Our most recent webinar, “Sustainability From the Start: Your Guide to Net Zero by 2040,” offered an in-depth exploration of the path to net-zero emissions and the evolving landscape of sustainability in business. In partnership with Greentown Labs, the webinar was moderated by Dominic Sung, our Director of Business Development, with Nicole Sullivan, our Director of Climate Services, and Tori Chen, Climate Analyst, joining the discussion. The discussion spanned a variety of crucial topics, from understanding the true meaning of “net zero” to the expanding regulatory landscape and the tangible ROI of sustainability. The session concluded with some practical steps businesses can take today to progress toward their sustainability goals and the role of carbon offsets in a comprehensive decarbonization strategy. Below is the full replay, segmented by chapters for each topic discussed.
Dominic Sung (08:24): Okay. Sorry, when I do that, it resizes my other screen. All right. Well, welcome, everybody, to Sustainability from the Start, your guide to net-zero by 2040. And again, thanks, Kendrick and the Greentown team, for partnering with us, CarbonBetter, for this presentation and this webinar today. So, big thanks to you guys for allowing us to do this.
(08:48): For those looking to set net-zero targets and work towards a net-zero future, we’re here to talk about why it’s important to proactively address your sustainability journey from the start. Hopefully, you’ll leave this webinar with a clear understanding of what it takes to achieve a net-zero goal, the current regulatory environment surrounding sustainability, how to get started, how to confidently make claims in a high-growth environment, and all the way through to how offsets work as a part of your decarbonization strategy.
(09:21): So to introduce myself, I’m going to be your moderator for today’s session. My name is Dominic Sung. I’m the Director of Business Development for our Climate and Decarbonization Services Team here at CarbonBetter. Whether we’re helping our clients quantify their impacts, create comprehensive sustainability reports, or decarbonize through direct reductions in participating in the traded voluntary carbon markets, we strive to do so with transparency and traceability.
(09:47): Before I let Nicole and Tori introduce themselves, I’d like to ask everyone if you have questions throughout the session, please put them in the Q&A part, and we will work to address those at the end of the session in the Q&A session. Nicole, if you could introduce yourself?
Nicole Sullivan (10:07): Yeah, sure. Thanks, Dominic. Hi, all. I’m Nicole Sullivan. I’m Director of Climate Services for CarbonBetter. I’m an environmental engineer by trade, and I help clients really at every stage of their journey, from just getting started and quantifying their carbon impacts as well as also looking at water and waste. We look at sustainability action holistically, so not just carbon in a vacuum, all the way through to setting strategies to reducing impacts and participating in the voluntary carbon market. So, I’m excited to talk with y’all today.
Dominic Sung (10:41): And Tori, do you want to introduce yourself as well?
Tori Chen (10:43): Of course. Hi, everyone. I’m Tori, and I’m a Climate Analyst with CarbonBetter. I work on Nicole’s team, helping clients with their sustainability goals and strategies. My background is with ESG strategy, where I mostly worked at the intersection of agriculture, sustainability, and finance.
Dominic Sung (11:03): Awesome. There’s a massive difference between making a pledge and achieving that goal. I’ve talked to a lot of people along their journey, and as we’ve kind of delved into the world of sustainability, and a number of people would tell you and would tell me that, “Oh, let me set these targets far enough forward that it won’t be my problem.” Or, “We need to push it far enough forward that we can deal with it more thoroughly and thoughtfully when we have more time, or when budgets will allow,” or when they can bring someone on full-time. We’re here today to talk through what constituents are looking for out of companies, whether they are investors, public customers, or others. And for those that have made pledges, the importance of taking direct, decisive action towards achieving them and not just kicking the can down the road.
(11:59): Tori, can you talk a bit more about what it means to be net-zero and what some broader considerations might be in making that claim?
Tori Chen (12:09): Sure. So first off, just getting an understanding of what greenhouse gas emissions are. These are classified into three different scopes. Scope one emissions are direct emissions from business operations, such as gas consumption in office buildings or manufacturing plants. Scope two emissions include indirect emissions from purchasing energy, which can be calculated from something like a monthly electric bill. And lastly, scope three emissions are all other emissions, and this can come from a wide variety of sources. Some examples include supply chain emissions, investments that your company makes, and financed emissions, or emissions from something like flying out employees or business trips.
(12:51): So, given that, there are a lot of different ways that businesses can create goals or make claims around these three scopes relating to net-zero. Some aim for net-zero across all three scopes. Some do a little bit more of a phased approach, where scopes one and two are targeted first before working on reducing scope three emissions. And some don’t necessarily have plans to reduce scope three emissions. Regardless of what these net-zero targets specifically are, there are a few ways to reduce emissions and reach these goals across the board.
