the environment. It got from some sort of ‘honourable mention’ in the previous election cycle to one of the main concerns now. Now, we are not talking about how many millions we should pour into this, but how many trillions! This is all because of young people!
Kaya continued working for the University of Oxford after her graduation, her job is to do engagement and to bring climate science and facts on climate change to policy makers and companies. Kaya wrote an article for The Independent to help readers to ask the ‘right’ hard questions about net zero, because people often think they don’t know enough as the people in power. Kaya wants to make clear that this doesn’t matter, you are just there to gather information. You should be delighted that you don’t know that much, let them take in your curiosity! Kaya continues with 3 questions that you could ask a company. The first question is about net zero target, Kaya proposes that you could ask: ‘What does that cover?’ or ‘What emissions are you counting?’ These are nice, and open-ended questions. Especially the scope is really important, which generally consists of 3 levels. The first scope are the direct ownership costs (e.g. costs of the building), the second scope the costs that are not directly on-site (e.g. utility bill), and the third scope are the emissions more indirectly associated with my business (e.g. commuting). The second thing you could also ask is ‘what is your deadline’? This deadline is especially important, since we all agreed upon to become net zero by the mid-century through the Paris Agreement.
Kaya wants to make clear that the developed world should take the lead, since the developing world needs some more time. Not only are these countries dealing with the worst impacts of climate change, but they haven’t the chance yet to develop themselves to their full potential. The third question you can ask is: ‘How is your company getting to net zero?’. Net zero means quite a bit of offsetting, so you can investigate if the company has a long-term plan or if they are paying enough for the offsets. The fourth question could be: ‘What is your company already doing right now to reach the goals?’ And lastly, you could ask: ‘How are you going to ensure that you will stay committed?’. A possible solution could for example be to develop the commitments into the governance model. These 5 questions could help young people to become more critical and agents of change!
About the Day of the Climate Professional:
The Day of the Climate Professional (DCP), celebrated on November 24, is an annual date to celebrate and catalyse the professionals accelerating solutions to the climate crisis. The 2020 inaugural edition was marked by an all-day virtual summit—networking activities, workshops, keynote presentations, interactive Q&As, and more—fostering reflections and actions on the interdisciplinary of climate change, its urgency, and the importance of working to tackle it through varied professions and sectors of society. Learn More.