I have worked in sustainability for nearly ten years, and for me, nothing compares to the scale and relevance of what CDP is doing. That is what brought me here as CDP North America’s new President.
As I launch the next chapter in my sustainability career, I was reminded at our U.S. Spring Workshop that transparency is vital to accelerate the global transition to a sustainable economy.
As the saying goes: “You cannot manage what you don’t measure.”
Disclosure remains crucial to both inform, and track, progress toward a climate-safe, water-secure and deforestation-free world.
In the U.S., this is particularly pertinent right now. 2017 was the second-highest year ever in terms of costs of natural disasters globally. 80% of these costs were incurred in the U.S. Climate change is already here, and will get worse if we don’t take sustained and meaningful action.
And although adequate climate policy is still elusive in many areas, including the U.S, the momentum is shifting.
The energy of the Green New Deal, student climate strikes and the Amazon employees’ letter to Jeff Bezos are all proof that citizens want to see change in both the public and private sectors. In the UK, pressure from the Extinction Rebellion movement contributed to the country declaring a climate emergency.
Across North America, companies and cities are not waiting on policymakers to act. In 2018, nearly 205 U.S. cities, states and regions disclosed to CDP, and over 2,000 companies did the same – a huge upswing since CDP launched the notion of environmental disclosure in 2002.
North American sustainability leaders are taking action, too: of the 150 global companies that made our 2018 A List, about 60 are American and Canadian. And North American cities represent more than half (56%) of all cities worldwide to receive an A score this year.
It was heartening to join 200 sustainability professionals at this year’s CDP U.S. Spring Workshop, where they showed their readiness to tackle the enormous challenge, while striving for the great economic opportunity that the transition could bring.
Disclosure is at the heart of our shared work
We kicked off the morning with a look at how CDP’s disclosure has evolved over time, aiming to bring an easier experience to the companies, cities, states and regions leading on transparency.
Building on our efforts to provide a more intuitive reporting experience in 2018 – aligning our corporate questionnaires with the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and introducing sector specific reporting – our attention turned to cities reporting this year. With our new unified reporting platform, a result of partnership with ICLEI, cities will now only have to report once, through CDP, to be able to tap into the benefits offered by both organizations.
Insights can provide the crucial “how” and “why”
CDP houses a treasure trove of information on how cities and companies manage climate change, water insecurity and deforestation risks. CDP strives to share this information through regular publications and at our Spring Workshops.
One trend at the forefront in this year’s events: renewable energy procurement.
Panelists from Smart Energy Decisions, the City of Cincinnati and JLL explained that they have been gratified to see the price competitiveness of renewable energy in recent years. But they also warned that the U.S. still lacks the speed needed in regulatory evolution to enable renewable procurement to keep up with this increased demand.
At the end of the day, CDP staff explained how companies are addressing climate risks and opportunities, a key insight from our work. Representatives from leading companies Stanley Black & Decker, HP and Altria discussed the role of sustainability teams to bring internal stakeholders across the organization together to assess and manage climate change risk in a holistic way, and spoke about evolving the conversation from one of climate change risk to those of opportunities associated with the transition.
This was exciting to hear, and triggered a great buzz in the room as stakeholders turned their attention to what’s possible on the journey to a low-carbon future.
Action must be driven by the latest science
One of the best and most ambitious ways for companies to take immediate action to preserve our planet is to set a science-based target. Just a few days before the U.S. Workshop, the Science Based Targets Initiative released new criteria to help companies set targets in line with the latest science released in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on 1.5.
However, ambitious decarbonization alone is not enough. We need action to protect our forests and secure safe water supplies, which are intricately linked to climate change. We know, for example, that up to a third of climate mitigation efforts could come from forests, so efforts to remove deforestation from supply chains are crucial.
The Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi), which provides guidance to companies that are setting deforestation supply chain commitments, aims to help companies work toward a collective ‘good’ in the absence of global certification frameworks, and could help drive progress in this area.
Meanwhile, with global water supplies under threat, and climate change exacerbating this, companies must look toward site-level water targets that address multiple dimensions of water risk and contribute to long-term water security and sustainability of the catchment.
While we celebrate the ambition of companies, cities, states and regions who are pioneers for action on climate change, water and deforestation, I must say: more needs to be done, and it needs to be done now.
The U.S. stands to gain much by enacting a just transition to a low-carbon, deforestation-free, water-secure economy. Climate change requires all hands on deck, and by convening leaders from these different areas of the sustainability field, CDP continues to be the strongest instigator for meeting this challenge – in the U.S. and everywhere else.