(13:25): So first off, the most ideal way to do this would be direct reductions through operational changes. For example, this could be eliminating some business processes or adapting them to become less energy-intensive. For emissions that are hard to reduce, purchasing offsets from the voluntary carbon market is an option. Typically, these are sold in units of one metric ton per carbon credit or offset, so understanding your emissions calculations would be important before being able to purchase these. And lastly, renewable energy certificates are essentially units of energy generated from renewable sources.
Tori Chen (14:03): Are essentially units of energy generated from renewable sources, which can reduce the need for businesses to rely on non-renewable, therefore lowering their scope to emissions. So in short, in order to make a net zero claim, companies need to understand their environmental footprints across all three scopes, and there are a variety of tools that they can use to bring these numbers down to zero.
Dominic Sung (14:23): Thanks, Tori. I think that’s super helpful to set the table. And as we start talking about all of these things, I think it’s always really important to at least get the foundation and understanding of, if we’re talking about net zero, what does it actually mean when we say scope one, two, and three, and how that math actually works to get to net zero. As we delve a little bit deeper. Can you tell us a little bit more about the regulatory landscape and how that’s changing?
Tori Chen (14:50): Of course. So as policymakers around the world are recognizing the need to act on climate change regulations are going to continue to expand. Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016, many governments have taken action to create policies that support the transition to a climate friendly world. In the US specifically, a significant piece of legislation recently was the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA, which is helping accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. And something else to look out for is the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rule, which would require all publicly traded US companies to disclose what they are doing to address climate risks. Though those were just two examples, we can expect regulations to continue to keep expanding and businesses should start preparing now in order to ensure that they’re ready to be in compliance.
Dominic Sung (15:47): Yeah. I think it’s really important to look at the regulatory environment, and I think as you can clearly see here, as time goes on and there tends to be more scrutiny into this space, the regulatory environment does just keep expanding and the number of changes do increase over time. So yeah, I appreciate you walking us through the growth of that and the importance of what some of the things looking out on the horizon will probably impact any number of us and the people we deal with. Nicole, as a company seeks to make a net zero claim and then begins its journey towards sustainability reporting, tell us a little more about the sustainability reporting ecosystem.
Nicole Sullivan (16:33): Sure. So as you see here, there are a number of acronyms, which sometimes get referred to as the alphabet soup of sustainability reporting. So if you’re subject to a regulatory driver, which as Tori just noted, there are a number of emerging regulations globally. So if you’re not currently subject to a climate related regulation, it’s likely not a matter of if, but when you would be subject to some amount of reporting obligations. But in a voluntary space where if you have no reporting obligations, there are any number of ways to disclose your carbon footprint, your goals, and your sustainability actions. So you see here-
Dominic Sung (17:17): Sorry.
Nicole Sullivan (17:17): You see here we’ve got the CDP, which is formerly referred to as the Carbon Disclosure Project. We have the TCFD, which is the task force on climate disclosures. If you’ve been following climate news lately this summer, this just got rolled into the International Sustainability Standards Board or ISSB. So these are some typical reporting frameworks where you might actually submit your information to these bodies following specific frameworks and protocols. There’s also guidance on how to quantify your carbon footprint.
(17:54): So one of the most important standards in this space is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which gives guidance on quantifying emissions from scopes one, two, and three. If you’re getting into target setting… So if you’re voluntarily setting a target, you can do so on your own. You can go out there and set a goal of net zero. And I think something that’s really important to think about is while aiming for net zero is great, it’s also really impactful and valid to also set goals for 20% reductions or 30% reductions, setting those interim milestones before you set that net zero target. But in target setting, there’s this body called the Science-Based Targets Initiative or SBTI, which is the third party that gives guidance on how to set and track progress towards targets to align with limiting emissions and warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.
(18:54): So it’s something to be really mindful of these frameworks, these protocols, these regulations, and keep up with current guidance in terms of if you’re subject to regulation, is it telling you that you have to follow certain procedures or certain frameworks for submitting a report? And also something that’s emerging is customers are sometimes demanding reporting under certain frameworks of their suppliers. So while the alphabet soup is ever evolving, it’s just something to be cognizant of because it can be confusing, but it’s also impactful.
Dominic Sung (19:32): Yeah, it is. If we look at this graphic, it can be pretty daunting to look at all of the acronyms and the alphabet soup as you say. And I think it is really important to start to do some diligence as you walk down this path. And I just want to call attention to the QR code we’ve got on this slide. If you do want to dig a little bit deeper into what some of these are, what the reporting frameworks are and the standards of protocols, you can delve a little bit deeper into some of the content we have online to dig into some of that. So just as a quick poll and if you guys could type the answers in the chat just so we can get a sense of where you guys are on this journey. Have any of you set a net zero target yet? Drop a yes or a no in there. We’ll give it a second and see where you guys are, but I think at different stages of where you are and depending on where your thought process is and what your line of work is, and obviously as the folks at Greentown are focused on climate tech, it’s really interesting to see. I think for us, how many of you have set a target and how many of you have not? So some no’s and yeses we’re about 50/50 so far, so pretty interesting to see. But I think no matter what the lens is of yes, we’ve already set a target, or no, we haven’t set a target yet. I think as we go on, and we’ll see this, it’s really important to start the preparation and start thinking about it, and obviously hopefully be on here without it already being on your mind in some respects.
