The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just upped the ante on climate action.
Their report, published in October, made it clear that we have just 12 years to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, and should set a tighter warming limit at 1.5 rather than 2 degrees, on pre-industrial levels.
Consequently, as leaders get set to flesh out their plan of action to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals to hold warming below these levels, the global plan laid out will need to be air tight.
At a corporate level, where businesses are feeling the growing expectations from their stakeholders to act and demonstrate transparency on climate change, a strong plan is the baseline of action.
To realise your sustainability objectives, whatever the level of ambition, a robust strategy is key. In the 1.5-degree context, it is imperative.
The following is your checklist for a successful climate strategy.
Define ownership and responsibilities
Clearly defined ownership is a must. There is now a growing expectation of board-level governance on climate-related matters, most notably since the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) made governance a focal point.
Climate change is no longer a siloed responsibility of the CSR officers and sustainability departments. It is therefore important that the responsible person or committee has top down support with the capability to oversee operations across the business.
Benchmark against your peers
Your peers may be organisations of similar size, they may operate in similar markets or even share values or operating principles. Ultimately, they should be organisations you wish to be compared against and viewed alongside.
It is important to understand what they are doing to gauge the expectations on your organisation. In addition to this, assessing your performance compared to industry standards and others in your sector will reveal opportunities for climate leadership.
Integrate with the wider business strategy
A climate strategy will struggle to succeed if it is at odds with your wider business strategy.
A key element of integrating climate with your wider business strategy is to make sure that you have fully considered the risks and opportunities of climate change. This should include the physical risks (e.g. increased flooding, rising temperatures, etc) as well as transition risks (e.g. changing legislation, market developments etc).
On top of this, you should be thinking about what opportunities these changes could present in terms of competitiveness and innovation.
The goal is longevity for the planet but also your business. Strategic success comes when you realise how these need not be mutually exclusive.
Engage your stakeholders
If you want to see success you will need to ensure the needs and wants of all stakeholders are included.
This is best done, firstly, with a comprehensive carbon footprint, preferably across your entire value chain. This way you can identify key areas of focus and all your relevant stakeholders.
Workshops are a great way of building consensus, gaining buy in and forming a clear agenda and task list to work from. But be wary, if done badly, they can become unfocused talking shops that will turn people off to what you are trying to achieve.
We always advise starting with the end in mind and having a clear view on what you want to achieve to make this process as beneficial and fruitful as possible.
Think ahead on targeting and reporting
Whilst looking forward to your end goal and what you want to achieve, consider carefully the targets you will need to get there.
The IPCC report clearly brings forward the point in time when a low carbon or carbon neutral world needs to be a reality. Consider how your business will support that end goal.
To track progress towards your goals, consider what data this means you will need. And don’t forget ongoing stakeholder reporting.
With a clear strategy and effective and efficient data collection processes, the difficulty of these activities can be reduced allowing the sustainability team to focus on performance improvements needed to reach your goals.
Establish a clear review process
Conditions, both external and internal, change over time so your strategy must include processes for reviewing assumptions and adjusting direction. Being fluid and seeking out ways to improve will ensure your strategy will be successful and, ultimately, stand up to the challenges faced by an uncertain climate future and a changing market.
Stuart Lemmon is the Managing Director of EcoAct UK. The EcoAct Group partners with businesses, organisations and governments to offer the widest range of best-in-class solutions to help our clients effectively tackle the challenges of climate change. With more than 12 years’ experience developing and implementing climate and carbon strategies and solutions at an international level, the EcoAct Group helps executives to transform their business models and make climate action a driver of performance.