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Nature is the not so silent stakeholder. 2024 is shining a spotlight on nature in business, and it’s about time.

It is now widely recognised that every company needs a nature plan. Companies must go beyond mere climate action and embrace nature and biodiversity as crucial stakeholders, not just on paper or in disclosures, but in the boardroom.

In our latest Insight, “Nature in the Boardroom: How protecting nature can protect your business,” our three Heads of Services at Simply Sustainable share their perspectives on the role of businesses in addressing the nature crisis.

Complete the form below to download the full Insight.

 

 

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Nature in the boardroom: How protecting nature can protect your business

Critical building block in the transition to a sustainable economy

A sustainable economy is not possible without sustainable transport and logistics. Globally, transport is responsible for approximately 20% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with road transport being the main contributor1.

Virtually every company makes use of transport, either directly or indirectly, for the transport of materials and products upstream in the value chain, employee travel, and downstream distribution to value chain partners or clients. This means that transport emissions are part of the GHG emissions footprint of fundamentally every company.

Full focus on reducing emissions

We have seen many transport and logistics companies step up their sustainability strategy, recognising that sustainability creates risks and opportunities for their business. Unsurprisingly, given the sector’s global footprint, reducing carbon emissions is the primary sustainability focus for many transport and logistics companies. Transport emissions grew at an annual average rate of nearly 1.7% from 1990 to 2021, faster than any other end-use sector. To get on track with the pace of emissions reductions necessary to achieve net zero by 2050, GHG emissions from the sector must fall by about 3% per year to 2030.2

Building a strategy to deliver on such targets is not easy. There are real and important technology choices, for instance about the respective roles of biofuels, hydrogen and electricity in zero-emissions transport. Biofuels for road transport are increasingly widely available but come with a significant cost premium over fossil diesel. Electrically-powered heavy goods vehicles are commercially available, but their viability for long-distance journeys is still a limiting factor due to their range and lack of charging infrastructure. Production of emerging fuels, like green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels is still small and they are only few fuelling points. Moreover, switching to zero-emission vehicles often requires significant investment, which may pay itself back over time, but raise short-term costs at a time when businesses are already facing cost pressures.

Despite the challenges, transportation and logistics companies can, and should, still strive for significant short-term emissions reductions. Across the UK and EU, examples of commitment and initiative within the transport and logistics industry are many.In 2023, the number of zero-emissions heavy goods vehicles in the Netherlands will exceed 1,000, a tripling compared to 2022.3 To continue this growth, collaboration with cargo owners committed to switching to zero-emission transport will be critical. For example, Lidl has announced that, before 2030, it will only use electric heavy goods vehicles for supply its stores. Following extensive consultation with its transportation partners, this ambition gives all parties the clarity to plan for the switch to zero-emission transport.4

A robust decarbonisation strategy for transport requires an in-depth, systematic review of the business, a critical analysis of potential net-zero carbon pathways and modelling of selected carbon reduction trajectories, demonstrating the transformational action required, impact on carbon footprint and timescales. Only with a fact-based approach, transport companies can make the best short-term decisions across the business, while preparing the uptake of zero-emission solutions that will put them on track for net zero by mid-century at the latest.

Sustainability beyond carbon

We also see that transport and logistics companies are increasingly expanding their sustainability strategies to topics beyond carbon. As in many other sectors, biodiversity and nature are receiving more and more attention. Logistics hubs are prime candidates for creating biodiversity benefits. In October 2023, Mainfreight, a major global logistics services provider, opened a nature-inclusive distribution centre in Utrecht, the Netherlands.5 The facility, developed by Heembouw, is situated in newly created grassland with native flower species and features vertical building elements that support plant life. All rainwater is collected and used on site, limiting runoff with potential pollution to the surrounding nature.

Many organisations in the industry are also considering their role in facilitating circular business models, for instance by enabling return of products and components for reuse, refurbishment or recycling.

The EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is a major reason why companies are looking at sustainability topics beyond carbon. It requires companies to consider their impacts on a wide range of sustainability topics, including biodiversity, but also social topics like human rights, working conditions and relationships with local communities – all very relevant for transport and logistics companies.

A major business opportunity

Sustainability presents a major opportunity for transport and logistics companies, and many have realised this. With their pivotal position in global value chains, they can enable emissions reductions for many other companies across multiple value chains, accelerating the transition to net zero across the business ecosystem. By facilitating the sustainability journey of their clients, they can deepen client relationships and set themselves up for long-term success.

Author: Sytze Dijsktra, Netherlands Country Manager, Simply Sustainable

 

1 Share of global CO₂ emissions by sector 2022

2 IEA. Transport Sectoral Overview. September 2022 

3 ING Research. Assetvisie trucks en trailers. October 2023

4 Transport & Milieu. Lidl rijdt al voor 2030 volledig elektrisch. October 2023

5 Warehouse Totaal. Mainfreight neemt natuurinclusief distributiecentrum in Utrecht in gebruik. October 2023

As we approach the close of 2023, I take a moment to reflect on the strides businesses have made in advancing their sustainability agendas. In my interactions with our esteemed clients, a distinct trend emerges: we are transitioning from a era of mere aspirations to one of purposeful action with unwavering integrity. A sentiment echoed by a CFO last week: sustainability must course through the veins of the company. To me, this translates to ensuring every employee not only thinks but acts sustainably.

It’s not just about engaging and educating employees; it’s about cultivating a culture that empowers and enables team members to ask the right questions and make sustainable choices. This year, I’ve delved deeply into the concept of culture, especially concerning Simply Sustainable’s growth and how we maintain a positive, joyful, and humble ethos. Moreover, I pondered on how businesses can foster cultures that enhance sustainability.

In my contemplations, I revisited “Keywords” by Raymond Williams, a Welsh cultural thinker, who initially defined culture as “the tending of natural growth.” This resonated with me, aligning with my observations that successful businesses integrate sustainability not only through advocacy from the top but also by embedding it into processes and operations, allowing employees to design and drive initiatives. This thrives when there is active nurturing at all levels—encouragement from leadership, training for all team members, resources, and KPIs aligned with both commercial and sustainability targets.

Building a positive, sustainability-centric culture is not an inherent trait; it demands consistent and active cultivation.

In 2023, I found satisfaction in the heightened emphasis on the robustness of sustainability approaches, now a focal point for most businesses. At Simply Sustainable, our approach has always been robust. It’s heartening to witness views endorsed by the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in Europe and The Transition Pathways’ guidance launch in the UK. While some may view these as bureaucratic, they contribute positively to ensuring all companies have detailed sustainability and decarbonisation action plans.

Now, as business leaders, the question we face is: How can we accelerate sustainability actions while maintaining commercial success? Striking this delicate balance is crucial, but if we’re to meet the 1.5°C target, decisions must be deliberate, well-researched, and infused with substantial sustainability and ESG knowledge. In large companies, almost no decision can be made without this consideration, and we must be wary of groupthink.

Author: Nicola Stopps, CEO and Founder, Simply Sustainable

ESG and sustainability strategy

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and sustainability strategies in businesses have changed radically in the last 5 years. With the increase in stakeholder expectations, companies are now finding their strategies are not meeting current requirements and are needing an update.

In the past, sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies were considered an addition, a bolt-on to a business’s commercial strategy. In recent years, there has been a significant acknowledgement by stakeholders, regulators and the financial sector of the direct and indirect financial impact of ESG and sustainability and issues. This has been set out in the recent European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Businesses are now looking to ensure their ESG and sustainability strategies are entirely intertwined with their commercial strategies and to maximise commercial opportunities and minimise financial and stakeholder risk. This often means using the old-fashioned approach of focus areas being people, planet, community – a box-ticking exercise – is now too simplistic. Rather companies are now developing strategies which are more sophisticated, tailored and refined to their specific needs, with a focus on the financial opportunities and alignment to the commercial strategy.