(21:11): So we’ll keep looking at those as they roll in. It really is looking relatively 50/50 there. But thanks Tori and Nicole for giving some color about the regulatory landscape and the sustainability reporting ecosystem and how much a company needs to consider in order to traceability and transparently work towards a net zero target. But what about stakeholders? Nicole, is sustainability becoming more important to stakeholders?
Nicole Sullivan (21:44): I would say absolutely yes. So we’re seeing this from a number of angles. So investors are really showing a propensity towards spending money on sustainability and climate performance as well as ESG performance. But we are also seeing sustainability be a priority from a risk mitigation perspective. So with the emerging CSRD rule in Europe, which requires disclosures not just from European companies, but also global companies that are doing a certain volume of business in Europe, as well as the proposed SEC rule, stakeholders are looking to proactively mitigate risk.
(22:25): We’re also seeing it with increasing importance for customers. So customers are evaluating companies based on their sustainability goals and not just their goals, but their actions and progress towards those goals. And then we’re seeing it as part of the cost of capital. And then lastly, beyond these stakeholders already listed, employees are also looking at sustainability initiatives and action. And it can be important from a retention perspective. So the stakeholders that are prioritizing it might vary by the nature of your business as well as the nature of your financing, but it is something that we’re seeing increasingly looked at.
Dominic Sung (23:09): Thank you. Well, with all of these stakeholders with a heightened interest in sustainability, Tori, why do you think you should start to incorporate sustainability into your business from the beginning?
Tori Chen (23:22): Yeah. So incorporating sustainability right off the bat just makes it a lot easier to achieve goals. So if you already have existing business processes, retrofitting them to become more sustainable in the future can be costly or time intensive. So it’s a bit more straightforward if from the start, you just design everything with sustainability in mind. However, it’s also not too late for established businesses to implement this concept either when expanding for new products or new business lines. These new additions can be designed to be environmentally friendly, to save on costs down the road, and also help mitigate regulatory risks and all those other things that we touched on earlier.
Dominic Sung (24:07): All really great points. Nicole, I think we’re starting to get a clearer idea of the focus of constituents on sustainability and why companies even at an early stage should begin to incorporate sustainability into their business. But can sustainability progress drive growth, or is it just another cost to fold in?
Nicole Sullivan (24:29): Yeah. Great question. So at CarbonBetter, we firmly believe what’s good for the planet is good for business, but I want to give some examples of ways that sustainability can have a positive ROI on your business. So as we talked about stakeholders are increasingly looking at sustainability, but it’s also a mechanism for reducing costs. One of the strategies for being able to reduce your carbon impacts is to reduce your energy consumption, optimize your business processes, optimize your supply chain and logistics, as well as reduce waste. So any number of those things beyond reducing your carbon footprint can also simultaneously reduce costs. There’s also the opportunity to drive innovation. This is a growing and evolving and ever-changing space, and there’s a lot of opportunity for creative thinking and being a front runner in your industry by putting out sustainability reports, by tracking your climate action, by being vocal about it and telling people what you’re doing, you can really be a leader and inspire other people in your space, other peers to do better and even collaborate.
(25:43): There’s not one silver bullet here, and it takes all of us to solve the climate crisis. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for collaboration and innovation in the space. And then lastly, building brand value. So sustainability is increasingly becoming important to customers and consumers. So being able to retain those consumers and make them brand loyal by your commitment to real impactful action and being transparent and traceable about it. For as important as it is to take action, it’s really important for what you’re putting out there to be trustworthy and verifiable for your customers.
Dominic Sung (26:26): Great. So we have a lot of drive… Sorry.
Nicole Sullivan (26:30): No. And I was just going to share, there’s a couple of examples. This is some sustainability reports, if you’re interested to check out more about transparent disclosures.
Dominic Sung (26:41): Awesome. Yeah, and a lot of these slides, you’ll see these QR codes that I think are nods to some of the content that we have out there to dig deeper. So for sure, click on any of those and dig a little bit deeper and explore a little bit further. So there’s a lot of drivers that we’ve talked about to start on your journey and an understanding at a base level, I think of the ROI of sustainability. Tori, can you talk through what steps should be taken before making a sustainability claim or commitment?
