Category Archives: Featured

Carbon briefing 101

As a sustainability-focused business, we are often reminded that ours is an industry heavily laden with acronyms and terminology.

With now just four months to go until the start of COP26, we have created an introductory guide to all things carbon, including a glossary of terms, a brief history to COP26, an introduction to some of the major players, interesting climate change facts, and some small challenges that we can all take on in the fight against climate change.

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Navigating Financial Net Zero Alliances 

Building a global zero emissions economy to cut back greenhouse gas emissions is going to mean upending how countless businesses operate and cost trillions of dollars – a daunting task. Fortunately, financial firms are clearly taking the matter seriously, banding together into alliances to better address the problem. Financial net zero alliances hit the headlines again in April this year as former Bank of England governor Mark Carney – now the UK Finance Advisor for COP26 and the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance – launched the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (or GFANZ).  

Corralling the mighty weight of over 160 firms, GFANZ is doing essential work in the race towards carbon neutrality. Yet it is not alone – delve deeper into its connections and we learn that it was co-founded by the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). This in turn joins three further initiatives – and as we looked further, we became embroiled in an intertwined web of alliances. 

Although initially appearing to be a Sisyphean task, navigating the web of financial net zero alliances gives a very real sense of the scale of the movement – how many financial companies have set net zero targets, for example. It also increasingly makes the Race to Zero look like an achievable goal. 

Below is our timeline infographic of the evolution of Financial Net Zero Alliances. Please feel free to share it (tagging @GongComms) – we welcome collaboration and input to improve our work. We are aware this is an ever-growing universe; if you have additional financial alliances that you think ought to be represented in the network, please feel free to email us on NetZero@gongcommunications.com.

What does it mean to be a Net Zero company?

In short, being a Net Zero company means meeting the goal of net zero carbon emissions – or becoming carbon neutral – by 2050, in order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (in line with the Paris Agreement). While there is no standardised definition or criteria for use, society is becoming increasingly wary of greenwashing. All of the financial alliances for net zero listed in this article require their signatories to be transparent about their goals and to set science-based targets. The Collective Commitment to Climate Action (CCCA) has published a set of guidelines for climate targets setting for banks that underpin the NZBA (and can be downloaded here). 

Is there an overview of all of the financial net zero alliances? 

We couldn’t find one, which formed the basis of our own research. By way of overview: beyond GFANZ, the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) is a collection of 43 of the world’s biggest banks (including Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Barclays, HSBC, Santander and UBS) – which in turn joins three existing initiatives, namely the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (AOA), the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative and the Paris Aligned Investor Initiative. It incorporates the insurance industry (with the soon-to-be-launched Net Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA), the internationally-led Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) and the Investor Group on Climate Change (Australia and New Zealand). In turn, both of these are part of Climate Action 100+, an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. 

One of the original financial net zero alliances, Bankers for Net Zero is run in partnership with Volans, which has recently published a must-read white paper on aligning finance to a net zero economy. 

How many financial companies have set net zero targets?

The good news is that the number of financial companies that have set new zero targets is increasing almost too quickly to assign a meaningful number. In September 2020, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reported that the number of net-zero commitments from local governments and businesses had more or less doubled in less than a year, mainly from members of the UN Race to Zero campaign. 

Our research into the financial alliances for net zero indicates nearly a thousand large financial institutions are now part of one or more alliance, with thousands more signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment. 

Where are the changemakers?

Crises – like the current Covid-19 pandemic – take a significant social and economic toll, yet they contain the dynamics for disruption from which new business models emerge. In a June 2020 survey by McKinsey, more than 90 per cent of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years. 

But where are these game changers, the companies challenging convention with the ability to open up new avenues of social, economic and financial growth? Here are three of our favourite examples of companies which are challenging convention and transforming industries right now. 