Complete the form below to download the full in-depth Insight from our sustainability consultancy Thought Leadership team.

 

Forest, road and sea from above in bright, vivid greens and blues>

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How robust is your sustainability strategy? Take our 5-minute assessment to find out.

Reporting for a new era

Simply Sustainable has been providing best practice guidance in ESG and sustainability reporting for over 12 years. We predict that 2023 will be the year that robust and credible nonfinancial reporting becomes the expected norm for global business.

In short, this is down to new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and sustainability reporting requirements in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States that are set to fundamentally change the nonfinancial reporting landscape.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is a new set of EU rules that will require ESG reporting on a level never seen before, capturing a whole host of companies that previously were not subject to mandatory nonfinancial reporting requirements, including public and private non-EU companies that meet certain EU-presence thresholds.

For US issuers, the new EU rules will result in mandatory reporting on a broader set of ESG topics than those required under current and proposed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules. It is important that the business community does not ignore the approaching tide of regulation on sustainability reporting that could entail significant financial and reputational damage if overlooked.

Complete the form below to read the full in-depth insight from our sustainability consultancy Thought Leadership team.

Simply Sustainable Reporting Insight paper>

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Simply Sustainable’s ESG and Sustainability Trend Report for 2023

At Simply Sustainable, we understand that sustainable growth is the only way to build a prosperous business that has a lasting positive impact on our environment and society.

The past few years have been pivotal for the ESG and sustainability revolution. It continues to be an area of focus for stakeholders at all levels – investors, regulators, businesses and consumers – despite the current backdrop of a turbulent economy and cost of living crisis.

In 2022, we saw a rise in important conversations and the development of global regulation aimed at improving sustainability, particularly across ESG and sustainability reporting and greenwashing.

The key sustainability trends for 2023, across various sectors, will remain focused on the credibility of claims and robust disclosure and reporting.

In addition, there will be greater attention on carbon reduction, a strategic focus on understanding what the transition to a low carbon economy means for business and its stakeholders, as well as moving away from using carbon offsets as a credible means to decarbonise.

Regulators have been exercising greater scrutiny of corporate sustainability efforts, fuelled by concerns that companies and asset managers may be using disclosures and sustainability-related labels on products and services as a marketing tool to appear more proactive on ESG issues than they truly are.

Complete the form below to read the full in-depth report from our Thought Leadership team:

Simply Sustainable’s ESG and Sustainability Trend Report for 2023>

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Simply Sustainable: Hallmarks of a Robust Sustainability Strategy

Since 2010, Simply Sustainable has developed corporate sustainability strategies for some of the biggest brands in the world.

Over the years, we have learned a thing or two about what makes a robust sustainability strategy, and we have created this guide to share our learning with you.

Whether you’re starting with a blank page, refreshing your existing approach, or are just keen to see how your organisation measures up, here you will find what we have come to understand to be the hallmarks of a truly robust sustainability strategy.

To read our in-depth analysis, please complete the form below:

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The Problem with Plastic

Our oceans cover most of the Earth’s surface and are vital to sustaining life. In the last decade, human activities on land and at sea have placed enormous pressure on our water systems, damaging delicate ecosystems and reducing the availability of resources that many communities rely on. Recent studies have shown that more than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by plastic through ingestion, entanglement and other means.[1] Alarmingly, new evidence has emerged about microplastics detected in human blood[2] strengthening the need for urgent action to amplify efforts and build momentum for a common solution.

As more consumers demand effective responses, businesses face increased reputational risk from the challenges of plastic. So, how can companies respond to increasing pressure from a wide number of stakeholders to manage regulatory, reputational and operational risk?

 

Current Regulatory Landscape

Disturbingly, like carbon emissions, plastic pollution is global. This makes it challenging for countries to address and implement effective policies that cover the full plastic value chain, gain sufficient support and use standard reporting methodologies that drive large-scale change. These factors heighten operational complexity, non-compliance and reputational risks.