Tori Chen (27:13): Sure. Yeah. So before making a claim, there’s a couple of things that businesses should think through. One important first step is understanding your environmental baseline. So this entails your carbon, water and waste impacts for a single year that’s representative of typical operations. And then sometimes we also do see brands making claims and setting targets prior to doing this baseline. And that’s totally okay if you set the goal already to meet carbon neutral, but you won’t be able to monitor and report on progress towards that goal until you’ve done this initial baseline calculation and the subsequent calculations to compare to this baseline, whether that’s on an annual, quarterly, or other frequency basis. It can also be helpful to know your expansion plans and to understand your supply chain. Any expansion plans that you’re making are supply chain. Any expansion plans that you’re making are super exciting from an operational perspective, and it’s important to consider them in your sustainability plans as well so that you can expand in a way that aligns with your goals. And like we mentioned earlier, you can avoid having to retrofit processes to become more sustainable later. Another thing to consider is that reaching your goal or maintaining your claim often requires resources. So it’s important to think through the budget and staffing needs that might be required to reach your goals. For example, to reach a decarbonization goal, you’ll likely need to implement some combination of direct projects on site as well as purchasing carbon credits.
(28:40): So accounting for these costs in your budget is an important step, as is identifying whether any third party support is going to be needed. And lastly, many companies are setting targets for some future date, like 2040 or 2050. And while these long-term goals are important, interim milestones are also important to help define a pathway for how to reach these goals, which helps companies actually be successful in meeting these goals rather than just kicking the can down the road.
Dominic Sung (29:11): Okay. So sustainability claims can potentially spur growth, and I think a big concern for early stage companies, like a lot of the companies here at Greentown, a big concern is with high growth, in that absolute emissions will inherently be greater as a company grows. How do you go about reducing emissions while simultaneously expanding your operations and have the quantification and the numbers actually show that when your gross emissions almost as an axiom will get bigger as your company grows?
Nicole Sullivan (29:49): Yeah, that’s a great question and a concern I hear a lot, right? We’re growing, we’re expanding our operations, we’re adding new facilities, we’re adding new suppliers, we’re increasing from operating five days a week to seven days a week. Any number of things like that where your operations are increasing, your fuel consumption is increasing, your distribution footprint is increasing. To your point, those things can all increase your overall carbon footprint. Something that I encourage companies early on in their journey to consider is when you’re looking at your carbon footprint, it’s also really important beyond your overall footprint, which is typically measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. So hard to visualize, but that’s the standard unit of measure in this space. So beyond your total footprint, I encourage companies to look at emissions intensity.
(30:44): So this is your overall emissions normalized against either a product if you are manufacturing a product line. Or if you are more of like an office space focused business, it might be your emissions on a square footage of space basis. Or depending on the nature of your operations, it could even be emissions related back to a number of full-time employees equivalent. But basically, it’s a mechanism to normalize your emissions against a unit basis. So if you’re making a product, emissions intensity is typically looked at in kilograms or even grams depending on the size of your footprint of carbon dioxide equivalent per item. And so you’ve likely set targets for your overall carbon footprint such as a net-zero target or an overall reduction in emissions. But it’s also really important to consider that as you grow and as your overall footprint might be increasing, you want to continually becoming more efficient from an emissions intensity perspective and reducing that emissions intensity. So even if you’re scaling and growing, if you’re optimizing processes, if you’re becoming more energy efficient, you can drive down that emissions per unit basis.
(32:08): So I have a little case study here from Beatbox Beverages. They’re a manufacturer of party punch. They actually use a co-packer for their manufacturing. So they’re very heavy on the scope three side from an emissions perspective in proportion to their scope one and two emissions. But in 2021, they had a total emissions footprint of about 6,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. And when normalized against their overall production rate for the same year, their emissions intensity was 445.45 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per carton of party punch. So in addition to this being a really important metric for being able to track if you’re becoming more efficient as you scale, it’s also really important for your customers to be able to visualize these things in more relatable terms, right? Grams per a carton of the thing you’re purchasing is a lot easier to visualize than nebulous thousands of metric tons.
(33:18): So I personally feel like emissions intensity is a really important metric and definitely something that we considered as you’re scaling. Obviously with setting targets and being able to reach them, you’re also wanting to drive down your overall footprint. But I know in high growth situations, your most important consideration is getting product out the door or getting operations or getting the funds secured to be able to grow even further. So definitely important to not just look at overall carbon footprint, but also consider your emissions intensity.
Dominic Sung (33:58): Thanks Nicole. Tori, if a company can wrap its head around the concept and can get comfortable with the value proposition and effort to set a 2030, 2040 or a target beyond, how do you start to make progress today?
Tori Chen (34:15): Sure. So like mentioned before, the very first step is to understand the current state of the company’s environmental footprint and do that initial baseline calculation if it hasn’t already been done before setting the goal. And while doing this, it can be very helpful to ensure that there’s a system in place to regularly capture the data needed for future calculations and reporting. Then businesses can do a materiality assessment to help prioritize which sustainability initiatives to implement first. Some initiatives may require funding or employee training, which both take time. So it’s a good idea to get an early start today. Oftentimes, improving sustainability also is a team effort, and companies should also consider external partnerships to help achieve their goals. For example, they can reach out to supply chain members to see what partnerships can be formed, or they can work with environmental nonprofits or climate services companies for expertise and guidance.
