Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Science of Engaging Sustainability in Business

Science can be the most important tool an organization has to create value, increase efficiency, reduce risk, drive innovation that strengthen a brand. Whether to establish goals or assess the progress towards these goal science must be allowed to dictate strategy.

We are running short on time to address climate change and an all hands on deck approach is required if we are to have a chance of staving off the worst impacts. Our climate is changing and we must act quickly and act together. The business community is an integral part of the solution. Without private enterprise we simply will not succeed.

To keep the planet within the 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) upper threshold limit we cannot exceed the maximum carbon budget of 555 billion tons of carbon globally. To do this we will need to bring down the world's carbon intensity by 6 percent annually until 2100.

Many big corporations know the math and they have set carbon goals that reflect the above math. Setting goals is the first and most important step. However to set such goals it is critical that there be a review and ranking of where emissions are being generated and what can be done to reduce them.

Turn to employees, customers, suppliers, NGOs and other stakeholders to ascertain goals. Ideas must be harvested and these ideas must be costed, sorted and ranked. Some initiatives have no associated costs while other will increase operating expense and still other will represent significant capital expenditures.

Initiatives range for LED lighting retrofits to major energy overhauls and far reaching changes to the supply chain. Every step of the way it is important that proposed changes incorporate the most up to date science.

When it comes to carbon reduction the IPCC has clearly stated that we need to see an 80 percent reduction by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. However it is quite possible that these carbon reduction figures and other will be revised and made even more stringent.

While carbon reductions are a global concern, water restrictions vary from place to place. The metrics and goals must be adapted to local conditions and apply to the entire watershed in the area of business.

Reporting standards and guidelines can also be of great utility and they are expected to be more reflective of local conditions.

Throughout the process be open to innovation. It is also important to remember that goals extend beyond an individual company's operations to the entire value chain.

Throughout the process of engaging sustainability science is key.

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