Plastic pollution, therefore, requires a global response involving the support of governments, businesses, and individuals. Instruments in the current international landscape are limited to the broader context of marine pollution and fall short of provisions related to plastic. Making it essential for a dedicated global framework that builds upon existing national, regional and international instruments whilst addressing the significant gaps that result in marine degradation.

 

Future Regulatory Landscape: UN Resolution to End Plastic Pollution

In January 2022, over 70 large business, including giants Nestle and Coca Cola, called for a legally binding UN treaty that supports the circular economy.[3] Their call for action was influenced by the need to harmonise regulatory mechanisms and to address the mounting pressure from stakeholders.

The historic passing of UN Environment Assembly resolution in March means such a crucial framework will be negotiated by the end of 2024.[4] The plastic treaty has the potential to be the most important multilateral agreement and to maximise the impact, all nations must confirm, adopt and ratify the treaty.

So, how will this treaty propel the business landscape? By addressing the full lifecycle of plastics from production, design and waste management, the treaty will set national action plans to meet voluntary targets.

  1. Recognise that plastic pollution includes microplastics
  2. Reaffirm the 2030 agenda for sustainable development
  3. Reaffirm the principles of the Rio Declaration on environment and development
  4. Strengthen coordination between stakeholders
  5. Promote the sustainable design of products and materials
  6. Reaffirm the importance and role of businesses.

 

How will businesses benefit from a plastic treaty?

Upon ratification by nation-states and ambitious plans implemented, your business may be subject to:

  1. New reporting requirements
  2. New monitoring standards and metrics
  3. Setting plastic reduction targets
  4. Conducting lifecycle assessments

The requirements may reduce some of the regulatory, reputational, and operational risks. Businesses can plan their investments effectively, manage their compliance and avoid damage to business reputation. Furthermore, the framework will simplify the reporting and monitoring process, leading to greater transparency and bolstering coordination across the plastic value chain along with improving the prospects for meeting ambitious corporate commitments.

At Simply Sustainable, we believe that businesses should embrace sustainability and are here to help your business understand how your brand, products and services have an impact on the environment across their entire life cycle.

 

[1] United Nations Sustainable Development. UN report finds marine debris is harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions.

2 Leslie, H., van Velzen, M., Brandsma, S., Vethaak, A., Garcia-Vallejo, J. and Lamoree, M., 2022. Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood. Environment International, 163, p.107199.

3 Edie. 2022. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo among big businesses urging UN to create new treaty on plastic pollution

4 UN Environment. Historic day in the campaign to beat plastic pollution: Nations commit to develop a legally binding agreement.

The imperative for action on carbon is growing – the political and economic climate reflects this

The term ‘net-zero’ has saturated the business landscape prior to and post COP26; however, many businesses we encounter don’t fully understand what it means to be net-zero and the steps they need to take to decarbonise. Some organisations are deterred from attempting to explore the steps required because it is considered expensive and unattainable. Others perceive the net zero sustainability solution to be easily solved via carbon offsets, through means such as decarbonisation agriculture.

This document consolidates our knowledge in this area to make it simple for businesses to understand how they can achieve net-zero and how we can help navigate some tricky areas.

5 steps to Decarbonisation>

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Simply Sustainable 5 steps to decarbonisation

The imperative for action on carbon is growing – the political and economic climate reflects this

The term ‘net-zero’ has saturated the business landscape since COP26; however, many businesses we encounter don’t fully understand what it means to be net-zero and the steps they need to take to decarbonise. Some organisations are deterred from attempting to explore the steps required because it is considered expensive and unattainable. Others perceive the issue to be easily solved via carbon offsets.

This document consolidates our knowledge in this area in order to make it simple for businesses to understand how they can achieve net-zero and how we can help navigate some tricky areas.

To download our updated in-depth analysis, please complete the form below:

5 steps to Decarbonisation>

Download report

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