By Jane O’Mahoney
The recent announcement from Newcastle City Council that it aims to end carbon emissions by 2030, and with a plan in place that has been named one of the best in the world receiving an A* standard from climate change researchers CPD, has left many not only wondering how this will be possible but what role business will play in achieving this highly ambitious target and the repercussions for any who fall short.
It is safe to say that unless you are an expert in environmental sustainability, it is extremely perplexing to understand what changes will be required within your business. In the same way that you shouldn’t turn to google for medical advice instead of your doctor, you need to not fumble in the dark and seek expert guidance before it is too late. No amount of rehabilitation can undo the damage that could have been so easily avoided if you had sought the correct prognosis and treatment from the onset.
Organisations, both large and small and from all sectors, must take action now to develop authentic, transparent and pragmatic sustainability strategies. Those that do so and communicate their vision with real purpose, have the opportunity to be market leaders, those that fall short may not be here to tell the tale.
In the past, many environmental sustainability experts may well have advised businesses to resist from making claims about how green they are. This is because they unknowingly leave themselves vulnerable to being accused of greenwashing by making claims that they cannot substantiate with evidence.
Unless you have a sustainability strategy that runs throughout your business and you understand just how important it is to be extremely concise and diligent about the information you communicate externally and the language you are using, which realistically you probably don’t, you have been unknowingly navigating extremely dangerous waters.
High-profile brands, such as BMW, RyanAir and Shell have been called out for greenwashing and these are all businesses one would expect to have an army of experts working behind the scenes to make sure everything stands up to scrutiny.
Given the 2030 target of zero emissions, businesses are no longer going to be allowed to shy away from addressing how environmentally friendly they are and it is going to become ever urgent to have a fully informed sustainability strategy. Get it right and the rewards could be vast, get it wrong and it could be fatal.
We have witnessed how quickly the natural world can repair the damage we inflict upon it when we change how we live and work. It is only right that businesses accept a non-negotiable duty to look at how they can play their part in developing a sustainable solution to climate change. Gone are the days when token gestures were accepted and business leaders who choose to go down the path of greenwashing will have a front row seat to their very own horror show.
Businesses need to protect themselves by seeking expert help, both with strategy and communications, the two go hand-in-hand.