16 Jan 2024

Climate accountability: Advice for businesses

Posted in: Communicating sustainability

Climate accountability: Advice for businesses

Set your business up for success this year and meet the growing consumer expectations on environmental stewardship. Those who have been on their sustainability journey for a while may have set environmental targets to reduce waste, track their commute emissions, or perhaps even incentivise more sustainable behaviours with employee rewards. Yet often these don’t get highlighted against a backdrop of other business priorities or communicated to consumers. So, how can you ramp up your climate action story and attract more loyal customers and brand recognition?

Through our work with thousands of businesses on their emission reduction journeys, over the years we’ve seen shifts in how sustainability is integrated. After speaking to our members and with other businesses, we provide 3 focus areas to be a market leader and highlight the climate positive certification that’s leading the charge. Crucially, it’s about going beyond considering your business’ impact and footprint.

1. Prioritise communication

Invest in communicating your vision and efforts, not just with customers, but within your supply chain and internally. A couple of good examples are showing the impact of business travel on your emissions, and showing how this impacts your reduction goals, or encouraging open discussions internally on complex topics, such as the use of plastics, or what’s the most sustainable diet. Maintaining a high level of transparency, with data that’s checked by a third party such as Toitū, reduces the risk of greenwashing.

2. Reconsider the risks

Aside from the physical (acute) risks like your warehouse being flooded, or your staff being displaced through extreme weather, there are transitional risks to consider with climate change. This includes:

  • Policy or legal risks, due to emerging regulation aimed at reducing climate change or from litigation.
  • Risks from emerging technologies, aimed at supporting the low carbon transition and also adapting to climate impacts.
  • Market risks, from shifting supply and demand curves, as economies react to climate change.
  • Reputational risks, damage to brand value and loss of customer base from shifting public sentiment on climate change.

It’s well worth discussing these risks within your organisation and taking mitigation and adaption measures now.

3. Get ahead of the curve on your supply chain engagement

Complete and successful supply chain engagement is still in its infancy. For example, CDP noted that whilst year on year supply chain disclosure is steadily increasing, “only 20% [of its 11,000 companies submitting data] reported data for Scope 3 category 1 ‘Purchased Goods and Services’ emissions, and 62% aren’t engaging suppliers on the topic”. So, our third recommendation is to focus on supply chain (scope 3) engagement. Ensure your procurement processes enable emission measurement, so you can engage with suppliers who share your values and can provide transparency into how they measure and manage their emissions. You could also consider setting targets for specific areas of your scope 3 inventory.

The latest version of the carbon certification programme requires businesses to report on all scopes and categories. Supply chain emissions often represent a significant portion of total emissions for an organisation, so this can help identify emission hotspots for subsequent reduction opportunities.

Achieving positive social and environmental change

Toitū offers a climate positive programme designed to drive more ambitious and transformational action for a zero-carbon future.

climate positive members, such as Brightly, have looked beyond their business impact and everyday sustainability activity. In addition to offsetting at least 125% of the net balance, they are required to drive wider change by contributing to a project that supports the transition to our net positive future.

"For us, this certification represents our commitment to measuring our impact, assessing our carbon responsibility and contributing to better environmental outcomes through the way we work. It’s an important part of ensuring that we take ownership for the impact that our business has. But, there is no "done"! Along with this certification comes a commitment to continue to focus on improvements to reduce emissions, using data to help guide us in continual mitigation and adaptation initiatives. " – Brightly, climate positive certified since 2023.

The broader outcomes must provide the benefit outside their value chain to their sector, community or society as a whole. Contributions may be financial or labour time converted to a dollar value equivalent to the cost of offsetting 75% of the organisation operational footprint.

Our current climate positive members make contributions to a variety of impactful organisations like Trees That Count, Sustainable Coastlines, National Wetland Trust of New Zealand, and Zonta International.

Future proof your business

Taking action to measure and reduce your emissions means an increased likelihood of being able to successfully operate in a low-carbon economy. By driving change above and beyond this we’re safeguarding our (not so distant) future.

Find out more on climate positive certification here.