Paris 2015: conclusions and opportunities

Zero emission is the future
PostedJanuary 06, 2016, in  Step 5: improve & innovate
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The stakes were high, and the outcome uncertain: the 2015 climate summit was a real thriller. Even though Paris was still recovering from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, a historical agreement was reached. 195 countries signed a legally binding climate treaty. What does that mean for doing business sustainably?

Zero emission

Under the name COP21 (Conference of Parties), almost every country was represented for the climate conference. There was great urgency: President Obama had good reason to use the words ‘the best chance we have to save the one planet we’ve got’. Partly because of that shared sense of urgency, an important result was achieved: the earth may not warm up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to scientists that can only be achieved if CO2 emissions are reduced from between 2030 and 2050 to zero, i.e. ‘zero emission’. 

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COP21: Head of Delegations. Photo: Presidencia de la República Mexicana, Wikimedia Commons

‘Historical agreement’

The Paris Agreement was received with great joy and enthusiasm. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, called it a ‘historical agreement’. And with good reason: concrete, controllable goals have been set, there will be more investment in sustainable energy and vulnerable countries will receive financial support for their climate policy. There has also been some criticism: there are those who ask themselves whether all the countries will uphold the agreements. Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: climate policy will have an increasing impact on our lives and therefore on sustainable enterprise. All the more reason to take timely action, but how do you do that?

Market benefits

B Corps (benefit corporations) have known it for a long time, because their reason for existence is sustainable enterprise. These commercial do-gooders know exactly how sustainable thinking can lead to ‘competitive advantages’. It’s not just about saving on energy and commodities, but also about new product-market combinations and the ability to be highly distinctive (for example, the ‘slavery free chocolate’ of Tony Chocolonely).

‘Beating regulators to the punch in terms of environmental and social standards can be a source of competitive advantage, lowering financial risk, encouraging loyalty among employees, and serving as a powerful marketing tool in an increasingly competitive marketplace.’ – Chris Lazlo, The Sustainable Company

The Natural Step

With ‘Paris 2015’ in mind, companies would be well-advised to develop policy to reduce CO2 emissions step-by-step to zero. The Natural Step offers a practical framework to achieve fast results. The Natural Step is based on The Four Sustainability Principles. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to:

  1. the systematic increase of concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust (for example, heavy metals and fossil fuels);
  2. the systematic increase of concentrations of substances produced by society (for example, plastics, dioxins, PCBs and DDT);
  3. the systematic physical degradation of nature and natural processes (for example, over harvesting forests, destroying habitat and overfishing); and…
  4. conditions that systematically undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic human needs (for example, unsafe working conditions and not enough pay to live on).

Due to its measurability, principle 2 is particularly useful. It is a question of identifying all business processes and analyzing them for their chemical impact. Compare that with the natural processing time and viola: the hard boundaries are known exactly. With these definite statistics it becomes clear which ‘strategic’ choices can be made. Sustainability therefore becomes a lot clearer.

Every month, a new sustainability topic is discussed on the www.improve4all.nl/blog. Each topic is discussed in detail in three blog articles. At the end of the month the articles are bundled in a newsletter. Tip: sign up for the newsletter and do not miss an update. 

We wish you a healthy, emission-free 2016!

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Framework The Natural Step

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PostedJanuary 06, 2016, in Step 5: improve & innovate
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