This article was originally published on Environment Analyst website.
In conversation with Renat Heuberger, CEO of the Swiss-based sustainability consulting and carbon finance group, Environment Analyst hears about South Pole's latest research on net-zero pledges and whether or not they are translating into measurable climate action
To limit the impacts of climate change, the consensus from the scientific community is that the global economy must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Recognising this urgency, a growing number of governments, cities, businesses and investors are rallying together in support of net-zero emissions.
According to the UN coalition, Race to Zero, over 1,000 companies have made the pledge to to decarbonise. That so many of the world's leading companies are embracing net-zero strategies to limit the effects of climate change and future-proof their businesses must be a cause for celebration. But is this really a perfect 'win-win' or simply too good to be true?
It is important to emphasise the difference between pledges and actions. Around this time of the year millions of people across the world start making resolutions to be different or better at something, only for motivation to wane by mid-January. Do these aspirational visions by corporate leaders fall into the same category? Are these pledges to be net-zero by 2030 or 2050 being underpinned by concrete actions or another form of greenwashing?
To answer these questions and to explore deeper corporate action on net-zero strategies, Environment Analyst caught up with South Pole CEO and cofounder Renat Heuberger to discuss the key findings of the company's recent study in this area and the impact of the global pandemic on the sustainability agenda and demand for its specialist services.
South Pole is a global sustainability solutions provider with operations in 18 offices around the world, most recently adding locations in Amsterdam, New York and Singapore. The company's expertise covers project finance and development, climate risk analysis and environmental commodities (carbon and renewable energy credits). Based in Zurich, South Pole began as a project-driven company focused on developing and selling high-quality carbon credits, and was founded in 2006 by five 'enviropreneurs' who, according to Heuberger, had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress the scientific community was making at the time.
"From the get go, we've been in the business of fighting climate change and engaging in results based actions. The progress from the public sector was simply too slow – we wanted to channel the power of the markets to tackle this issue faster," he explains.
Today, with a growing team of 400 professionals, South Pole is a leading provider of climate solutions and has mobilised climate finance for over 700 projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable land use. Internally, the company is structured around three core pillars: sustainability consulting; climate action projects; and climate funds. Although South Pole does not wish to divulge information in regards to its financial performance, Heuberger reveals that both revenue and headcount across these three pillars is split 40:40:20 respectively: "We are a private company, majority owned by employees, and work in a very interdisciplinary manner (across our business practices).
"The latter is essential to be on the pulse of rapidly changing climate policy, global megatrends and diverse requirements from clients. Drawing from a large pool of skills and perspectives – and our unrivaled network of global partners - allows us to think creatively and collaborate effectively when tackling this systemic problem," he remarks.
South Pole is proud to have worked with a wide range of public, private and civil society organisations for nearly 15 years and during this time has partnered with over 1,000 clients worldwide. For example, for ISA - the largest energy transmission company in Latin America - South Pole supported the development of a new, innovative way to finance jaguar habitat protection and restoration using carbon finance. The Conexión Jaguar fund includes REDD+ projects and received recognition at the Environmental Finance awards earlier this year.
Through a collaboration with eBay Germany, South Pole is supporting the online retailer to integrate an emissions compensation option into its e-commerce experience, offering customers the opportunity to offset their CO2 footprint and, by doing so, support high-quality climate protection projects. This makes customers more aware of the climate impact of their daily actions. Meanwhile, in SE Asia, the company is helping to transform e-mobility systems through its work with solar powered batteries for motorcycles in SHIFT Asia.
The full article is available on the Environment Analyst website.