This year proved that consumers not only demand, but drive global change across the business and political worlds. Consumer expectations and business scrutiny are growing and intensifying to the point where climate change is on everyone’s agenda. And the world is looking for new climate leaders that will set a transparent and authentic approach that will create belief in the future.

Last month’s Climate Week was historical for climate action for many reasons. Here’s a rundown of four of the most significant.

Citizen power was (again) proven real 

The Global Climate Strike grew into the largest ever public demonstration. An estimated 4 million people, across all age groups in 170 countries, rallied for change. Change to what is politically possible and globally acceptable.

Businesses and governments without clear climate strategies and targets will be exposed to increased and intensified scrutiny. Now is the time for companies to communicate and demonstrate the actions they are taking.

Greta Thunburg made it blisteringly clear in her address to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit: “We will be watching you… The world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not.”

Authenticity is key

The day before the strike Amazon and Google revealed new ambitious commitments to climate action.

"The Climate Pledge", largely driven by the Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, finally shed light into Amazon’s climate strategy that includes a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2040, a decade sooner than the Paris Agreement outlined. It also outlines commitments to run on fully renewable energy by 2030, purchase 100,000 fully electric vehicles, and invest $100m in reforestation projects. This is an integrated approach, informed by materiality and aligned to Amazon’s business strategy.

Meanwhile, Google announced the biggest renewables purchase in history with a $2 billion investment in solar and wind energy, leading to many new development projects and employment opportunities.

Whilst this record-breaking news is a fantastic step, neither Amazon’s Pledge nor Google’s announcement address that they are both reported to have funded climate-change deniers.  In both cases, consumers are not yet satisfied. They demand full transparency and authentic action that demonstrates Amazon and Google are walking the talk across all areas of the business.

But ambition is something to be commended, especially when it comes to sustainable action. It’s an opportunity for real, transformative change so often hindered by incremental – and therefore easily achievable – goals too often set by businesses. Companies of this size should be at the forefront of setting the most ambitious targets, and set the tone for business transformation.

Transparency is becoming the norm

The global investment community has woken up to the severity and accelerating pace of climate crisis. A business that doesn’t have a robust and public strategy addressing climate impacts is now perceived as a risk. In fact, just this month, Mark Carney said, “companies that don’t adapt will go bankrupt without question”.

The Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) requires companies to identify and disclose climate-related risks with a financial value attached. This is a daunting step for many businesses requiring modelling of climate scenarios, clear governance and strategy procedures and disclosures related to climate-related risks, let alone targets and metrics. 

Yet despite these challenging requirements, it’s quickly gathered momentum. The UK government now ‘expects’ TCFD reporting by all listed companies and large asset owners by 2022, in line with the UK Green Finance Strategy. It’s time for business to step up a gear.

There are a wealth of resources available for organisations new to TCFD. We’re big fans of the Climate Disclosure Standard’s Board (CDSB), which has recently launched online training and a good-practice handbook, hosted on its TCFD Knowledge Hub.

Space for more leadership

For a long time, the same corporates have been leading the sustainability agenda. Unilever reached its 100% renewables goal in five continents earlier this year– in good time before its 2020 goal – and M&S, Microsoft and BT continue to have best practice climate plans.

Business, people and planet will only survive in a low carbon future. Emissions are not falling quickly enough to achieve climate targets and switching to renewables will only cut emissions by half. If renewables can only offer half of the solution, the other half is yet to be resolved. Will it come from circular design? New approaches to food? Emerging innovations? Who will lead this agenda?

Clearly, we need more leadership to secure the future of our planet.

The way business shares its climate commitments and progress updates will directly influence perceptions that talent candidates, employees, investors, partners or the general public will have on their future. Climate Week reminds us that consumer power is real, expectations are higher, and the world needs more transparent and authentic leaders in climate action. 

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