This article is sponsored by Watershed.
2022 marks the second year of the last decade we have to solve climate change. Scientists are unanimous that we must halve global carbon emissions by 2030 to have a chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
To achieve a zero-carbon future, companies must lead the way. Businesses make the decisions — on energy, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and more — that determine how much carbon goes in the atmosphere. I think this year will be the tipping point where corporate climate graphs bend towards zero at a pace the science demands.
Here are some big shifts I think we’ll see this year:
Carbon removal will finally become a fully distinct category from traditional offsets
While these products have long been lumped together, we’re starting to see widespread recognition from investors, journalists and business leaders that paying others not to pollute can never get us to net zero. While the highest-impact offsets — which often have important ecological benefits outside carbon — are still valuable, more investment will shift into the technologies that suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it permanently.
Businesses will prioritize climate-driven purchasing decisions
Companies can only get to net zero if they bring their supply chains with them — where most corporate emissions are hiding. As new disclosure standards become more widely mandated, there won’t be any more hiding: Companies will report all emissions, all the way down to raw materials — and they’ll be looking for suppliers with strong climate plans of their own.
Software will play a starring role in the climate fight
The world is just beginning to realize the full potential of software’s role in decarbonization. As top talent and venture capital continues to flood into climate tech, these products, platforms and marketplaces will become table stakes for everything from emissions tracking to offset purchasing to power optimization. Business leaders will be able to focus on what they do best, with software helping them to understand and bend their carbon graphs as they go.
Climate-conscious employees will make career decisions based on corporate (in)action
As extreme weather events continue and climate urgency becomes more palpable, more employees will bring internal status quos to a head: Either companies install professional-grade climate programs — from transparent carbon accounting to serious near-term emissions cuts on a path toward net zero — or talent will leave. Similarly, we’ll see a continued migration of top recruits into all the startups building tools for the climate fight.
While we’ve made significant global progress over the past half decade, political speed limits will persist into 2022. The responsibility will be on companies to act as vanguards for climate action — in driving clean energy adoption, decarbonizing supply chains, advancing carbon removal and proving that bending carbon graphs is both possible and profitable.