Dominic Sung (35:16): Thanks for a good base of how a company can get started on the path towards decarbonization. While direct action, as we’ve said, is the most linear way to achieve decarbonization, I think there’s been a lot in the press recently around carbon offset credits. And I think as we’ve mentioned, for the difficult to abate emissions, that’s a significant tool that can be utilized. But how do those work and how do offsets work as a part of someone’s decarbonization strategy, Nicole?
Nicole Sullivan (35:46): Yeah, sure. So as you might recall from the net-zero equation that Tori walked us through, carbon credits and offsetting are a tool for balancing out your emission. So you purchase carbon credits, which is an investment in decarbonization activities globally, and then those carbon credits offset your emissions when you retire the credit. So something that’s important to consider is the quality of a carbon credit. So it’s universally accepted that a carbon credit is representative of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that’s been removed, reduced or sequestered or voided from the environment. And then there’s a number of criteria that you might be considering when you’re purchasing a carbon credit. Quality is very important, but one of your first priorities might actually be cost, right? You have to know the quantity of carbon credits you’re looking to buy based on your emissions, and you also have a budget to consider.
(36:53): But I’d highly consider looking at the quality of the carbon credit and the integrity of that credit. So there’s a number of criteria that we look at when we’re sourcing credits for clients, and one of the first ones is, was the carbon credit issued by a reputable registry and has it been third party verified? Has that project been validated to follow a standard that’s reputable? Is it publicly listed on that registry? Some examples of the carbon credit registries I’m speaking of include the Verra Carbon Standard as well as Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve. Beyond who issued the carbon credit, you want to look at is the project additional? Meaning is it something that would not have happened otherwise in the world from an environmental benefit perspective if that carbon project had not been developed? You also want to consider the permanence of the project, as in, how long will the impact of that carbon project last? Vintage is another consideration we often look at, and in this case we’re not talking about wine, it’s the year the carbon credit was issued. So it’s important to consider if you’re buying a credit to offset your 2022 emissions and you get this offer for carbon credits from say, 2015, have the protocols changed since that time? A lot of times, we look for credits within three to five years of the years that you’re looking to offset your emissions for. And then you want to avoid double counting. That’s of huge importance. And then lastly, we’re increasingly looking at the co-benefits of carbon projects. So you’re offsetting your carbon emissions with these carbon credits, but is this project that you’re investing in doing more than just sequestering or reducing carbon? Are there any co-benefits such as job creation in a specific region or water co-benefits or biodiversity benefits? By reviewing different projects and really sourcing projects that align with your overall sustainable development goals, you might find that you can prioritize projects that not just have a strong carbon impact, but also have other environmental benefits.
Dominic Sung (39:24): So we’ve established that there are high quality carbon credits available and they can be useful to mitigate, hard to evade emissions. But where and how do I go about buying them?
Nicole Sullivan (39:41): Yeah, that’s a great question. So in this space, if you’re out shopping for carbon credits, it’s not the same as online shopping for shoes. There aren’t a ton of options yet on the internet to just go out and research a bunch of projects and pick out the projects that align best with your values and then just purchase them over the internet. There are some marketplaces. So for example, I mentioned the Gold Standard Registry. They actually have a public marketplace where you can buy credits in small volumes. There’s also marketplaces like Cool Effect, but typically, you’re limited in the projects that you have access to as well as the volumes that you would procure by that mechanism. Typically, the marketplaces have a price per ton that might feel high for end users.
(40:29): In the higher carbon footprint range, when we’re talking thousands plus of carbon credits that you’re looking to source, you may work with a broker or multiple brokers. You might go through a request for proposal process where you set your criteria such as you want projects in a specific geography or on a specific registry, or maybe you’re looking for just nature-based projects. Maybe your company’s really looking to invest in reforestation activities or blue carbon like mangrove projects. So you might set that criteria out and source from multiple brokers to see what they can show you. Depending on your volumes, it’s likely going to impact the variety that you see. So sometimes for volumes of less than 5,000 or less than 10,000 metric tons, you might be shown less options.
(41:21): So at CarbonBetter, we’ve actually taken a portfolio approach where we’ve kind of solved that access issue by sourcing credits from projects that give you options to buy projects from a portfolio of… The one currently available has four projects in it so that you can diversify the project technologies that you’re purchasing from. But it’s something that you want to source carbon credits from someone you trust that has a high propensity towards quality criteria, and that also gives you the variety of projects you’re looking for. There are ever evolving carbon…
Nicole Sullivan (42:02): There are ever evolving carbon reduction and removal technologies and your sustainability goals might have you prioritizing certain technologies over others. So it can be a little tricky to navigate, but it’s also really important to evaluate those quality criteria as you shop for carbon products.
