4 corporate sustainability trends all business leaders should be watching in 2018 – Part II

This blog is a follow up to an earlier blog published: 4 Trends in Corporate Sustainability for 2018.

Earlier this year, I identified 4 corporate sustainability trends that all business leaders should be watching in 2018. Those trends were: growth in companies setting Science-Based Targets, greater attention towards reducing supply chain emissions, tech and internet companies stepping up on sustainability, and increased innovation.

I’m revisiting those trends to give an update on where they stand six months later, using real-world examples of how this is playing out by highlighting projects from this past summer’s cohort of nearly 100 EDF Climate Corps host companies.

Trend 1: Rapid growth of companies setting Science-Based Targets

In April of this year, 250 companies had either set or committed to set a Science-Based Target. Today, that number is up to 498 companies – nearly doubling in six months. With 2020 around the corner, many companies are setting new reduction goals, and Science-Based Targets have emerged as the new industry standard. Here’s why: They are not a marketing claim, they are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, they ensure accountability and they give companies a competitive advantage.

Case in point: Williams-Sonoma hired an EDF Climate Corps fellow to develop an energy climate strategy that integrated its already-existing CSR goals with industry best practices, including the possibility of setting Science-Based Targets. The result was an analysis of the business drivers and benefits of setting Science-Based Targets, and a roadmap for Scope 1, 2 and 3 target-setting. The roadmap provides a multi-staged implementation plan to maximize alignment across all business units and will serve as a guide to join the Science-Based Target Initiative.

See more examples: Hershey’s looks to align with Science-Based Targets. Colgate-Palmolive explores setting water targets.

Trend 2: Companies will increasingly look to tackle their supply chain emissions.

Project Manager, EDF Climate Corps

‘Scope 3’ has become one of the most popular buzzwords this year. Companies are either finding ways to reduce emissions across their entire value chain, or are working to better understand, and quantify, their impact. It’s now an essential component for any company that wants to have a truly comprehensive greenhouse gas management plan. But calculating, much less reducing, Scope 3 emissions remains to be a challenge.

Case in point: Novartis hired an EDF Climate Corps fellow to create an interactive dashboard for visualizing both its upstream and downstream activities. Using this tool, Novartis can now track total carbon emissions, identify potential emission hotspots and take action by increasing supplier engagement initiatives to reduce its environmental impact.

See more examples: Danone tackles freight emissions. American Eagle Outfitters sets a baseline for its next sustainability goal.

Trend 3: Tech and internet companies will show that they’re serious about sustainability.

Tech and internet companies have the power to make our lives easier while also reducing our impact on the planet. From Lyft announcing that all emissions from their riders will be offset (an EDF Climate Corps fellow developed the methodology to measure those emissions) to Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all committing to 100% renewable energy, tech and internet companies are stepping up to reduce the footprint of their platforms. But what’s even more exciting are those companies that are empowering their users to reduce emissions.

Case in point: Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects – nearly 340,000 projects – hired an EDF Climate Corps fellow to develop an online environmental resource center for early-stage entrepreneurs. The resource center provides production-specific environmental tools to help reduce the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing and shipping of projects. But more importantly, it integrates sustainability into the design from the very start.

See more examples: Lyft goes carbon neutral. Google explores carbon sequestration.

Trend 4: Environmental innovation will transform corporate sustainability

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to corporate sustainability. That’s not a 2018 trend, just a universal truth. From industry to industry, company to company, going beyond the low-hanging fruit requires finding solutions that are unique to a business. This year, we’re seeing that when companies are faced with challenges in reducing their carbon footprint, it can breed innovation and creativity.

Case in point: Best Buy

Best Buy publicly committed to establishing a Science-Based Target and was interested in finding opportunities to improve efficiencies required to meet both new and existing goals. To do so, the company had to take into account its Scope 3 category “use of sold products”, the largest contributor of GHG emissions and one of the trickiest to tackle. So, Best Buy came at it from a unique approach: reduce the impact of the products they sell. Best Buy  is developing a plan to work with manufacturers, vendors and merchants to improve product efficiencies, and educate its employees and sales consultants so they can help consumers purchase the most efficient, electronics and appliances.

See more examples: Ulta Beauty links ‘guest traffic’ with energy efficiency. AT&T measures the environmental benefits of digital infrastructure.

In the past six months, we’ve seen that these trends are not fads, but in fact the future of corporate sustainability.

If you’re interested in learning more about EDF Climate Corps, click here.


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