Tag Archives: sustainability

EU Green Week 2021

“It is painfully clear that human activity has negative impacts on other forms of life. Pollution is threatening the survival of more than one million plant and animal species, on land and at sea. It is one of the five leading causes of biodiversity loss. We cannot be negligent any longer. Thus, we are determined to tackle this challenge through our European Green Deal,” were President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen’s opening remarks at EU Green Week 2021.

Dedicated to championing a ‘zero pollution ambition,’ EU Green Week took place from the 1st to 4th June to engage stakeholders and interested citizens on how we can all work together to make the ambition for a zero pollution and toxic-free environment a reality.

Highlights included a seminar from the European Environment Bureau exploring the hidden social and environmental costs as well as inherent limitations of Europe’s ongoing energy transition; a short documentary film ‘Trapped by Plastic’ by Mandy Barker on the unpalatable truths about marine plastic pollution which sparked a fierce discussion on challenging complacency, reconciling contradictions, and accelerating the pace of positive change. Alongside this was a co-hosted panel discussion with the European Policy Centre and Apple Europe on the role of partnerships and innovation in creating a healthier future for our planet.

To conclude the week, we wanted to spotlight just a handful of companies who are driving sustainably conscious, greener industries.

Quotes from clients about zero pollution ambition

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.

 

 

Female Leadership – insights on International Women’s Day

One of the good things about celebration days in the international calendar is that they give us the excuse to pause and think about important issues amidst the rush and clamour of busy schedules. Female leadership is still a big issue, particularly for those who subscribe to the belief that diversity in leadership enables better decision making – at a time when our business leaders are taking on so much responsibility for the wellbeing of society and the environment, alongside their usual stakeholders.

In the FTSE, where many international companies choose to list, The Hampton Alexander Review’s final report into female leadership was published on 24 February. Amidst the positive increase in the number of women overall in the last decade, it was noted that we need more women in executive positions to see sustained growth at the Board level. As we work towards gender parity and a more prosperous and sustainable world (SDG 5), International Women’s Day – this year themed #ChooseToChallenge – offers an opportunity to showcase our top picks of outstanding examples of female leadership, and how they stand out for challenging the status quo.

Here are ours – who would you add to the list?

Mayyada Abu Jaber, renowned female activist

Attendees at DiveIn’s festival in Amman in 2018 were treated to a speech by Mayyada Abu Jaber, the renowned female activist and inspirational leader who discussed her lifetime dedication to female empowerment.  As a Brookings Institution Global Scholar for Leaders in Girls Education, Ms Abu Jaber conducted research to evaluate gender bias in the national Jordanian curriculum. Armed with evidence of inequality, she founded JoWomenomics as an independent non-profit organization to foster mindset change towards greater women’s economic participation. This in turn influences labour law policies and provides job opportunities to more than 600 marginalized female communities in Jordan. In recognition of her #ChoicetoChallenge, she has been recognized by the World Bank as an inspirational leader in the Middle East and North Africa, among many more accolades.

Marianne Tikannen and Elba Horta, co-founders of Puro.earth

With backgrounds in engineering and geosciences, these two outstanding female founders of the world’s first marketplace for selling ‘carbon removal’, are united in their ambitions for protecting the planet. Unafraid to challenge traditional methods, the two entrepreneurs forged new career paths in their pursuit of sustainability, as outlined in this Forbes article. As Ms Tikannen reportedly says, “It’s really important to move from words to action… we only have one climate.”

Rashmy Chatterjee, CEO of ISTARI

Rashmy Chatterjee has made a habit of #ChoosingtoChallenge. As the first female engineer to join the Indian Navy, she was commended by the President of India for her work. After two decades at IBM, she is now the CEO of Istari – the global cybersecurity platform established by Temasek to help clients increase their cyber resilience, earn digital trust and secure their business growth in this time of rapid digital transformation. As an advocate for women in technology, Mrs Chatterjee is a prime candidate for mention on this International Women’s Day.

