Decarbonizing with Data

A reflection on the UN Climate Report.

The sixth assessment report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a bleak climate outlook. The window to stay inside 1.5℃ hotter than pre-industrial times is closing, and we need a coordinated global effort to stop adding C02 by 2050.

But what isn’t measured can’t be managed.

The hard date to halve carbon emissions is less than 10 years away, yet we still lack standardized tools to measure – let alone reduce – our emissions. According to Victoria Barron, head of sustainable investment at BT Pension Scheme Management, “only a fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies have made net-zero commitments,” adding that “worse still,” their goals were all varied in quality. From where we sit, it looks as if most businesses are running at different speeds, using unique metrics, and comparing against only themselves when measuring progress.

As a company dedicated to enabling well-informed sustainability decisions, this is hard to watch. Common solutions exist today that can deliver the actionable data businesses need to develop science-based targets for carbon reduction. Given the resources available, there aren’t any excuses.

From Carbon Neutral to Engie to Higg’s facility assessments, consumer goods businesses can lean on multiple partners to decarbonize their supply chain. Particularly useful are measurement frameworks used across an industry, so that businesses can start to speak the same language. Organizations like our own are eager to help companies gather the credible data they need to cut carbon emissions – whether across facilities, in transportation fleets, or at corporate offices.

However, pressure on companies is increasing – not only a moral urgency, but a business case as well. ESG investments prove strong financial returns, and consumers are rewarding corporations that transparently tackle sustainability. All eyes are on the consumer goods industry to take the cue. Making data-backed progress on decarbonization is now synonymous with doing good business.

Our collective efforts to date are not nearly enough, but as each additional business steps up to the plate, we make incremental reductions on each degree of warming. Matthew Barlow Ph.D., contributing author to the IPCC report, quotes “…limiting warming to the 1.5 degree C target of the Paris Agreement would require immediate, rapid, and large-scale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, regardless of any specific temperature target, every degree matters: Reducing emissions will reduce impacts.”

As Amina Razvi, Executive Director of our close partner Sustainable Apparel Coalition, puts it: “the [IPCC] report is dire only if we don’t do anything. Instead, how can we look at these findings as an opportunity to accelerate our action and move forward with existing, proven solutions that we know will help us to address this crisis?”

Those who commit to science-based targets, use data to inform their decisions, and make unified, measurable commitments, will deliver the kind of accelerated change we need.

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