Buying in or copping out?

In the run-up to COP26, Tom Brown takes a look at what businesses will need to do to build belief in their climate action plans

COP26 kicks off in Glasgow in November, bringing together representatives from all UN member states to tackle one of the world’s greatest challenges – the climate crisis.

The conference marks five years since the inception of the Paris Agreement, where all countries committed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

This landmark event was hailed as a huge success by its delegates – “a turning point for the world” as the then US President Barack Obama put it. Other outside commentators were slightly more measured – and in hindsight – with good reason. Today, we’re not on track to meet these targets. In fact, we’re not even close.

As a result, over the last few years, many businesses have come in for a fair bit of stick. Most people believe that businesses have a key role to play in tackling the climate issue, but – rightly or wrongly – this number is in stark contrast with those who believe businesses are currently doing enough. It’s led to a growing credibility gap between what organisations are perceived to be doing around climate action, and what they’re actually doing – and it’s not a good look.

Back-up needed

Unfortunately, not enough large businesses have backed up their story around climate change. Many have relied on heady, high-level messaging or far-flung overarching targets, far beyond the tenure of any management team, instead of highlighting short-term, measurable milestones that show progress – or more importantly, demonstrate a real commitment.

COP26 presents a huge opportunity. Tackling climate change and accelerating the shift towards the new economy is going to be a major focus for many years to come and there is a clear sense of urgency surrounding the event. Companies that are able to engage with their audiences and build confidence in their climate plans will quickly put themselves at the top of the pile with prospective employees, customers and investors.

Time for focus

The conference will of course be the cue for companies to double down on their ESG communication; those that want to generate support for their story will need to have clear, focused messaging.

The event will cover a range of themes: across climate mitigation, adaptation and finance, there are a whole host of issues that need to be addressed. The way a bank can influence change will be different from an energy company or a real estate business, for example.

Owning these differences, honing in on a particular issue or area and talking about short-term, targeted actions will create credibility. ‘Big picture’, empty statements will quickly get branded as greenwashing, floating away into the atmosphere and only adding to the increasing levels of hot air.

If you’re looking for support in telling your climate story, get in touch.

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Tom Brown

Consultant

Tom produces a variety of strategic content, built around clear narrative and messaging.

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