Dominic Sung (42:22): Thanks, Nicole. And if it seems like a lot and very opaque of a world, it is, and maybe a not so shameless plug is that if you need help navigating that, we’d be happy to help you. Obviously, there’s a lot of different avenues you can go down and this is what we do on the bread and butter, so happy to do that as you go forward.
(42:44): But I do realize a lot of it can seem daunting. We’ve probably thrown a lot of information at a lot of you so far and it probably feels a little overwhelming at some point, but I do recognize that in a lot of your cases, you’re very likely resource constrained at the moment.
(43:02): So Tori, what do you say to someone who says, “I’ll just tackle this when it becomes an absolute necessity?” And what risks are associated with inaction at an early stage?
Tori Chen (43:17): So first off, of course, totally understandable if it seems really daunting or overwhelming, especially when sustainability initiatives may require significant resources.
(43:29): However, taking action can actually protect the business from larger risks or costs down the road. So delaying action leads to a risk of not meeting goals or regulation. So the earlier you act, the easier it will be to reach net-zero.
(43:46): A lot of time and resources go into sustainability initiatives. For example, taking the time to calculate baseline emissions or acquiring the necessary capital investments for projects.
(43:58): And additionally, for hard to abate emissions, carbon offsets are a limited resource and can be more difficult to acquire as time goes on. For example, if you have a net-zero target for ’24 to 2050, it could be really hard to predict what the carbon market is going to look like in the future.
(44:18): In addition to not meeting internal goals, those sustainability regulatory requirements that we talked about that are on the rise. So it’s good to get ahead and be ready to meet these requirements.
(44:28): Another risk that businesses face by not acting is rising costs, as the impacts of climate change continue to worsen cost of things such as energy will increase. So becoming more sustainable and reducing dependencies on these inputs can save costs in the long run.
(44:46): And lastly, not taking timely action on sustainability can result in lost revenue and business opportunities. Many customers and other stakeholders are demanding more from businesses to be environmentally friendly, and taking action allows companies to keep up with this demand. There have been studies conducted that show that customers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. So inaction could actually result in losing the opportunity to capture this additional revenue or being pushed out by competitors that are taking the action to meet customer demands.
Dominic Sung (45:21): Sorry, that should have been up there the whole time. My bad.
(45:27): I’ll leave that up there for a second. I want to try to circle everything back together with maybe one final question here. So what do each of you see as the biggest hurdle, as well as the opportunity with companies setting and reaching their targets?
Nicole Sullivan (45:49): Yeah, so-
Dominic Sung (45:50): Nicole, if you want to go first. Yeah?
Nicole Sullivan (45:51): Sure. There’s a whole lot of hurdles. I get it. This is a complicated space. It feels like the landscape is ever- changing. You’re getting pressures from investors, you’re getting pressures from customers. You also have to meet your bottom line.
(46:08): But I think in facing that pressure to set targets and take action, I really feel like there’s an informational and educational hurdle. So getting access to trained resources or team members that know how to quantify your impacts and set pragmatic targets and have the science-based information to help you decarbonize actively and understand how the carbon markets work, it’s hard to get access to those resources. And the information on the internet can honestly feel really overwhelming, and if you haven’t been participating in the space for a long time, it can be really hard to navigate. So I think sometimes one of the biggest hurdle is just actually being able to cut through some of the noise and get started, but also, providing that education is one of my favorite parts of my job, and being able to help partner with brands to get started on that journey and be really strategic in how they move through improving their sustainability initiatives.
(47:10): From an opportunity perspective, something that I see as a really big opportunity is the opportunity to be a front-runner and be solution oriented and be a leader in this space. There’s a lot of people that are setting far out goals or haven’t set goals at all, but the opportunity to really set pragmatic action and tell people about it in a trustworthy way and then drive change in your space and the industry as a whole, I think is a really cool opportunity.
Dominic Sung (47:41): Thanks. Tori, I would pose the same question to you. What do you see as the biggest hurdle, as well as opportunity with companies setting and reaching their targets?
Tori Chen (47:49): Sure. So for hurdles, I actually want to build onto Nicole’s mention of the lack of information hurdle a bit. One of the challenges that I frequently see is lack of data. Not only are there internal challenges to ensure that data is captured fully and accurately, there can also be difficulties working with supply chain partners in order to get data for scope through calculations.
(48:12): Also, as there is constant innovation in the climate space, new climate technologies or methods sometimes lack sufficient data on their efficacy or externalities, making it difficult for businesses to choose what to implement as part of their sustainability strategy.
