Pushing companies to publish their progress on meeting sustainability goals is no easy task. But since 2012, that’s exactly what Peter Bakker has been doing as president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)—a coalition of more than 200 businesses. Successfully transforming businesses at scale, though, means engaging all areas of a company, argues Bakker: “All functions in the organization need to be educated on what this transformation means for them. This can’t simply be left to the sustainability team.”
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
The adoption of the global baseline disclosure standards (ISSB’s IFRS S1 – sustainability and IFRS S2 – climate, effective from January 1, 2024) by all countries to understand the progress of businesses towards their net-zero targets. These standards will enable companies to be held accountable across the three greatest challenges of our time – climate change, nature loss, and mounting inequality. We have complied with financial disclosure standards for many decades, it’s time that sustainability and climate-related disclosures are normalized too. I urge all countries and companies to adopt them.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
Climate and sustainability impact labeling on all products e.g., emissions, biodiversity, human rights. We all buy food products that contain nutritional information, and we must ensure that products also disclose climate and sustainability-related information. This will enable customers to make informed decisions on the products they buy, which will drive competition among companies to create more sustainable products. Companies are reluctant to disclose this information if their competitors do not disclose it too. I call on all companies to adopt climate and sustainability impact labeling on their products.
Where should climate activism go in the next year?
Climate activism has succeeded in putting climate change on the agendas of government, business, and civil society. Now, it must inform the public of the actions they can take to reduce emissions and increase resilience. The power of many rallying around specific actions and holding companies to account will drive real change, for example, millions of people not buying certain products, or avoiding a specific company if they harm our planet. We must educate the public on what they can do to mobilize collective action to show business leaders in our society what must change.
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