A survey found that Climate and Environment were the most important topics amongst Swedish voters when deciding on political party in the EU election last month. In fact, flying and meat consumption amongst Swedes decreased during 2017 and 2018 for the first time in a decade. While taxation on flights could have been a driver, environmental concern amongst consumers most likely played an important role. These trends are great news for climate change mitigation and show the climate transition is influencing people's decision making and how companies operate. But, the people and sectors depending on the economic value of these industries cannot be ignored. So, how should businesses respond and evolve their operations?

South Pole invited key sustainability players to the Climate Leaders Forum in Stockholm on 28th May to explore this topic. Giving companies a neutral platform to exchange experiences and ideas is the foundation of the Climate Leaders Forum in order to accelerate climate action.

Hosted by Swedish managing director Jens Olejak together with senior managers, Johan Elisasson and Massimo Di Biaggio and moderated by Erik Huss, a glaciologist by training, the panel comprised five sustainability leaders:

  • Mattias Goldmann, CEO of the think tank Fores and named Sweden's most influential person in sustainability issues in 2016.
  • Lottie Sundelöf, CEO Världens resor (The world's travels) a travel agency organising group trips to far away locations, and the first agency to buy climate compensation for flights.
  • Kaj Török, CRO & CSO (Chief Reputation and Sustainability Officer), Max Burgers sweden's second largest hamburger restaurant.
  • Andreas Skantze, Founder and Director of the Board, Big Image Systems, a world leader in the production of large images.
  • Ola Hansén, Senior Advisor Energy and Climate, WWF Sweden.

Top five takeaways from the event:

  1. The business case

The business sector is realising the benefits and profits of responsible behaviour. For example, in the past 2 years, there has been 350% increase in the sale of eco-beer. Companies who are able to appeal to the needs and concerns of the millennial generation will be able to better tap into a market worth over 13 trillion Euros by 2025. With this frame, climate action becomes a necessary strategic decision.

  1. Maximise your competitive advantage

Its hard to know where to start, participants at the event raised the importance of trying out different methods and communication strategies in order to achieve best results. Communicating climate and environmental work is crucial so conscious customers are aware of efforts and to appeal to the consumer and workforce of the future with students across the world demanding that businesses take climate responsibility seriously.

  1. Act as a catalyser

Instead of waiting for the customers to push the sustainability work forward, leading companies are taking a proactive approach. Big Image's Andreas and his team studied their customer's different environmental policies, compared this to their actual procurement and brought the analysis to the meeting table, explaining how the customer could overachieve their environmental pledges by signing with Big Image. The results? A few customers asked them to leave the table immediately, but a majority signed with them and realised the benefits of choosing environmentally conscious products.

  1. Use data

Climate compensation benefits the environment, while also creating an additional incentive to reduce emissions. As businesses have data on their emissions, which is broken down by activity, it's easier to see where the easiest emission reductions can be achieved. In fact, none of the companies that South Pole has worked with on a footprint assessment has continued as business as usual.

  1. Ensure the integrity of environmental claims

Swedish newspapers these days write full page stories on politicians and companies who do not climate compensate for their flights, something that just two years back would have seemed highly unlikely. Not acting puts your reputation at stake, but you must ensure that your actions meet internationally recognised standards to guarantee that impacts and claims are credible.

In conclusion, the event illustrated the strong push not only from consumers but also from companies to participate in the just climate transition. It's not an easy path, but instead of seeing climate change as a battle, we must see it as a puzzle, that everyone has a part to play in solving.