Dive In Festival – adapting to a virtual platform to broaden reach of D&I issues 

Despite a visible year-on-year growth for the insurance industry’s festival on diversity and inclusion – which Gong has worked to deliver since inception in 2015 – the Dive In Festival team’s swift response to physical events disappearing during the pandemic resulted in record-breaking attendance in 2020. By taking the event online, and running it virtually, Dive In recorded 30,153 attendees (three times that of the previous year), at 144 events globally, in 33 countries. The event has already proved to be award-winning, at the 2021 Africa SABRE awards, and the format will be replicated for the event in September 2021, when it will once again inspire discussion around important discussions such as racial equality and gender diversity in the workplace. 

Visionable – changing how we access healthcare 

Visionable is the first video collaboration platform designed especially for healthcare teams’ specialist clinical needs. It’s reimagining health and social care as we become more and more digitally connected. This article in the Financial Times outlines its success in improving results for stroke victims by allowing treatment by consultants via video link before they reach hospital. Even more recent though, is its Visionable Connect video calling app, allowing Covid patients to remain in contact with loved ones whilst in lockdown and professionals to support patients without having to visit their bedside, while PPE was in short supply. You can read the case study on this here. 

DPO – encouraging financial inclusion via ecommerce in Africa 

DPO Group is a home-grown Kenyan technology champion headquartered in Nairobi. Established 14 years ago, it has built and scaled electronic payment solutions that are now used by 50,000 merchants across Africa. It has a history of successful innovation – notably (according to this Forbes article on the company) because of the way it “respects the cultural differences that exist across Africa markets and builds products and local teams suited to each market”. DPO responded to an accelerated structural shift away from cash to online payments during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak by offering many of its small firm customers the opportunity to process electronic payments in order to expand. One example is Artcaffe – a coffee and bakery chain with no previous online presence – which was able to become a much larger food ordering marketplace, using a DPO-powered website. Artcaffe now sells products on behalf of its suppliers and supports the livelihoods of many offline businesses during the crisis.  

Gong signs up to Green Pensions Charter

Today marks the launch of the Green Pensions Charter, led by Make My Money Matter in partnership with Count Us In. It’s a world first for pensions, uniting 50+ employers – Gong included – in a mission to “make our money matter”.

The Green Pension Charter seeks to ensure that all money invested by company pension schemes helps to tackle the climate crisis – an issue close to all of our hearts at Gong.

As organisations are increasingly supporting net zero strategies and making critical strides on sustainability, pensions are often overlooked. As a result, the £20 billion invested annually through company pension schemes continues to fund tobacco, fossil fuels and deforestation. The Green Pensions Charter seeks to bring an end to that.

To find out more, read the Make My Money Matter blog, and sign up your company to the Green Pensions Charter today.

The economic potential of Nature-based Solutions

Vinesh Parmar, Account Executive

While the world continues to struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change issues remain critically important. Protecting and restoring nature are key to tackling climate change, yet taking stock of the impact of human-inflicted damage on biodiversity reveals an array of frightening statistics: an average of 60 per cent of vertebrates have been lost since 1970, 75 per cent of the earth’s land surface has been significantly altered by human action and two thirds of the ocean is reeling from human interference. Deforestation has caused the loss of a third of our forests and with it the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.

‘Building Back Better’ with Nature-based Solutions

There is increasing momentum to use the global recovery from Covid-19 to support climate change mitigation. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, “We have a responsibility to recover better” than after the 2008 global financial crisis. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), – defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” – offer an opportunity to avoid accelerated deforestation and biodiversity loss in short-term recovery plans.

Nature-based Solutions can include:

Protecting and growing these natural solutions could provide 37 per cent of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation we require to keep global warming under 2°C over the next decade. But crucially they could also minimize the social and economic impact of Covid-19 by creating employment and economic opportunities.

Profiling Nature-based Solutions

Green shoots of optimism are sprouting with the help of innovation. The Mesoamerican reef in the Yucatan Peninsula, the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere, is an important attraction to driving the USD9bn tourism economy in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Of equal significance is its role in absorbing wave energy, which protects beachfront settlements. Global Parametrics led the renewal of the landmark Mexican Reef Protection Program – a USD1.9m parametric protection solution that enables immediate financial support to restore key parts of the reef, essential in safeguarding the livelihoods of the coastal communities and drawing in tourists, which over 150,000 jobs rely on.

