Climate Week NYC, run by The Climate Group, is a robust showcase of public and private sector climate action and a stage for open and insightful conversations about how to achieve more. This year the event focused on “Getting It Done”. During the opening ceremony, the host stressed the need to steer the conversation away from gloom and doom and the impact of climate change efforts, saying scaring people doesn’t translate by greater attention or involvement. What gets results is showing the work that has been done and the resulting positive impact.
I spoke to Sally Fouts, the director of The Climate Pledge, to discuss sustainability impact and accountability. The Climate Pledge was founded in 2019 by Global Optimism and Amazon, which became its first signatory. By signing The Climate Pledge, businesses and organizations pledge to take collective action and work together to fight climate change and work towards a healthier planet. More specifically, the signatories undertake to:
- Achieve net zero carbon in their operations by 2040 and regularly measure and report greenhouse gas emissions
- Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through business change and innovation, such as improved efficiency, renewable energy, material reduction, and other energy strategies. elimination of carbon emissions.
- Neutralize all remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent and socially beneficial offsets
Many technology companies such as Verizon, Microsoft, Twitter, Uber, Salesforce and HP are among the signatories. This week, three years after its inception, The Climate Pledge reached 376 signatories in 34 countries. Fouts is delighted with the milestone sharing: “Shortly after being named Director of The Climate Pledge, COVID hit and I was concerned that the pressure many organizations were under would put the fight for sustainability first. Thankfully, it wasn’t and the milestone we reached this week proves how seriously many people take this job.”
I was personally somewhat surprised that so many companies, some of which are in direct competition with Amazon, have joined The Climate Pledge. Still, Fouts explains that many signers got on board because they saw the work Amazon was doing and wanted to learn. Others who were part of the same ecosystem wanted to leverage this effort. One example of the work Amazon has focused on is its investment in renewable energy projects, which this week saw 71 more added to the list, including its first renewable energy project in South America – a farm solar in Brazil – and its first solar farms in India and Poland. When fully operational, Amazon’s global renewable energy portfolio will generate 50,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of clean energy, the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power 4.6 million US homes annually.
For Amazon, it was clear from the start that making a difference required more than a single effort from the company, regardless of size. For a company as large as Amazon, heavily dependent on an extensive supply chain, there was also the realization that unless supply chain companies got involved, it would be impossible for Amazon to achieve its own goals. Fortunately, other great organizations felt the same way about putting aside business competition for the greater good of the planet and joined The Climate Pledge. “What is needed is for everyone to work together to create the conditions for climate solutions. Driving change must be an inclusive business. That means as many businesses as possible create a plan and s ‘commit to the actions needed to achieve net zero a framework and will help companies around the world take the first step to strengthening their climate commitments,’ Microsoft environmental director Lucas Joppa recently left. .
The belief that getting the job done required partnerships with companies large and small from all corners of the world led Amazon in 2020 to establish The Climate Pledge Fund to support the development of sustainable, decarbonizing technologies and services that will enable signers to achieve the objectives set by The Climate Pledge. With initial funding of $2 billion, Amazon has invested in 18 companies, including Rivian and Infinium, which Amazon will use in its carrier fleet.
This week, Amazon made an additional investment by partnering with Water.org to help launch the Water.org Water & Climate Fund, focused on climate-resilient water and sanitation solutions that will enable sustainable access to 100 million people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In addition to the launch of this fund, Amazon’s $10 million contribution will provide 1 million people with direct access to water by 2025, providing 3 billion liters of water per year in areas facing water scarcity.
Balancing responsibility and action
One of The Climate Pledge’s commitments emphasizes accountability through measurement and reporting. A very critical step to start the work says Fouts: “You have to know where you are to know what works or does not work”, but adds: “However, at this stage, given the urgency of the climate crisis , the actions that signatories take is what we want them to focus on.”
Three years into the effort, focusing on action rather than reporting is not only good; it is expected. Focusing on impact has several benefits, other than the obvious one of bringing us closer to a healthier planet. It is attracting interest from other companies considering joining and attracting public sector attention leading to successful collaborations in some of the projects The Climate Pledge is undertaking in several cities around the world. “One of the things we really try to do with The Climate Pledge and one of the things that sets us apart from other groups with similar goals is that we try to be a place where good work is highlighted so that others can follow our lead,” says Fouts.
Maintaining the right balance between reporting and action is especially important for small organizations which, with limited resources, can find themselves paralyzed by reporting and unable to focus on the real work.
Signatories coming together on very large projects to demonstrate that it is possible for companies to join forces and go faster and at scale, this is what the Fouts would like to see over the next twelve months . She would also, of course, like to see more companies join The Climate Pledge, especially from countries other than the US and Europe, which now make up around 80% of signatories. A better geographical balance would allow for a more direct representation of regions that often bear the brunt of climate change so that their first-hand experience can better guide projects.
Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analytics, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author has no ownership interests in the companies mentioned in this column.