(48:29): On the other hand, for opportunities, there’s a lot of hidden value drivers for businesses that work under sustainability. For example, reputational benefits from making and meeting claims can lead to increased revenue. Implementing solutions that decrease the business’s dependencies on natural resources also builds resiliency against climate change related weather events, which can lead to lower costs. And innovating around new climate friendly products and services can lead to new revenue streams.
(48:57): So overall, I think sustainability is an exciting opportunity for businesses to see how they can both grow their business and help the planet in a win-win situation.
Dominic Sung (49:09): Awesome. Well, I will, in interest of time, try to jam through this last bit and get to questions. But I just wanted to highlight this slide and say if you have a desire to set up some time for some free office hours, a session with Nicole, there’s a QR code there to set some time up on her calendar and work some time there. And then, a link to subscribe to our weekly newsletter on LinkedIn to stay in touch. It’s called Sustainable Progress, and it’ll help you stay informed on sustainability news, our latest blog posts and contents that we’re putting out in upcoming events by CarbonBetter as we go.
(49:46): I will pull up the chat now. Give me one second.
Kendrick Alridge (49:58): There are a couple questions in the chat, not necessarily the Q&A section. One’s a comment and one is a question from Andrew and Mark.
Dominic Sung (50:10): Sounds good. And just on this slide too is our LinkedIn information and email for you to reach out if you want to get ahold of us outside of this once this is over.
(50:20): Well, the first request I guess, “If you could share the slides displayed in the meeting?” We will definitely get these in a way… Kendrick has them and can get them sent out to you guys, so we will have those distributed for you. [inaudible 00:50:34] information, and then we totally understand wanting to reference that later on. Mark, we will reach out and try to talk to you.
(50:42): And then, there is a question here, “Is CarbonBetter working with companies and communities in Africa, and in particularly Zambia, who are targeting about 100,000 hectares of natural forest under voluntary carbon projects?” If so, Vincent would like us to reach out. But Nicole, if you want to answer that real quick.
Nicole Sullivan (51:04): Yeah, sure. So we’re not actively working on anything in Zambia, but we are currently working on an agroforestry project in Ghana that we’re really excited about. So agroforestry is a really cool nature-based technology whereby you’re looking at reforestation, but you’re also looking at planting food sources and engaging farmers. There’s an education component for females in the region, but it’s all about not just looking at that carbon sequestration associated with tree planting, but you’re also increasing food security in the region when taking an agroforestry approach. So it’s something where we’re really excited about, but we’d be happy to touch base on Zambia opportunities.
Dominic Sung (51:53): There’s another one from Kyle. I’m going to mispronounce your name, Kyle Kulow, “Is CarbonBetter open to partnering with small sustainability consultants, helping their clients achieve their operational and sustainability goals? If so, how do you prefer to support?”
Nicole Sullivan (52:13): Yeah, we’d be happy to connect and explore partnership opportunities and see if there’s a way for us to collaborate with you, Kyle.
Dominic Sung (52:23): And Kyle, I’ll just add onto that. I think we don’t have a very specific formatted way. For us, everything is pretty bespoke, so we’re open to helping everyone as we dovetail in terms of efforts and trying to help everyone take steps towards doing better regarding their sustainability. So open to the conversation and see what we can figure out.
(52:50): Shankar Bala is asking, “In India, how best can we support?” Shankar, without really a lot of context of what you’re doing and what your company does, not really sure, but feel free to reach out to us. Our contact information is all here. Let us know what you’re working on and what you’re working towards and I think we can bounce ideas back and forth to see how we can assist you in India and working towards your goals.
(53:22): Another request for our slides. And I think that’s all the questions that I see in there. I know we’re a little bit pushing on time, but for sure we’ll get our slides out to everyone, sent out.
(53:40): And thanks Nicole and Tori for spending a lot of time talking through a lot of details and hopefully this is helpful to everybody. Kendrick, thank you so much for giving us the time and the platform here with Greentown, in partnership with you guys to work through this.
Kendrick Alridge (53:58): All right, thank you so much to the CarbonBetter team. We greatly appreciate that. Everyone, I will be sending out the information to the CarbonBetter team so they can reach you guys with the follow-up questions you guys may have, as well as sharing the PowerPoint presentations.
(54:13): So if there are no more questions in the chat… Last call. Anyone? Shankar, I don’t know if you want to come off of mute and elaborate on your request for assistance in India? No? All right, everyone. Thank you so much everyone for coming today. We greatly appreciate that and we’ll see you guys next time.
Nicole Sullivan (54:38): Thanks all and thanks Kendrick. Have a good one. Bye.
In addition to the full replay above, here is a quick summary of the key points made in the webinar. Click any section below to go directly to the summary for that section.
The webinar kicked off with introductions from the panelists. They highlighted their backgrounds and expertise in the sustainability sector, setting the stage for the in-depth discussions that followed. The importance of the topic was emphasized, given the increasing global focus on sustainability and the need for businesses to adapt.
