Simply Sustainable’s Amsterdam office kicked off 2023 with our first sustainability leaders’ roundtable meeting. The lively discussion addressed the sustainability issues that will affect businesses in Europe in 2023. We saw extensive exchange of views and experiences between peers, looking forward to a year of empowerment and change.
Sustainability Manager is a 360-degree role
The enormous momentum behind sustainability is only expected to build further in 2023. There is an increasing demand on sustainability managers to provide practical solutions. Participants told us that many colleagues – especially those from the younger generation – come to the sustainability manager proactively with ideas (big or small) and then wish to be part of the transition, as well as board members fighting to have a piece of sustainability in their remit.
This is great news. However, in many organisations, the interest and urgency of sustainability surpasses maturity and capacity.
This imbalance is most acutely felt by sustainability managers. Theirs is becoming a 360-degree role, in which they are expected to communicate and manage to colleagues upwards, sideways and downwards, and manage stakeholders all around the business. They must work strategically as well as operationally to realise their agenda. All while the scope of their work is broadening, beyond the traditional focus on environmental issues to include social and governance topics.
Why the CSRD is sexy
The EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) has made it much easier for sustainability managers to engage people in the organisation on sustainability. Timelines for compliance are short, and the bar is high, so many in the company recognise that preparation must start today.
Participants see that colleagues are looking to them, as the sustainability manager, to translate the complexity of the CSRD into a clear, step-by-step plan for the business.
We talked about the challenges of involving and empowering internal stakeholders in the short time span for CSRD compliance. Companies run the risk of going down a narrow route to compliance, missing the value that CSRD preparation can have for future-proofing the sustainability strategy. If full focus is on gathering the data for reporting, opportunities to engage in dialogue about the strategic implications of sustainability topics and how they are best addressed may fall by the wayside.
Sustainability data is management information
Preparation for CSRD accelerates the need for comprehensive and robust measurement. While new regulatory guidelines clarify what should be measured – previously companies had to find this out for themselves – it does not make data collection and validation any easier.
Many companies have been looking for the best system for capturing and managing sustainability data. Should they choose a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) tool – of which there are increasingly many available? Can the financial reporting system be extended to include sustainability data? Or are there tried and tested Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) systems that are expanding into this space? There are many solutions out there, but companies find it very hard to judge which are robust and trustworthy.
As a widely experienced sustainability consultancy, it is our view that sustainability data should be management information and not only be used for reporting. This points to an integrated solution, that brings together financial and non-financial data for informed and balanced decision making. There is a huge need, and we are actively watching this fast-moving space to best advise our clients.
Author: Sytze Dijkstra, Netherlands Country Manager, Simply Sustainable
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The Importance of Solidarity and Collaboration in the Face of Adversity
The World Economic Forum (WEF) hosted its 53rd Annual Meeting last week from the 16-20 January 2023 in Davos, Switzerland. Cultural, business, political and other leaders of society convened at the conference to discuss actions needed to resolve current global crises, from the cost-of-living crisis to climate change, but also how to prevent the reoccurrence of these issues.
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023
Founded in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, the WEF is committed to promoting sustainable development worldwide1. Given the many environmental, social and economic emergencies the world currently faces, this year’s meeting sought to reaffirm the importance of public-private cooperation to address these problems, as well as facilitate positive, long-term systemic change. Consequently, at the heart of the meeting, there was a desire to find ways to reinstitute a collective sense of agency and to turn defensive measures into proactive, vision-driven policies and business strategies. Key heads of state and government, as well as different geopolitical and geoeconomic groups (e.g. the Country Strategy Dialogues), contributed to discussions over the course of the four-day meeting; the WEF’s foremost business communities, such as the International Business Council and the Community of Chairpersons, also gathered to engage in discussion with their peers2.
The backdrop to the 53rd Annual Meeting: the WEF Global Risks Report 2023
The WEF Global Risks Report 2023 was published in January 2023 and highlights the different areas where the world is at a critical inflection point. In its 18th edition, the results of a Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) are presented, which collected responses from over 1,200 experts across academia, business, civil society, government and the international community on the evolving global risks landscape in the short-term (two years) and long-term (10 years). Complementing GRPS data on global risks, the report also draws on the WEF’s Executive Opinion Survey (EOS) to identify risks that pose the most severe threat to each country over the next two years, as revealed by over 12,000 business leaders in 121 economies3.
