Do you trust the “eco” or “green product” labels? Lately, they seem to have become a trend and like any trend, at one point, it becomes too much– consumers are starting to doubt these goods and perceive the loud proclamations of producers as mere marketing ploys. This harms the ones who truly strive to make their product sustainable. The situation has even reached a point where the European Commission has stepped in for regulations.
If we take a look back at 2022, we’ll notice a clearly distinguishable trend related to sustainability – more and more regulations and new frameworks are published. The rules by which the business should manage its impacts on environment have suddenly increased and affect more companies than ever before, especially in Europe. Biodiversity has come to the surface – political leaders have set goals to preserve it which will pass through the business directly. At this fast pace of change, it is only logical to ask: what comes next?
This is the question No. 1 that sustainability consultants get asked right now- what others do and how they do it. ESG takes over the business internally and everyone wants to be ‘in the loop’. At the same time, companies don’t want to take unnecessary risks and experiments, they want a clear picture of what to expect, how much time it will take and how much each effort along the sustainability path will cost, so they can plan and prepare effectively.
If we think about the issues that concern the consumers in relation to protecting the environment, we will definitely find packaging in the Top 5. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine any product without packaging. It has been a permanent part of our daily life.
Biodiversity is the new climate. In other words, the goals that the world has set for limiting climate change are now being transferred to the topic of biodiversity and its conservation. And this is not an ambition, it is now a fact. It will pass through business and its impacts.
Recently, New York was host to the annual Climate Week. Other than the current issues such as the environmental threats from the war in Ukraine and the gas crisis, the spotlight was again on new climate goals. The UN’s Race to Zero campaign gave instructions to financial institution to avoid funding businesses related to fossil fuels and energy sources. Instead of following orders, however, the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), which currently holds 40% of the world’s banking assets, objected singling out some economic sectors at the expense of others.
We won’t talk about trends in fashion. Although what we are going to talk about is already trendy. But more on that in a moment. Look around – what are you wearing today? T-shirt, pants, dress or something else? You have chosen them according to your taste, you have matched them according to color, material, and season. But do you know where these clothes came from and where they are going?
Companies have just gotten used to the basic environmental terminology, but it turned out that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Decarbonization, carbon neutrality, and climate reporting… are just some of the new terms that businesses are trying to understand. It seems that big companies, the first targets of regulations, are adjusting to the fact that climate is part of running a business. However, the process is developing at a fast pace which brings changes for the entire business.
Marriage is usually voluntary – it is the union of two people, but also a contract that establishes the obligations of their relationship. Similarly, the flirtation between sustainable development policies and regulations is now formalized. Europe and the whole world have set specific climate goals or as the Paris Agreement states: “limiting the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels”. And since the change in attitudes is slower than what the European institutions had in mind, they have turned their heads to business. This is how ESG was created – the tools with which companies must achieve the goals of the green transition.
In the last several years, the world has been going through a so-called green transition – partly successfully and partly not so much. The Paris Agreement laid down specific goals and set challenging targets, and business was identified as the main driving force behind the changes. But business means people, which is why it was very quickly and clearly seen what actually works in action, what is possible only on words, and where there are some serious gaps. This very same business today is caught up by norms and regulations that dictate how to measure all the environmental impacts and define a business as sustainable or not.
You’ve decided to collect your waste separately. You do a short research and start – you place two or three bins next to the one you already have, and you throw away the plastics, paper, and glass separately. It goes well, until one day you see the waste collection truck emptying the garbage bins. Is everything you diligently separated being mixed and collected together?
We celebrated 2021 as our most successful year to date.
We reported huge growth in all key business metrics: revenue (+36%), profit, team (from 12 to 18 people), and remuneration. We worked on some great projects (75 in total) for a large number of clients (53 different organisations in total). We overcame all the difficulties. We moved to a great new office.
Several years ago at the Coca-Cola Company offices in London we were met with skepticism when we explained that the problem of plastic waste in the oceans would turn into the “new global warming”. No one in the large business sector wanted to believe that the most versatile material invented by humanity would become the subject of such heavy criticism, let alone that they would have to face regulatory measures aimed against its use.
It is employees’ responsibility to take care of themselves. The responsibility of managers and HR professionals is to think about the work environment – the company culture and the organization of work, and what the environment needs to be like in order to make it possible for the employees to take care of themselves.
Resilient companies are capable of surviving crises and flourishing in a world of uncertainty. Every organization goes through its own “perfect storm”, which is a combination of events and circumstances that can bring a company to its knees. Today’s companies are like crystals – they are entirely transparent. The modern digital information platforms that we use do not allow companies to exert control over their image like they could in the past. We increasingly hear, see, feel and think about emerging threats and expected catastrophes, and before we are able to process them on a rational level, we are already facing their consequences. Naturally this dynamic is activating the fears of increasingly larger groups of people – they are worried about their health, their close ones, their safety, their environment and survival as a whole. These fears have a palpable impact on the social environment where businesses have to exist and invent ways to ensure their survival. The most successful companies are those that are already prepared for this new world. I believe that the modern world is neither more complex nor more frightening, but that we simply have more access to information than we did in the past. This is why the subject of how the conditions for success are changing is important to consider.
Are you for or against male-female quotas at the workplace? Why?
I am against them. Typically those who manage companies have an innate sense of what is important for their business. Solutions dictated by quotas do not follow experience, context or reason. Choosing who to hire is dictated by processes inside the company, which hardly correlate with quotas, making the entire exercise futile. Companies are living organisms and everything in them rearranges over time – entropy rules at any given moment. The theme about men and women at the workplace did not appear on the daily agenda by natural means, and the real added value of quotas is missed by many: what is the benefit to the people and the company? When we write or audit reports on corporate sustainability we usually run into issues on this theme.
Activists, politicians, lobbyists and media outlets continuously conflate air pollution with carbon emissions, as if the two are identical. Few are consciously aware of the fact that they are mistaken. Most simply don’t know any better. The end result is that a false understanding of the connection between the two has become widespread in society. This is a problem because it misleads people into supporting false political movements, programs and measures.
Renewable energy sources are taking an increasingly visible place in the global generation and consumption of energy. Many people believe in a “renewables revolution” and think that these sources can and will replace all other sources of energy in a short amount of time. Since I have the habit of commenting on this utopian idea often in other articles, it might seem like I am pessimistic when it comes to renewables, especially in regards to solar and wind. This is not true.
Last week I was invited to share my views on the future of mobility at a special event organized by Shell Bulgaria. I chose to share my prognosis on what could change in the way we transport ourselves before 2040 – I don’t believe in longer-term predictions because no one can realistically foresee what might happen that far out. In practical terms this means that the question at hand concerns commercial technologies that already exist because the transport sector is a relatively slow moving system – the average age of cars in Europe is 10-12 years, which means that the fleet of vehicles in 2030 will reflect the sales being made today.
I am increasingly coming across the message that we should reduce our carbon emissions by using less plastic. This is often touted as a win-win choice by eco-activists. They say that we can save sea creatures from plastic waste and save the planet from warming at the same time – decarbonization and circular economics put together for a brighter future on Earth!