Meanwhile, the Coastal Resources Group is helping countries all over the world to restore their mangroves and create carbon ‘sinks’ – for example, the world’s mangroves sequester about 24 million metric tons of carbon in soil per year – and Malawi has invested 1.5 per cent of its domestic budget to its Youth Forest Restoration Program, employing thousands of young people to grow trees across 50,000 hectares of land (and protecting the livelihoods of its farmers).

Closer to home, the United Kingdom government announced that future flood defense efforts would focus on nature-based approaches, including grassland restoration and allowing rivers to flow more freely across the landscape.

Next steps

Nature-based solutions have a significant socio-economic role to play in a global recovery from Covid-19. A potential USD10tn in additional business revenue could be generated by moving towards a nature-positive economy and could contribute 395 million new roles to the global job market by 2030. As the world rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic, reassessing its priorities, we don’t need to look beyond what’s already around us to catalyse this transition. Instead, we need to invest in decisions that move us towards a sustainable, nature-friendly approach to economic growth and development.

 

 

Showcasing sustainability around the world

President Biden’s virtual Climate Summit this week has seen important international negotiations on climate and sustainability, and the year ahead promises yet more. Although rescheduled once because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 is due to be held in Glasgow in November, with international leaders coming together to add detail to their pledges.

Arguably, rescheduling last year’s event may not have been a bad thing. As a result of the pandemic, we learnt the positive power of cutting emissions (albeit imposed on us) – with the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since World War II according to one study – not to mention our capability in responding to existential threats. Meanwhile, the past year has seen some of the strongest climate commitments ever made by governments and business leaders – the EU Green Deal, a greener-than-expected Brexit deal, net zero pledges by China, South Korea and Japan, Joe Biden’s election as US President, rejoining of the Paris Agreement and hosting of this week’s virtual Climate Summit, which has seen yet more ambitious pledges from international leaders. Climate action is becoming institutionalised.

We all wait in hope that November will bring further ambitious international carbon pledges, and more importantly, the necessary action to complete them. The narrative for COP26 includes the assertion that ‘each of us has a part to play’ and in the run up to the summit, the conversation is mounting around how businesses, society groups, schools and individuals are taking action to tackle climate change and encourage sustainability – working #TogetherForOurPlanet.

A cursory glance at some of the sustainability stories around the globe shows that this can mean different things in different regions, but all are making strides towards a better future. Here are some of those stories we find most inspirational:

The importance of carbon removal in reaching Net Zero

The growth in net zero pledges over the last year – including asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard in March 2021 – has created unprecedented interest in carbon removal strategies and carbon markets. And rightly so. This article by our Finland-based client Puro.earth explains the difference between carbon offsetting and carbon removal, and why the latter is so integral to reaching our net zero targets. Microsoft is on board – it has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030, partnering with Climeworks and Puro.earth (including using the latter’s suppliers Carbofex, ECHO2 and Carbon Cycle to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through production of biochar, allowing carbon to be stored in soil for centuries) to reach its goal.

Powering-up for a greener, brighter future

The European Union has committed 550 billion euros to climate protection and clean technologies over the next seven years, and these plans hinge on batteries to store renewable energy and to power electric vehicles. Analysts say the next generation of batteries must last longer, charge faster and be safer and greener than those on the market now, allowing for innovation. International technology firm Systems Sunlight, has announced a new R&D centre, at which the company will develop innovative lithium battery technologies for the industrial energy storage sector, focusing on new technologies that will usher in a clean energy future.

Chilling out for a cooler climate

Unreasonable Group-backed company Sure Chill has developed a unique cooling technology that allows cooling equipment to maintain a constant temperature without constant power. Rather like a rechargeable battery, the tech is entirely natural and can be linked with solar – perfect for areas of the world with intermittent power. Sure Chill is also working with some of the world’s largest brands to develop solutions within home refrigeration, food and drink, and logistics —all of which contributed to the government of Dubai’s decision to choose Sure Chill as “one of the technologies most likely to change the world in the next 20 years”.

