As we saw at Davos last month, the world’s business and political elite are finally talking about the necessity for a net zero economy, while international money managers are increasingly wary of being exposed to climate change-related risk.
But truly forward-thinking companies have moved well beyond a net zero stance, to adopt goals and strategies that could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Depending on who you talk to, it’s called taking a carbon negative or carbon positive position. And it can mean anything from generating more renewable energy than you need and making the surplus available to the market (Unilever’s goal); making “climate positive” clothing such as North Face’s beanie made from the wool of sheep raised on a farm that removes more carbon from the air than it emits; or sourcing wood from reforestation and sustainable forest management, like Swedish furniture behemoth Ikea says it is doing.
No doubt, there will be plenty of scrutiny of the claims being made by businesses in this space and audit and verification systems will be needed to help do just that.
But as climate change pioneering carpet manufacturer and Green Lister Interface says, it’s no longer enough to limit the damage we are doing to the environment; we have to think about repairing that damage.
Interface has a long-term business horizon to transform how carpet tiles are manufactured so that negative environmental impacts are not just eliminated but reversed. You can read about its Climate Take Back position.
There’s plenty happening elsewhere too, with companies such as new Green Lister Tripod tackling waste with its sustainable coffee pods and kicking off a counter to the Black Friday shopping binge with its #GreenWednesday movement for 27 November, each year.
The idea is that, rather than buying more stuff, how about supporting companies that are making a positive impact on the environment. To that end, Tripod donated all profits from the sale of its Rainforest products on 27 November, 2019 to help restore Australia’s Daintree Rainforest.
There are other ways to think about how to reduce our impact on the environment. Amy Croucher, a sustainability and resilience officer for a Sydney council, has dipped her toe into the sharing economy. A former mentee in the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme for Sydney, Croucher didn’t want to own a drill, she just needed to use one for a small project she had in mind.
As she figures, if everyone in Sydney buys one less thing a year – a drill, a tent, a vacuum cleaner – and can share the ones that already exist, that would be five million fewer things that need to be produced. You can read about her experience setting up the tool library here.
There are plenty of business opportunities in the consulting space because it’s not easy for companies (or consumers) to work out how to best reduce their carbon footprint.
Early mover Danielle King’s Green Moves provides consumers and businesses with the sustainability services they will need to tackle their carbon and environmental footprints.
The company, now 11 years old, works with properties and businesses as diverse as offices, golf clubs, supermarkets and suburban homes. The Fifth Estate has had lots to do with Danielle over the years as she has been very active in industry development, so we’re particularly pleased she’s now joined us on The Green List.
Away from the carbon space, the building sector is still working out what to do about dangerous cladding on buildings. The CSIRO has developed military-grade spectrometer technology to quickly and accurately identify the origin of cladding on building facades.
Manufactured by Sydney company DataDot Technology, the spectrometer has been successfully trialled in a pilot program.
A conversation has started in the building sector too about the embodied carbon in the materials used in construction. They make up about 11 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest data from the UN Environment Program.
Cleaning our oceans
Elsewhere, there’s inspiration to be found in the waste industry, with Australian ocean cleaning company, Seabin Project, launching an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise up to $3 million.
A few years ago, the start-up created a rubbish bin that sits in the ocean, filtering seawater and siphoning out plastics and other pollution. There are now hundreds of seabins catching rubbish around the world.
Market leader in enterprise application software, SAP, has also dived into our ocean of waste, announcing its involvement in the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership community.
The latest version of SAP’s Plastics Cloud is helping businesses create a more sustainable supply chain through a marketplace that connects packaging and consumer product companies to new sources of recycled plastics and plastic alternatives.
It all adds up to some positive news on the business front and you can read about many of these examples on The Green List.