BY SANDRA MOERCH FOR ADELLO MAGAZINE
In order to understand the pressures of Net Zero in the marketing world, we have to take stock of the global business and sustainability environment. The best way to understand the correlation between market expectations and what needs to be done is to look at the data.
Now that we understand the market expectations, let’s embark on a regulatory sustainability crash course to uncover the legislative pressures we face in business.
ESG are three of the hottest letters on the corporate agenda today. ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. While each of the three disciplines has its own set of standards and practices, together, they indicate an organization’s dedication to achieving the greater good. Investors, customers, employees, and other stakeholders are turning up the pressure on companies to reduce the environmental impact of their business and be more transparent about ESG reporting.
With that in mind, let’s delve into the meaning behind the letters.
Environmental criteria focus on the company’s impact on the planet. In addition to climate-change initiatives, this category includes energy usage, pollution outputs, water management, and other environmental impacts.
The social element of ESG focuses on the way the company treats people. It includes the relationships that organizations have with their workforces, the societies in which they operate, and the current political atmosphere, including diversity, equity and inclusion, health and safety, labor management, data privacy, and community relations.
The governance portion refers to a set of organizational practices, controls, and procedures used to make effective decisions, remain compliant, and meet stakeholder demands, including fraud, anti-bribery and corruption, security, financial performance, business ethics, and internal audit, as well as executive leadership and pay.
There are different reporting frameworks that are easily available and help companies disclose ESG-related information. Some of the most commonly used ones are:
In content marketing, we can use these frameworks to call out the added benefits of our offerings for society, the environment, as well as the economy. If you find yourself offering a product or a service that does not add benefit to ESG, you can take that responsibility and become a catalyst in your organization, because integrating your company’s mission with a larger purpose, will be imperative for businesses of the future.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has divided Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions into three scopes:
Scope 1 – Emissions from fuel burned in owned or controlled assets—think buildings, vehicles, and equipment. Scope 1 also includes accidental or fugitive emissions like chemical and refrigerant leaks and spills.
Scope 2 – Emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat, and cooling in buildings and production processes. Think of these as indirect emissions you create by figuratively “keeping the lights on.”
Scope 3 – This includes all other indirect emissions associated with a company’s upstream and downstream operations. Unless a business has significant real estate holdings and energy consumption, scope 3 typically represents the most significant contributor to a company’s carbon footprint because it includes things like:
• Business travel (e.g., air travel)
• Employee commuting
• Waste generated in operations and waste disposal
• Purchased goods and services
• Transportation and distribution tied to suppliers and customers
• Capital goods, investments, and franchises
• Leased assets
• Emissions from the use of a product or service sold
• Product’s end of life (when it’s no longer useful)
Measuring GHG emissions or creating an emissions inventory is critical to understanding your company’s carbon footprint and impact. If you want to reduce your emissions and fossil fuel use, you have to calculate them before creating a reduction target. If you didn’t, it’d be like saying you want to lose weight without first stepping on a scale. You can exercise and diet all you want, but how would you know what’s working without an initial benchmark?
While carbon or GHG accounting might seem daunting, it should be the first step on a company’s sustainability journey. After that, you’ll be able to look for efficiency opportunities, waste reduction, or ways to streamline procurement or other essential activities. And for us, marketers, you want to be able to lead by example and share that story with the world.
When learning about the impacts of sustainability, it is important to also look at it through a human lens, which is something we tend to lose sight of when we talk about emissions and circularity. What about the people who are victims of climate change and exponential waste? Here are some insightful data points to shed light on the challenge:
There are real people behind these numbers, which makes the agenda so much more urgent for us to advance in a positive direction.
It’s no longer an option for brands to ignore sustainability issues. As it becomes more ingrained in the brand-consumer relationship and purchasing, there’s a clear opportunity to win favor with the right approach.
It’s time for brands to measure up by proving to consumers, in an authentic and transparent way, their dedication to the planet and, in turn, the people they serve.
Moving beyond your brand narrative and into the core sustainability journey for your company will not only eliminate the risk of your company being associated with "greenwashing," but it will, most importantly, help us scale these positive efforts for our planet to thrive. To help inspire you, I have identified some leading examples that are doing just that in the marketplace. Let’s start with…
I am inspired by these brands' ability to think outside the box and, most importantly, look at sustainability as a mission much bigger than any single brand. If we all act that way, the planet still has a fair chance to thrive.
As sustainable content marketers, it is our duty to harness the momentum of sustainability and infuse our materials to send a powerful message that’ll spur change not only on behalf of our own organization but influence our peers and partners to create impact at scale. Sustainability is a team sport, and neither one person nor a company can win alone. I look forward to fighting the good fight. Together.