The report revealed that energy, food, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis are considered to be the most significant global risks. The cost-of-living crisis has been ranked as the most severe global risk over the next two years, followed by natural disasters and trade and technology wars. However, failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change were ranked as the two most pressing risks over the next 10 years, with biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse regarded as one of the most rapidly escalating global risks in the long-term. Geoeconomic confrontation, cyber insecurity, widespread cybercrime, large-scale involuntary migration and the erosion of social cohesion and societal polarisation are global risks that all feature in the top 10 over the next decade3.
A call for urgent and collective action
Despite the range of risks that are occurring simultaneously worldwide, a shift away from a focus on short-term results (i.e. “short-termism”), crises-driven mindsets and solo approaches is a strong step to effectively manage and limit their consequences. The WEF has identified four key principles that are crucial to prevent a worsening of the risks outlook3,4:
- Although risks may have short- and long-term impacts, leaders must revaluate their perception of risk and act in the shortest timeframe possible (i.e. today) to address them. In today’s risk landscape, this means leaders must collaborate now to address climate and socioeconomic issues.
- There is a need for business and governments to invest in multi-domain, cross-sector risk preparedness by building societal resilience through financial inclusion, health, care, education, and climate-resilient infrastructure.
- The abundance of crises affecting humanity and the environment has caused nations to operate in a more insular manner. Despite the importance of national preparedness, there is a fundamental need for international coordination, data sharing and knowledge exchange to deal with several global risks, such as technology governance and climate change.
- Accurate predictions of risk in terms of timescale and impact must be bolstered at a global, national and institutional level. To strengthen the ability of leaders to better understand global risks, scenario analyses, scanning multistakeholder perceptions, appointing a risks officer function, and finding data on weak signals are all valuable ways to aid leaders in this process.
What does this mean for our future?
The world is facing several sustainability challenges that present an immediate threat to humanity and nature3. Given the scale, complexity and urgency with which they need to be addressed, pessimism and a feeling of futility abounds. Nevertheless, it was clear from the WEF’s 53rd Annual Meeting that international cooperation, holistic approaches and solidarity are key to tackling and preventing sustainability crises.
Bold leadership and cohesion across country borders is needed to improve the state of the world. If we all work together now, there is good reason to feel hopeful and optimistic about the future.
Author: James Beiny, Consultant at Simply Sustainable
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.
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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.
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Beyond reporting: How companies can use the CSRD as an accelerator of their sustainability agenda
The future of corporate sustainability reporting is taking shape. At the end of November 2022, the European Union Council gave its final approval to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)1 and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group delivered the first set of draft European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) to the European Commission.2 With these measures, the EU aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy.
Under the new CSRD regulation, companies will soon be required to publish detailed information on sustainability matters. This will increase a company’s accountability for its impacts on the environment and society, and provide financial institutions with comparable, verified information on sustainability performance that should facilitate allocation of finance to sustainable activities.
The measures should also equip companies for implementing their own sustainability agenda. They can only make progress if they know where they stand – relative to their ambitions as well as their peers – and where they can improve.
What does CSRD compliance entail?
CSRD extends the scope and detail of the current Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). It will apply to all large EU and non-EU companies (listed and non-listed) operating within the EU market.3 Companies subject to CSRD will need to:
- Disclose principal actual or potential impacts related to the company’s own operations and the implementation and outcome of the due diligence process of the company’s value chain
- Describe the role of management boards and supervisory boards regarding sustainability matters
- Disclose set time-bound targets on sustainability matters and report on the progress of achieving such targets (KPIs)
- Assess and report both impacts of the company’s activities on sustainability matters and on sustainability matters affecting the company (the double-materiality principle)
- Obtain limited assurance opinion by a statutory auditor of reported sustainability information.
However, CSRD is about much more than just reporting
Preparing for CSRD compliance will force companies to revisit their strategic focus and bring a greater systematic approach to corporate sustainability, using common standards and frameworks. The required double-materiality assessment, for instance, can identify important topics that have previously been overlooked in corporate strategy and risk management. Target setting, as prescribed by the regulation, often kicks-off a process of redesigning performance management, defining new KPIs and setting up new systems and processes for measuring and monitoring progress.
CSRD compliance is a multi-year journey
Companies need to start planning their journey to becoming fully compliant by the time the Directive is mandatory to them, ranging from between 2024 to 2026. That may appear like a lot of time, however getting all the required elements in place will be a significant exercise for many companies.
Fortunately, many elements of the CSRD build on existing standards, including the GRI framework and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, and there is an increasing body of experience of how to apply these robustly.
