Boston, USA, April 2018 – At this year’s Ceres Conference a strong contingent of US business leaders filled the political void, championing climate action on the global stage and committing to Science Based Targets (SBTs). For us at South Pole, this conference underlined private sector collaboration and engagement, particularly for scope 3 emissions, to deliver on the 2° target.

The energy of the 'We Are Still In [Paris]' campaign has transcended sectoral divides, but this conference heard repeated demands for ‘collaboration’ amongst corporates to ‘go big’ and deliver sustainable action at scale because siloed incrementalism will not deliver on 2 degrees.

At Ceres 2018, conversations moved away from circular discussions of methodology and process, turning instead to examples of tangible climate action; most speakers represented corporations that have adopted SBTs. Corporate leaders noted that protecting supply chains from climate risk is vital for business, that values can be upheld without sacrificing value and that they will need to demonstrate proof of positive impact in their supply chains to investors and other stakeholders.

But is this sentiment being backed with action?

We have heard some examples of concrete action by corporations within their supply chains- facilitated by newly formed collaborations between corporates and their ‘former NGO adversaries’:

  • A joint project between PepsiCo and WHO is supporting small farmers;
  • Walmart is partnering with the WWF to provide tools for suppliers to reduce and measure emissions; and
  • Hewlett Packard is supporting its suppliers to adopt SBTs, allocating its spend across suppliers according to environmental performance.

These developments are also interesting for the investors who attended Ceres 2018 to learn more about SBTs and how they are being implemented, as they are increasingly demanding this type of sustainable action from their portfolio companies. Investors are looking for investment opportunities for their clients, so corporates must demonstrate that they have identified the climate risks in their supply chains and have mitigation pathways.

SBTs are rapidly becoming ‘the new normal’, but to be not only “still in” but really “all in”, companies must address scope 3 emissions – the major type of emissions for most corporations – and this requires understanding where supply chain risks lie and how to build climate resilience.

This can be challenging for certain sectors. The food and beverage sector for instance has fragmented, and presently only a fifth of companies take agricultural GHG into account when calculating their scope 3 emissions. With emissions from agriculture and deforestation set to increase by 80 percent before 2050, this is problematic.[1]

Our food system, with its agricultural supply chain and resulting deforestation, is one of the biggest threats to our climate and requires scaling of action.

We are observing a renewed demand for carbon credits; corporates wishing to meet the demands of investors and progress their scope 3 emissions SBTs can now leverage this demand to secure off-take financing. This revenue can fund coalitions and drive mitigation action, at scale, across shared global supply chains.

Additionally, corporates can also take action in their supply chains by developing insetting project concepts including offsetting, feasibility studies, and implementation with innovative financing.

Insetting is a new way of doing business, and allows carbon accounting in a legitimate, scientific and accurate way. It basically means that corporates develop sustainability and climate protection projects within their own actions and supply chains according to international best practice.

The insetting corporates undertake in their supply chain is a good stepping stone to expanding activities to a broader landscape and building projects at scale in partnership with competitors. These bigger programmes generate a surplus of emissions reductions, which can finance the projects through an offtake agreement.

At South Pole we’ve been helping corporates reduce emissions and increase climate resilience with our innovative business solutions for over a decade. Learn more about our sustainable supply chain and insetting solutions, or get in touch to learn how we can help your company develop a custom solution that delivers value to both your business and the Earth.

[1] Ceres member survey, 2018