Companies’ Commitment to Sustainability Lacks Steel, It Is High Time

Companies’ Commitment to Sustainability Lacks Steel, It Is High Time

Sustainability policy needs to be driven from the C-level, and the ownership needs to be at the BOARD: Karl W Feilder

The recently held Sustainability Middle East Conference 2023 - 'Future of Sustainability: The Road to COP28’, was a major success with stakeholders and experts from an array of sectors participating actively, and sharing their thoughts on Sustainability.

The sessions at the first edition of the Sustainability Middle East conference were moderated by renowned subject matter expert on Sustainability – Karl W Feilder who delivered thought-provoking first-hand accounts in his opening speech.

Below are the excerpts from this enlightening deliberation…

I did my first conference on sustainability in 2007, when I was heckled from the audience; it was in the United States.

I said that we have got a serious problem about climate change. Somebody at the back of the audience asked me how I was so certain on this.

He further said that I should be locked for lying to the world.

I am very pleased to see that we seemed to have moved on a little bit since then, and everybody seems to recognise that the world is changing.

It was very pleasing to see His Highness Sheikh Mohammed attending a meeting where every single Emirate signed up to the net-zero commitment by 2050. But I was especially pleased that they all committed to a measurement and monitoring process.

The reason for that is – net zero is a mathematical concept. So, when I go and visit large corporates, and ask them about their preparations towards achieving net zero, they say: “We have Happy Smiley faces - If it goes badly we have a red grumpy face, and if all is well we have a smiling green face.”

I asked them, “What is the numerical value of these green and red faces?”

I know that they have not yet started thinking correctly about this yet. They have not yet gone this far about assessing and measuring their carbon footprint.

This is going to be a journey for all of us together. It is going to be hard.

I remember being asked in 2009, by the Head of Deutsche Post (DHL), “Karl, how many people do you think we need in our company to work on sustainability?”

At that time, the organisation had 520,000 employees. I asked, how many of those employees are Accountants, for accounting money?

The answer was – “About 20,000”.

I had a team of 13 people doing Sustainability, so, I boldly suggested that we might need, 20,000 people doing sustainability - because they would actually save some money, reduce carbon footprint, while making a difference, and moving the business forward.

That numerical-based approach is something we have seen running through a lot of the companies that have taken up science-based targets initiatives - The international numeric way of measuring carbon footprint.

This year, I have sat in 7 sustainability conferences, in some of them as a speaker. And honestly, I have been bold. Green washing is achieving new levels.

Companies are coming up with Spokespeople, Heads of Sustainability and Power Point Presentations which are superb, but lack, any detail, any commitment or any concept of how serious this is.

The policy needs to be driven from the C-level. It needs to driven by the CEO, and the ownership needs to be at the BOARD. This challenge will affect everyone in the organisation and every business in the world.

We need to address it and need to get on with it NOW.

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