Elizabeth Wangeci Chege, CEO and co-founder, WEB Limited Group

Frequent viewers of our blog and video content will know about Elizabeth Chege – a true pioneer in the sustainable construction sector in Kenya and green building throughout Africa. In our #AfricaNetZero interview series, Ms Chege speaks openly about her initial decisions to focus not on box-ticking and meeting building standards, but in putting sustainability first in the construction sector. Coining herself as a ‘sustainable engineer’, she was told by her professors that “we’re not sure anything like that exists” – a true example of a #ChoosetoChallenge female leader.

Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, Barrister

In 2018, Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng was recognised by the prestigious GUBA awards for work in criminal and human rights law. Speaking of her Professional of the Year award win, Mrs Boaitey-Kwarteng told of her bold decision (having come to the UK from Ghana) to “run her own Chambers in the middle of Lincoln’s Inn surrounded by a sea of all-white Chambers.” She is an exemplar of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Ms Ardern responded to the Covid-19 crisis with the strictest regulations in the world, closing New Zealand’s borders with the response that she would “make no apologies” for doing so, while other countries remained open. Her choice to challenge the practice of other nations was made from listening to scientific expertise, and her accomplishment was in uniting her country through communication and strong leadership. She had the self-confidence to stand by her conviction to act quickly and maintain her stance. Her success? A record-breaking victory resulting in re-election.

Shining a light on our Top 5 B Corps

As a long-established B Corp (Gong was among the first UK communications agencies to achieve certification in 2017), we have built a healthy network of B Corp ‘friends’. We’re even lucky enough to work with some of them. Here are our top five (though to be honest, we could have made this a much longer list!) in honour of B Corp month:

Volans

Volans is a think tank and advisory firm operating at the cutting edge of regenerative innovation to help catalyse systemic change. It was the first B Corp in the UK and incubated the movement here, so well-deserving of the #1 recommendation slot. It is a great pleasure to be able to work with them to amplify their client initiatives and partnerships in the media. A recent example is Bankers for Net Zero, an initiative that brings together banking leaders and other key stakeholders to accelerate the flow of finance towards net zero-aligned activities. Widespread media pickup, including Yahoo, Reuters and the New York Times, generated new enquiries from further potential collaborators – their network continues to grow.

Unreasonable Group

Unreasonable Group was created out of the desire to have the greatest impact possible on the world’s toughest challenges. They believe that entrepreneurs building scalable businesses are the best bet for solving such challenges, and support them in doing so. You can read for yourself the incredible effect Unreasonable Companies have had here – but the number of lives positively impacted by them – 549,000,000+ – gives you some idea. We’re talking drones positioned to plant billions of trees, converting elements in the air into meat protein, the future of fusion energy, hydroponic farms under the streets of London and so much more.

Danone

Danone needs no introduction, though not everyone may know the extent to which the company is involved in the B Corp movement. Its B Corp profile highlights their One Planet One Health commitment to inspire healthier eating and drinking habits, for example, but we know them best for their collaboration with B Lab.

In December 2015 Danone and B Lab announced a partnership which most recently has resulted in an e-learning and engagement tool to help Danone’s 100,000 employees feel motivated by the company’s commitment to certify its 130 subsidiaries around the world as B Corps. Gong was commissioned to create this tool.

The resulting six bite-size lessons (incorporating engaging video content and more) were rolled out globally in October 2020 and translated into five languages. B Lab is now launching a version of the e-learning tool to make it accessible for the wider B Corp community. Spreading the #BetterBusiness love!

EQ Investors

EQ Investors – another of the founding B Corps in the UK – creates change through the power of investments. In 2017 and 2018 they won a ‘Best for the World’ award for their work on impact investing and their EQ Positive Impact Portfolios allow individuals to invest in companies that are creating solutions to social and environmental problems. This is a pensions and investment firm that is really helping companies and individuals to ‘make (their) money matter’ – another campaign we’re wholly on board with.

ClimateCare

As you know, climate change is a topic very close to our hearts here at Gong. We admire ClimateCare – based (like us) in the UK and Kenya – for its work towards a sustainable future with climate neutral and net zero programmes, using both private and public finance. They even have a handy carbon calculator to help us work out how much carbon we need to offset, as well as 50 ideas for shrinking our carbon footprint.

 

Who would you add to this list?