Post COP27: A future with integrity

14 November 2022

Corporations are now finding the integrity of their environmental and social declarations and data under scrutiny. Stakeholders are looking for action, not declaration platitudes and graphs - and they fully understand the difference. The integrity of declarations, data and strategies is now the focal point to meet our collective net zero emissions obligations.   

A changing world and a changing understanding

Governments and businesses are under increasing pressure from society to provide environmentally sound, socially fair and inclusive products and services, and to deliver the same returns on investment as before.  

Navigating success through conflicting demands of the environment, society and economy requires a level of broad and outside-of-the-box thinking that is new to many corporate directors, who are often focused singularly on maximising financial returns first. 

This perspective on success requires a tight grip on a whole set of new metrics. It requires navigation of a plethora of “guidance” and standards not endorsed by governments, many of which are still being defined and then redefined.

It is not surprising that both governments and businesses geared primarily for financial prosperity struggle to show and prove to stakeholders that they are pivoting for the new vision of long-term “success”.  

To date much of this struggle for corporations has been in understanding what these new metrics mean in terms of market position on climate change. Stakeholders’ understanding on the transparency of this positioning has matured significantly since COP26 which has resulted in integrity of data and strategy being the new focal point. 

What is transparency?

The Paris Agreement places a strong emphasis on transparency under Article 13, defining the need for accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency in data and strategy. It provides the framework for broad stakeholder engagement, deep scrutiny and a foundation for trust and understanding.

This scrutiny of data through the global stocktake and the facilitative sharing of views provides a starting point to build long-term success by building trust and understanding. 

Since the Paris Agreement, transparency has been the new and exciting term bringing nations together to tackle the global problem of climate change. However, investors and discerning customers are no longer convinced by transparency alone; statements on operational impacts and vague promises of a better future are not enough. They expect organisations to act on the best interests of their natural environments and the diverse communities that provide them with an income, and to prove that they are doing this. 

What is integrity?

Integrity is often referred to as the measure of the quality, credibility and comprehensiveness of climate change disclosures. However, the integrity itself also comes from us as individuals. It’s the way we act and the way we work collaboratively and inclusively to solve problems that are bigger than our own short term financial and societal issues. 

Without a lens on integrity, corporations open themselves up to being challenged; an unintended negative consequence of making statements on future aspirations, without conviction, colloquially described as greenwashing. 

Organisations that have truly understood their pathways to net zero success, including their costs, deliverability and the whole system of interactions, will be more resilient to scrutiny and better able to engage with their stakeholders on the journey that their declarations will take them.

About the authors: Justin Goodwin and Jonny Riggall work with corporations and governments globally on developing measuring, reporting and verification systems for increased transparency and integrity for disclosing environmental and social data.

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