The Bigger Picture of ESG: Alexis Asks

Managing editor Alexis Mizell-Pleasant asks industry experts about various topics in the supply chain. The COP28 agreement is notable, but it begs the question, are businesses and industries actually ready to take action?

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In early December, the United Nations Climate Change conference, COP28, concluded with a historic agreement to tackle the climate crisis globally. The agreement calls for more decisive climate action in the face of rapidly accelerating climate change and more dangerous weather that is leading to massive environmental, economic and societal woes. 

Key messages from COP28 include:

  • Declaration recognizes need to transition away from fossil fuels
  • It aims to keep Paris Agreement 1.5°C goal within reach
  • It voices concern at accelerating pace of climate change
  • It reflects WMO scientific input
  • It urges more adaptation financing, including through Early Warnings for All

The landslide decision to transition away from fossil fuels by nearly 200 countries is notable, but it begs the question, are businesses and industries actually ready to take action?

According to Stephen Keys, chief sustainability officer at IFS, the full scope of ESG goes beyond a few metrics. "Embedding ESG across all functions ensures that sustainability becomes an integral part of the company's DNA rather than a standalone initiative. It involves deeper visibility across a company’s entire value chain, which is often challenging. While senior management now grasps the importance of ESG and its "why", translating the scale of ESG into practice can be daunting," says Keys.

For an ESG governance structure to work, Keys explains, everyone in the organization needs to understand their roles. Through cross-functional collaboration, the total organization, and all sectors including procurement, marketing, finance, etc., becomes invested and involved with the efforts. Additionally, businesses should work to identify where gaps may exist in order to prepare and establish ways to improve. 

“The priorities for business must now be to set evidence-based targets, to be transparent about progress and to embed sustainability into everyday operations, business practices and decision making to drive meaningful change," says Keys. 

Confronting the realities of the climate crisis is one step in a positive direction, but to truly find the steps towards action, businesses must choose to take action that includes all facets of their organization and threading that understanding into how they operate.