Even with existing guidance, much of the detail is still to be defined. Experience suggests that general, cross-industry standards need industry-specific guidance to account for sectoral differences.
Assessing the impacts of business activity will be very different in sectors where assets are mostly intangible, in comparison to in an industry that has substantial tangible assets. Appropriate governance structures in highly competitive industries may not be suitable for regulated industries. There is also a steep learning curve in creating standards for linking sustainability performance metrics to accounting metrics like CAPEX, OPEX and turnover, as prescribed by the EU Taxonomy.
Figuring all of this out will take time and close collaboration between companies and regulators, value-chain partners and industry bodies. It will get easier as practice builds, with companies benefiting from the learning experience of early adopters.
An historic opportunity
CSRD will be challenging to implement at pace within corporations and across value chains. It is also an historic opportunity to lean-in and tool-up for a more sustainable future.
Importantly, companies should look beyond regulatory compliance when preparing for CSRD. Next to gathering information for providing accountability externally, companies must create decision-ready data that guides a shift in corporate practices, and in turn delivers real-world impact.
What does this mean in practice?
- The assessment of material sustainability issues, risks and opportunities is fully integrated into business strategy and risk management processes, and is not a paper exercise for reporting purposes only
- Targets come with execution plans that lay out the journey of meeting them, in realistic, practical steps
- Communication internally to employees is as important as communication to external stakeholders. Employees are the primary agents that will deliver sustainable business in practice, and many are eager to do so.
Approached with this mindset, preparation for CSRD can be an accelerator for delivering corporate sustainability goals, rather than a time-consuming distraction. Done correctly, it will help large companies secure the long-term resilience of their business and of the environment that it depends on.
How Simply Sustainable can help
Our growing team of expert sustainability and ESG consultants are here to enable your company to adapt at pace to the changing landscape of sustainability legislation and transformational plans towards our shared goal of net-zero.
Book a call back to discuss your strategy here
3. A company is considered ‘large’ and subject to the CSRD if it meets two out of three criteria: (1) revenue over EUR 40 million; (2) total assets over EUR 20 million; (3) more than 250 employees.
Business as usual cannot be sustained
Momentum towards sustainability has reached a tipping point. From a business context, it is now permanently on the majority of company agendas.
The path ahead will be far from ‘business as usual’.
Planning and delivering the required transformation and incorporating measures that will make a business more resilient, competitive and relevant, in a marketplace with increasingly demanding sustainable solutions. Companies that thrive will have fully embraced the need for transformative change, as a means to become ‘future-fit’.
In the document we detail why the need for transformation is now, at pace and at scale and how we at Simply Sustainable work with businesses to enable this change in all aspects of business; bringing together decades of transformational and sustainability expertise.
Business has a crucial part to play not just as economic engines, but in minimising negative environmental impact, maximising social benefits and in enabling a more sustainable world.
In what the World Economic Forum labels the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, technological innovations are becoming faster, more efficient and more widely accessible. Technology has the dual role in transforming organisations within its ecosystem and as a digital enabler of sustainable solutions. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance is becoming a basic expectation of stakeholders as discussions around technology and ESG evolve to become more strategic, specific and regular.
Global companies like Google, Microsoft and Salesforce are leading the way in setting bold transformation goals that set them on track for net zero. But there is still a gap between commitments and real action. Analysis by 451 Research reveal that only 29% of the global technology companies have a formal ESG strategy.1 With focus on sustaining competitive advantage, how can technology companies respond to sustainability and measure positive impacts?
- Embedding circularity
The main issues that the sector continues to grapple with is reducing waste and the limitations of digital accessibility. Companies are expected to be accountable for the impact of the entire supply chain and to avoid contributing to ethical, environmental and human right violations. E-waste is quickly becoming one of the world’s fastest growing and most toxic waste streams, making it top of the circularity agenda. The UK is committed to ‘closing the loop’ and are taking a stringent approach to end complacency on e-waste. At the end of this year, the UK government will consult on reforms to the regulations around managing e-waste which will likely impose mandatory waste tracking.
In a circular economy, the intention is to produce a model of production and consumption with no waste or pollution. Rather, outputs are cared for, repaired, reused and recycled as much as possible. In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a technology company that adopts circularity will benefit from improved efficiency, material cost savings, greater security of supply, better job creation, improved customer engagement and loyalty, more innovation and improved brand reputation.2 Either through improving environmental impact or encouraging habits of circularity, consumer-facing technology companies are in a powerful position to steer consumers towards more sustainable habits i.e. re-using and repairing products where possible.