Protecting East African heritage against the threat of climate change

Established in 2016, the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offers financial backing for projects that tackle the threat from climate change to cultural heritage in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In November last year, the Fund awarded five global heritage projects including the development of disaster risk management strategies for preserving Kenyan and Tanzanian coastal heritage at risk due to rising sea levels, and protection against the impact of flood threats to communities and monuments in Uganda.

Constructing a more sustainable future

With cement production responsible for 8 - 12 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, the race is on to find a sustainable alternative for the construction industry. As part of our African Net Zero series, we spoke to Wolfram Schmidt from Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) about his research into alternative materials like cassava and other agricultural residues as a source of ‘green’ African-made cement for future sustainable construction on the Continent. You can watch the full video here.

 

 

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY WEBSITE

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY WEBSITE

by Rachel Eaton, lead designer, Gong Communications

You’ve just spent the last six months creating your fantastic looking new website and now it’s finally live, you might think the work’s over. Sorry, but it’s not! Even after launching, to be truly safe and effective platforms, websites need some ongoing TLC.

With technology continually changing, your new website is in constant need of being updated and maintained, otherwise it could suddenly stop working or encounter problems that might disrupt your business.

As we know, prevention is better than the cure, and having a pro-active maintenance plan that includes the elements below, could save you money and time in the long run.

1.MONITORING SECURITY ISSUES

Thousands of websites are hacked each day. Most sites are hacked just for the thrill of knowing it can be done. And it’s not just the big or high-profile businesses that need to be careful, it’s the small ones too. In fact, small business websites are often targeted because they are small and often less likely to be secure.

As part of our maintenance package, we will ensure your website and servers are updated and using the current and correct software to protect your website against any security threats.

2. REGULAR BACK UPS

In most cases, we will be able to protect your website from any security threats. However, in the rare occasion we can’t, our maintenance package will allow regular back ups of your website. This will allow us to restore your website quickly if anything does go wrong.

3. SPEED CHECKS

In a fast-paced world nobody has time to sit and watch a page load. Website speed plays a crucial role in a website users experience and could potentially lose you business if it’s not up to speed.

Many issues can cause your website to slow down, from browser and software capability to your hosting server. As part of our maintenance package we will repeatedly check the speed of your website and fix any issues when needed.

4. PLUG IN AND CMS UPDATES

Updates to browsers and CMS platforms can have a massive impact on your website if you do not carry out the correct updates. WordPress, for example, is constantly adding new features, which could make your site easier to use, faster or more responsive. However, if the updates are not made it can cause parts of your website to break. Plus, without regular updates, your website is prone to security threats.

Within the maintenance package we will perform any updates to your website as and when is needed to ensure security, speed and functionality is not effected.

5. 24/7 MONITORING

It is important that your website is accessible for your users at all times. Users that cannot access your website will often go somewhere else and could lose you business. Our maintenance package offers 24/7 monitoring to ensure any downtime (a site that is down or inaccessible) is reported and acted on immediately.

A common misconception of maintenance contracts is that they are too expensive and not necessary. In reality, it is cheaper and quicker to regularly make small updates than it is to make bigger, time-sensitive amendments when something goes massively wrong.

Contact us for prices and more information on our maintenance packages.

EVENTS

Even the most time poor executive will find space to attend a well designed and executed event if it helps build or maintain networks and the content is inspiring and worthwhile. Our track record includes developing formats for award winning events spanning internal audiences and public launches. From insurance to retailing, private equity to professional development, presidential inaugurations to flash mobs, we can help devise and execute a memorable event.

FEATURED WORK

Dive In

MEDIA RELATIONS

Print publications are on the wane, as digital and social media on mobile devices expand to fill every need. It’s not easy to stay on top of the changing media landscape, let alone maintain the necessary relationships.
Working with a professional PR team will ensure that your media communications are of the highest international standards, and that they hit their mark.

FEATURED WORK