This month we’re looking at how social and environmental factors can align and reinforce each other. Such win-win outcomes have long been at the heart of the sustainability and responsible business agendas – the proposition that it’s not a binary choice between profit on the one hand and people and planet on the other; on the contrary, getting the latter right can drive successful, enduring businesses.
We have a practical example of this in a case study from EDP, the integrated energy utility with major markets in Portugal, Spain and Brazil. It is tackling access and inclusion, supporting communities affected by closed thermal power stations, and promoting efficiency in use, not just switching supply sources to renewables.
Of course there’s a long way to go before “green-collar” jobs overtake their white- and blue-collar colleagues impacted by the transition governments are calling for. And just as countries are facing a big gap between the rhetoric and reality on the 1.5º goal, so too are large companies with net zero targets unsupported by achievable action plans. Worse, as my colleagues’ analysis shows, the majority of firms in the long tail of smaller enterprises have set no targets at all.
That’s why large firms addressing social factors as well as environmental is so important when looking at their supply chains. As ever, engagement isn’t about delisting but seeking mutually beneficial changes, win-win for customer and supplier, and win-win for people and planet.
Equally important is for governments and companies to reframe this as an opportunity agenda. No politician is going to get re-elected on a platform of higher energy costs, intermittent supply and fewer jobs, however much campaigners highlight the climate emergency.
Likewise for companies, the focus when shaping both S and E programmes is through the lens of the real-life impact on people.
Visit the September Monthly Briefing here.