Partnerships are vital and there are plenty of examples between technology firms and organisations finding ways to embed an inclusive circular economy. Environmental charity Hubbub and Virgin Media 02 launched a £400,000 digital lending scheme to support programmes that deliver on social and environmental benefits. 3 By pioneering a tablet lending scheme, the fund will assist community organisations to support people facing digital isolation to access the internet, and to reduce e-waste by recycling digital devices.
- Identify a specific ESG approach
Another step would be to measure own ESG performance to build a culture of sustainability in and around the sector. Sustainability has never been more important to technology leaders, as 74% of CEOs agreed that increasing ESG efforts attract investors.4 Companies that want to excel in their ESG strategy must use compelling evidence to develop a unifying framework that identifies strategic priorities, commitments and key performance indicators (KPIs). This means that technology companies must first set expectations and commit to transparency. The Simply Sustainable method begins with developing ESG goals to establish mechanisms that measure and track relevant ESG metrics.
Alongside addressing their own priorities, companies should also drive change throughout their wider operating ecosystem. Technology companies should focus on working with suppliers and partners that align to their emission and reduction commitments – this will be a core feature to value propositions of the end-to-end lifecycle.
- Find areas of material impact
To make progress on ESG performance, technology companies need to think about areas where change can make the most impact. Understanding the sustainability issues that are most relevant to the company and key stakeholders demonstrates that focus is on the most important sustainability issues. This will lead to focused efforts that deliver the greatest impact.
Materiality assessments are pivotal to a serious approach to sustainability and corporate responsibility. By continually evaluating, refining and talking to internal and external stakeholders, areas that are the most critical to the business will be prioritised. This demonstrates that a company is aware of the social and environmental issues that present sources of risk and opportunity.
- Evaluate and communicate efforts
Communicating the journey to sustainability in the form of ESG reporting is both important to address growing stakeholder scrutiny, but also acts a measure to improve year on year performance. Companies that fail to provide qualitative context and content to stakeholders miss out on engaging all stakeholders. This is an opportunity for a company to position themselves as the solution that aligns with stakeholder concerns – by giving the ‘why’ behind operational changes and using ESG data to inform your sustainability strategy. By demonstrating to stakeholders their corporate approach to sustainability is beyond a ‘tick-boxing’ activity’, companies can expect to maximise their return on investment into ESG reports.
- Adapt to changing workforce expectations
Today’s generation want company values that align with their personal values, with companies that innovate to address global issues being more attractive to skilled workers. To attract and retain top talent, technology companies of all sizes must be perceived as embracing sustainability with evidence to back up claims. For example, investing in learning and development for STEM subjects, diversity and inclusion, allowing flexible work or donating portion of profits to an environmental cause are ways that will more likely attract and retain skilled employees.
It is about the intention behind the initiative, not the scale of it. Companies are expected to have ESG embedded into the corporate strategy, and this does not exclude the technology industry. Finding ways to bring ESG closer to daily operations while allowing everyone to contribute will maximise a company’s total impact.
How Simply Sustainable can develop your ESG strategy.
Underpinned by decades of specialised experience in sustainability and ESG, we provide deep expertise to all our clients worldwide to enable transformation at speed and scale.
At any stage of the sustainability journey our robust and holistic approach identifies the key levers to match ambitious goals with clear targets and actionable roadmaps.
