By Pierre-Francois Thaler, co-CEO of EcoVadis
It’s time to bet big on sustainability. More than 190 nations are currently gathering at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, COP21, to negotiate a new international agreement for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. With little progress made at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, there’s significant pressure this year to reach a decision and place binding agreements on countries to help reduce the impact of emissions and climate change.
Despite the recent efforts of the 90 countries that have already promised to cut their emission levels, current pledges and commitments aren’t going to be enough to keep the average rise in global temperature below 2 degree Celsius – we’ve only made progress to keep the temperature increase below 3 degrees Celsius, and that’s not taking into account unplanned events.
The window for making significant impact on reducing climate change is closing: a look at current events
Forest fires have been plaguing Indonesia since July, producing more emissions than the entire U.S. economy. Burning land for agricultural expansion in this case, for conversion to oil palm or pulpwood plantations, leads to huge spikes in greenhouse gas emissions – methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the potency of carbon dioxide, is emitted up to ten times more than fires on other types of land.
Another example of unanticipated events is China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal. The country has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, complicating efforts to reduce global warming even further.
The devastating effects of climate change are increasing every day, and the only way to get back on track with our goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius is to take a deeper look at our supply chains.
Supply chain a key lever for making Cop21 commitments happen
Assuming a COP21 agreement is reached, one study asserts 86% of respondents believe the contributions of private sector businesses will be absolutely essential to its success and that the use of renewable energy and reduction of carbon emissions in the supply chain are seen as one of the most effective approaches for companies to respond to climate change.
This doesn’t feel far-fetched – with 90% of the world’s investments currently managed by the private sector, the best way to make real progress in sustainability is to act through the supply chain and get the world’s top companies to implement a sustainable procurement program.
For example, the 81 companies that have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, demonstrating their support for action on climate change and the conclusion of an agreement coming out of Cop21, have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people and represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue. The leverage these companies have on suppliers is tremendous. On average, a large company spends about 55% of its revenue on purchased materials, and 80% in supply chain activities. This type of investment in a supply base can drive significant supplier engagement. The trickle-down effect of getting these global companies on board with sustainable procurement can be monumental as they can encourage sustainable behavior across tier 1-3 suppliers and ultimately the entire supply chain.
Regulations are helpful, but they will only do so much — if we don’t get companies on the frontlines engaged and on board with sustainable practices, we’ll never make real progress.
Making COP21 itself more sustainable: EcoVadis’ Commitments as a COP21 Official Sponsor
EcoVadis has been selected as a COP21 official partner a, where we are working to improve the sustainable footprint of the event itself by providing to COP21 pro-bono access to our Sustainability Ratings platform, and assessing the suppliers of COP21 and measuring their CSR performance.
Invitation to participate in our conference today, Friday December 4, 15h15 at Le Bourget room5:
Lastly, EcoVadis has been selected as a COP21 conference partner, hosting a panel session on December 4th 15h15 at Le Bourget room 5, entitled “Driving Global CO2 Reductions through Sustainable Supply Chain.” This promises to be a vibrant discussion which will explore issues around the impact of the Sustainable Procurement on Climate Change abatement, and how companies can be engaged. Participants will include Chief Procurement Officers and Senior sustainability leaders from Air France, Schneider Electric, L’Oreal and NS (Dutch Railway). I look forward to seeing you there!