Report Report: Blockchain, forests, sustainability goals and more
A round-up of recent reports on sustainable business and clean technology.
The Report Report is a monthly wrap-up of recent research on sustainable business and clean technology produced by Corporate Eco Forum, a by-invitation membership organization comprised of large, global companies that demonstrate a serious commitment at the senior executive level to sustainability as a business strategy issue.
2019 Progress Report (Climate Action 100+) assesses the ;progress that 161 focus companies, representing over two-thirds of global industrial GHG emissions, have made on climate-related topics, as part of their engagement with the Climate Action 100+ initiative. Key findings include:
- 70 percent have set long-term emissions reduction targets.
- 9 percent have emissions targets that are in line with (or go beyond) the minimum goal of the Paris Agreement.
- 8 percent of companies have policies in place to ensure their lobbying activity is aligned with necessary action on climate change.
- 40 percent undertake and disclose climate scenario analysis, and 30 percent of companies formally have supported recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
- 77 percent have defined board level responsibility for climate change.
Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience (Global Commission on Adaptation) finds that investing $1.8 trillion globally in climate resilience measures from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits. The report focuses on five areas that need investment: strengthening early warning systems; making new infrastructure resilient; improving dryland agriculture crop production; protecting mangroves; and making water resources management more resilient.
Assessing Blockchain’s Future in Transactive Energy (Atlantic Council) finds that costs currently outweigh the benefits offered by blockchain as a platform for transactive energy. The six costs limiting blockchain as a platform for transactive energy are scalability, efficiency, certainty, reversibility, privacy and governance.
Business Climate Resilience: Thriving Through the Transformation (WBCSD) highlights three steps that businesses can take to enhance climate resilience:
- Develop and maintain ambitious mitigation efforts to become less vulnerable to disruptive risks, such as policy and legal measures, resource scarcity or adverse market developments.
- Adapt to ensure business continuity in the face of climate-related physical risks. Businesses should assess and evaluate climate-related physical risks throughout their operations, supply chains and across the communities where they operate.
- Assess the connections, dependencies and value to society and nature.
Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity (Coalition for Urban Transitions) finds that deploying low-carbon measures in cities could yield returns worth $24 trillion by 2050. The report also finds that deploying technically feasible, widely available low-carbon measures could reduce GHG emissions from cities by almost 90 percent by 2050, deliver over half of the emission reductions needed to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and support 87 million jobs annually by 2030.
Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) finds that switching to renewable energy would cut GHG emissions by only 55 percent. The report demonstrates how applying circular economy strategies in five key areas — cement, aluminum, steel, plastics and food — could eliminate the remaining 45 percent of emissions that are not addressed through adoption of renewable energy.
The Conservation Connection (Wildlife Habitat Council) demonstrates how nature-based action on corporate land supports the Sustainable Development Goals. The report features case studies from ArcelorMittal, CEMEX, General Motors and more.
The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action (United Nations Global Compact and Accenture) provides an update on the state of business contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, based on insight from 1,000 CEOs across 21 industries and 99 countries. Key findings include:
- 71 percent of CEOs believe that with increased commitment and action, business can play a critical role in contributing to the Global Goals.
- However, only 21 percent feel business currently is playing a critical role in contributing to the Global Goals.
- 78 percent of CEOs from both Asian and North American businesses believe we need to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources and environmental degradation.
- 63 percent say political uncertainty across markets is the most critical global issue for their companies’ competitive strategies, and 42 percent say it is reducing or stalling their sustainability efforts.
- 43 percent of the world’s largest companies cite competing strategic priorities as a top barrier in implementing sustainability.
- Only 48 percent are implementing sustainability into their operations.
Financing the Low-Carbon Future: A Private-Sector View on Mobilizing Climate Finance (Climate Finance Leadership Initiative) identifies opportunities for private financial institutions to help mobilize capital at the scale and speed needed to deliver an orderly and inclusive transition to a low-carbon global economy. The report describes two key pathways for finance to support the low-carbon transition, uses the latest available data to provide a snapshot of low-carbon investment to date and offers solutions to overcome five key challenges to mobilizing private finance.
Low-Carbon Economy Index 2019 (PwC UK) estimates that the global economy needs to decarbonize at a rate of 7.5 percent per year to achieve a two-thirds probability of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The report finds that the carbon intensity of the global economy fell by 1.6 percent in 2018, less than half the decarbonization rate achieved in 2015.
Protecting and Restoring Forests: A Story of Large Commitments yet Limited Progress (Climate Focus) assesses progress toward the 10 goals set out by the New York Declaration on Forests, which aims to halve tropical deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030. Key findings include:
- On average, an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018.
- Average annual humid tropical primary forest loss has accelerated by 44 percent, compared to the baseline period of 2002–13.
- On average, annual tropical tree cover loss between 2014 and 2018 emitted 4.7 gigatons of CO2 per year. Nearly half of these emissions occurred within humid tropical primary forests.
- Primary forest loss in Indonesia slowed by more than 30 percent in 2017 and 2018, compared to 2002–16 levels.
- The current amount of green finance committed for forests is around $22 billion, up 9 percent since 2017. However, the renewables sector alone has received over 100 times more financial commitments than forests.
Setting the Next Generation of Sustainability Goals (NAEM) offers insight into how companies are setting priorities, framing goals and engaging stakeholders across the business in support of the goal-setting process. Key findings include:
- Customer demands (22 percent) was the top driver influencing sustainability goal-setting, followed by operational efficiency (17 percent) and business resiliency (16 percent).
- 68 percent of companies use or are planning to use a formal materiality assessment to identify the issues that most affect their business.
- 45 percent of companies stated that their goal-setting process takes a year or less.
- 79 percent of companies engage external stakeholders as part of their strategic planning process (or are planning to do so).
- 83 percent of companies have the Board of Directors review their sustainability metrics (or are planning to do so).
Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) examines current and future impacts of global warming on the ocean and cryosphere, the risks and opportunities these changes bring to ecosystems and people, and options for reducing future risks. Key findings include:
- The global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90 percent of the excess heat in the climate system.
- Marine heatwaves very likely have doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity.
- The Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are projected to lose mass at an increasing rate throughout the 21st century and beyond. Strong reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades are projected to reduce further changes after 2050.
- Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions with increased temperatures, greater upper ocean stratification, further acidification, oxygen decline and altered net primary production.
- Sea level continues to rise at an increasing rate. Extreme sea level events that are historically rare (once per century in the recent past) are projected to occur frequently (at least once per year) at many locations by 2050.
Unpacking Green Targets: A Framework for Interpreting Private Sector Banks’ Sustainable Finance Commitments (World Resources Institute) finds that more than half of the world’s largest private-sector banks have not made public commitments to provide or facilitate capital for sustainable finance investments. The report also finds that banks with active commitments delivered, on average, twice as much financing on fossil fuels than their sustainable finance commitments between 2016 and 2018.
What does it take to go big? Management practices to bring inclusive business to scale (Business Call to Action) offers insight into how leading companies are implementing inclusive business friendly management practices and communicating the business value of these activities to investors, stakeholders and customers. The report also highlights four benefits to adopting business friendly management practices: Overcome organizational barriers; increase impact; gain competitive advantage; and maximize inclusive business value creation.