1 ESG and Technology. S&P Global.
2 The Circular economy in detail. Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
3 Tech Lending Community Fund. Virgin Media O2
4 Survey in CEO thinking on Sustainability. Gartner.
Companies worldwide are experiencing mounting pressure from investors, regulators, the public and other stakeholders to take environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters seriously. In fact, the number of ESG reporting standards and regulations at a global level has almost doubled in the last 5 years.1 As there are more than 600 ESG reporting provisions currently available worldwide, with many having different interpretations of sustainability, the task of disclosing quality ESG information presents a major challenge for companies.1
The lack of a single, standardised framework for ESG reporting, coupled with low compliance to existing regulation, has unfortunately fuelled the disclosure of misleading and/or inaccurate information.2,3 Numerous international corporations, like Volkswagen and BP, have been exposed for greenwashing4 and a global review conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (SMA) revealed that 40% of green claims made online by firms could be misleading consumers.5
While greenwashing appears to be rife and particularly problematic, companies are also starting to be exposed for misleading the public about how they treat their people. On International Women’s Day 2022, a day to celebrate the social, cultural, political and economic achievements of women, hundreds of British organisations posted to social media to show their support for the cause.6 However, on Twitter a bot was on the loose, which retweeted their posts but also shared the difference in median hourly pay between men and women at each firm.7 The Gender Pay Gap bot, which had the strapline ‘Deeds not words. Stop posting platitudes. Start fixing the problem’, highlighted the apparent hypocrisy between company posts and gender pay performance.7 In many instances, the gender pay disparity flagged by the bot was shocking, such as 68.6% difference at Ryanair.7 Companies in the public sector were not out of the firing line; Cancer Research UK, for instance, was revealed to have a 30.9% median gender pay gap in 2021.8
Consequently, and unsurprisingly, scepticism is high among investors with regards to ESG claims that companies make. Indeed, research conducted by Edelman in 2021 found that 86% of global investors believe companies exaggerate their ESG performance when disclosing results, and 72% do not think they will live up to their ESG commitments.9 Another recent survey of more than 4,600 individual investors across the UK, US, France and Germany obtained similar findings: 90% of respondents stated that they struggle to trust ESG claims made by businesses at face value.10
How can we rebuild trust and confidence among investors concerning ESG disclosures?
In response to growing calls from international investors for high quality, reliable, transparent and comparable reporting by companies worldwide on ESG issues, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation announced the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) at COP26 in November 2021.11 The ISSB has been tasked with developing a comprehensive global baseline of sustainability-related disclosures standards, providing investors and other capital market participants with the information they need to make informed decisions.11 While a host of reporting standards already exist, there is optimism that the ISSB standards will be widely accepted and adopted – the IFRS sets financial accounting rules that companies in more than 140 countries adhere to, and because the standards build on existing ESG frameworks developed by other sustainability reporting initiatives, such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).1,12 By creating a comprehensive and detailed corporate reporting standards framework, companies will be able to measure and report their ESG performance in a consistent manner.11 Ultimately, it will restore trust and confidence among investors and other key stakeholders in the ESG disclosures that companies make.
It is becoming more pertinent that companies need to transparently disclose their ESG performance to reduce the risk of reputational damage. Adherence to globally accepted standards, such as the GRI and SASB, can help companies to understand and effectively report their ESG performance; the imminent release of ISSB standards is anticipated to significantly ESG reporting worldwide.
At Simply Sustainable, we support an array of international organisations with their sustainability reporting, employing best-practice global standards (e.g., GRI) to ensure their disclosures meet the needs of key stakeholders. If you are looking for support with your sustainability reporting, please contact us using the details below.
3 Carbon Market Watch. EU works to beef up regulations on green claims.
5 UK Government. Global sweep finds 40% of firms’ green claims could be misleading.
7 Personnel Today. International Women’s Day.
8 Civil Society News. Cancer Research UK ‘disappointed’ by widening gender pay gap.
10 Edie. Survey.
11 IFRS. ISSB
12 The Globe and Mail. Is a reporting standard finally on the horizon
Here is what we know. More than half of global economic output, a total of US$44 trillion of value generation, is moderately or highly dependent on nature.2 Every dollar invested in nature restoration creates up to US$30 in economic benefits.3 And alarmingly, £300 billion of UK pension money is invested in companies and financial institutions that are exposed to high deforestation risk.4 Clearly, Earth’s ecosystems have massive value. But these systems are in jeopardy due to an unprecedented onslaught of human-induced biodiversity loss.
‘The sectors that are most immediately likely to be affected by the depletion of natural capital are those that exploit it most directly.’ – Mike Scott
Nature’s warning calls are at extreme levels. Global numbers of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have dropped by an average of 68% since 1970.1 Biodiversity loss and collapse of ecosystems from human-made damage has been widely recognised as an existential global threat. Despite the efforts of international economic and financial organisations to draft elements of nature into their growth models, there is still an absence of nature as an essential entity in our economic lives.
What is TFND and why should businesses engage and disclose with prior to release?
It is undeniable that a nature-positive approach to doing business is urgently required. Following the steps of the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) acts on behalf of nature. The Taskforce’s approach strikes a balance between science and market participants for clear, transparent, and comparable information. Decision-making can place nature-related risks front and centre, capital reallocation can be catalysed to protect and restore nature. By fostering knowledge, sharing and collaborating on nature-related risks and opportunities, the TNFD creates and delivers a risk management and disclosure framework for organisations of all sizes. The plan is to guide financial institutions and companies to act on evolving nature-related risks, as well as to identify opportunities that ultimately shift global financial flows to nature-positive outcomes. On the release of their second prototype framework, the TNFD outlined overall guidance and illustrative metrics to be consulted by global stakeholders with the inaugural framework being released towards the end of 2023.