The panelists explained the nuances between merely pledging to be net-zero and actually achieving it. They discussed the challenges many companies face in their journey towards sustainability, emphasizing that while making a pledge is a commendable first step, the real work lies in implementing actionable strategies to achieve these goals. The importance of transparency and accountability in this process was also highlighted.
This segment provided clarity on the term “net zero.” The panelists explained that being net zero means balancing the amount of greenhouse gasses (GHG) emitted with the amount removed from the atmosphere. They discussed the various strategies businesses can adopt to achieve this balance, such as reducing emissions, investing in renewable energy, and offsetting emissions through initiatives like tree planting.
The discussion shifted to the evolving regulatory landscape surrounding sustainability. The panelists highlighted upcoming regulations and standards that businesses need to be aware of, including the proposed SEC Climate Disclosure rule, the federal supplier proposed rule, and the European Union’s (EU) Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). They emphasized the importance of staying updated with these changes to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal and financial repercussions. Examples of regulatory pressures, such as the forthcoming global plastics treaty and state-by-state extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in the US, were cited.
During this segment, the audience was engaged in a poll to gauge how many participants have already set a net-zero target for their respective organizations. The results of the poll were insightful, revealing a mix of companies at various stages of their sustainability journey. The panelists used this data to tailor their subsequent discussions, addressing the needs and concerns of both companies that have set targets and those still considering it.
The panelists discussed the rising importance of sustainability to stakeholders, from investors to consumers. They highlighted recent trends showing increased demand for sustainable products and practices. The discussion also touched upon the role of stakeholders in driving companies toward more sustainable operations. Real-world examples were shared, showcasing how businesses have benefited from aligning their strategies with stakeholder expectations on sustainability.
Emphasizing the significance of early adoption, the panelists discussed the advantages of integrating sustainability from the inception of a business. They pointed out that companies that embed sustainability into their core strategies often find it easier to adapt to regulatory changes, meet stakeholder expectations, and achieve long-term success. The discussion also touched upon the challenges and potential pitfalls of retrofitting sustainability into established operations.
The return on investment (ROI) of sustainability was a key topic of discussion. The panelists talked about the tangible and intangible benefits companies can reap from sustainable practices. They highlighted how sustainability can lead to cost savings, enhanced brand reputation, and increased customer loyalty. Real-world examples were provided, showcasing companies that have seen significant ROI from their sustainability initiatives.
The panelists provided guidance on the crucial steps companies should take before publicly announcing sustainability claims or commitments. They emphasized the importance of thorough research, stakeholder engagement, and ensuring that any claims can be substantiated. The risks of greenwashing were also discussed, with the panelists advising companies to be transparent and honest in their sustainability communications.
The panelists discussed the delicate balance between business growth and sustainability, and the importance of tracking metrics such as carbon emissions intensity. They highlighted strategies that allow companies to expand their operations while still reducing their carbon footprint. Emphasis was placed on the importance of innovation, adopting cleaner technologies, and streamlining operations to be more energy-efficient. The discussion also touched upon the role of renewable energy sources and the potential of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
The conversation shifted to actionable steps businesses can take in the present to progress towards their sustainability goals. The panelists emphasized the importance of setting clear, measurable targets and regularly monitoring progress. They also discussed the role of employee engagement, stakeholder collaboration, and the need for continuous learning and adaptation in the face of evolving sustainability challenges.
The panelists highlighted the various risks companies face by not taking proactive steps towards sustainability. These risks range from regulatory penalties and legal challenges to reputational damage and loss of consumer trust. The discussion also touched upon the potential financial implications, with companies potentially missing out on investment opportunities or facing divestment.
This segment focused on the challenges and opportunities companies face in their sustainability journey. The panelists discussed common hurdles, such as lack of knowledge, resources, or stakeholder buy-in. They also highlighted the opportunities that arise from embracing sustainability, including access to new markets, increased consumer loyalty, and potential cost savings.
The panelists discussed CarbonBetter’s ongoing and potential projects in Africa. They highlighted the continent’s unique sustainability challenges and opportunities and emphasized the company’s commitment to supporting sustainable development in the region.
The webinar concluded with a discussion on collaboration opportunities. The panelists expressed CarbonBetter’s openness to partnering with small sustainability consultants, emphasizing the value of diverse perspectives and expertise in driving sustainable change.
Dominic wraps up the webinar with some closing thoughts.
The journey to sustainability and achieving net-zero emissions is multifaceted, but with the right guidance, it’s entirely within reach. Whether you’re at the beginning of your sustainability journey, aiming to understand the nuances of carbon offsets, or looking to set ambitious net-zero targets for your organization, our team of experts is here to assist. With a deep understanding of the sustainability landscape and the challenges and opportunities it presents, we’re ready to help your business make a meaningful impact. Contact us today to get started on your sustainability journey.