Core concepts include:
- Metrics and targets that include a cross-sector approach
- Additional guidance materials to assist market participants
- Nature-related risk and opportunity assessment for financial institutions
Importantly, it is possible for companies of all sizes to engage in nature and biodiversity to promote innovative solutions to a global problem. To ensure success, it is vital to focus on internal drivers and recognise an organisation’s impact from the outset. Nature can be included across all aspects of ESG with the social aspects reflected in business through the conscious creation of urban biodiversity as well as nature-related employee perks.
So, what is on the horizon for businesses, financiers and nature-related risks and opportunities?
As the business community is navigating its expanding role as a key driver of sustainable growth, there is a broad range of market-led, science-based measures to take. By acknowledging that people are part of nature, businesses can engage from a range of aspects across the full spectrum of environmental, social and governance (ESG).
Since the time for action is now, there is an increasing number of leading companies recognising that a prosperous business relies heavily upon nature. However, businesses will be at different stages in their journey to nature net gain – an approach outlined by TNFD to managing an businesses impact that leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand.5 Larger companies will already be reporting nature-related metrics and targets against current ESG frameworks that include GRESB, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and non-GHG pollution. For smaller companies, there are many waves to move nature to be the centre of their brand. By engaging with restoration projects on a corporate level and introducing sustainability into procurement strategies leading to reduced impact on natural resources and greater engagement by working with suppliers that meet circular economy targets.
As has been done with climate in the past, these efforts can be built upon by embedding nature into governance through introducing nature into risk management. Recognising the high material financial risk that nature loss poses, it is important to integrate this exposure into decision-making to locate risks and opportunities. Transition opportunities will be high on the agenda, especially relating to evolving markets and policy. A robust understanding of the physical and financial risks and opportunities can guarantee subsequent control measures will be implemented in a timely manner. In light of the Green Claims Code, there is great potential to be transparent about diversifying portfolios into the growing market of green finance and taxation.
At Simply Sustainable, we understand that putting things right will take collaborative action to enable the natural world to flourish abundantly. Our work includes supporting international businesses from across the economy to align their reporting to current disclosure and frameworks related to nature through GRI, GRESB, and communication reviews. We welcome the market-led science-based TNFD framework to promote year-on-year improvements on a company’s journey to full disclosure.
1 World Wildlife Fund. Living Planet Report.
2 UN Environment Programme. Cutting Edge Biodiversity Module.
3 UN Environment Programme. Ecosystem Restoration for People, Nature and Climate 2021 Report.
4 Global Canopy Organisation. UK pensions.
5 UK GOV. Biodiversity Net Gain.
A well-defined and robust environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy can help a private equity firms’ de-risk and drive value throughout the fund lifecycle.
Drawing on our decade long heritage of working with private equity funds and their portfolio companies, we have outlined some of crucial factors for successful ESG integration.
As a first step, we would suggest that private equity firms should assess their current environmental, social, and governance capabilities to develop an actionable and flexible plan for driving sustainable growth.
Data, Data, Data
Most PE funds will have to provide stringent monitoring of their fund’s performance, so it is a good place to start. Knowing where you are on non-financial data sets can provide a good ground for providing insight into your current ESG position and the areas that need to improve.
Using an ESG framework as an additional perspective for identifying risks and value creation opportunities is undoubtedly becoming mainstream in private equity around the world. Ensuring these processes are auditable and being used in the right way is essential to avoid green washing.
It is crucial that investment teams have access to ESG and sustainability expertise with experience and knowledge about financial markets in general and private equity specifically. It is imperative that the right expertise is used to develop a robust strategic ESG approach. We have witnessed a rise in financial services receiving huge fines for greenwashing because they haven’t had the right teams supporting them in driving the agenda forward.
ESG Transformation in PE firms are usually complex and involve investment, which may impact short-term profits. It’s important that shareholders and management are aligned for the duration of the transformation.
The World Economic Forum identifies the challenges that might occur – although rarely do transformations run to plan as they are often impacted by the market and competitive dynamics. Quality management will counter these forces by adjusting their plans and efforts, thereby achieving longer-term goals albeit with shorter-term volatility.
Private equity shareholders, being fewer and closer to management, can understand better such volatility and support mid-course corrections.
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