Sophie Brooks, Director of Client Services ClimateCare
A clear message has come in the wake of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - the Paris Climate Agreement will not be possible to achieve these goals without business playing a central role. The business community must direct action for their own social and environmental impacts, as well as help to fund the development interventions required to reach these ambitious goals. There is a real opportunity for progressive businesses to show leadership and take early action to address both their climate and social impacts.
However, the key challenge to overcome is how to engage business in a meaningful way to deliver both the right climate and development outcomes, as well as return on investment for those companies.
There are a number critical success factors required to overcome this challenge and secure meaningful business engagement in this global set of challenges.
First and foremost corporates need to see the business value of investing in a CSR program. The most effective way to do this is to demonstrate clear alignment between the environmental and social outcomes of the program, and the funding partner’s business goals. To achieve this effectively, the chosen vehicle, audience and message must be aligned to the corporate’s brand values and core customers.
Secondly, taking an integrated approach to solving climate and sustainable development challenges is imperative if we are to make significant impacts against the SDGs and Paris Agreement commitments. Increasingly we are seeing multinational corporations re-examining their own approach to corporate responsibility to align with these global goals and international climate commitments. Projects should be designed from the outset to create social and environmental outcomes quickly, cost effectively and at scale, with robust measurement of direct impacts to demonstrate how it delivers against evolving corporate strategies.
Lastly, when designing communications around these projects, bring them to life for a developed world audience. Global development issues such as energy access, poverty and climate change can feel very abstract and disconnected from people’s everyday lives. Finding ways to talk about the positive impacts in an engaging way to humanize brands and demonstrate that they understand their own role in society is key.
An excellent example of how these three factors can come together for success is an ambitious and innovative energy access project collaboration between ClimateCare and Jaguar Land Rover called Lighting up Lives. The project which aims to bring 1.2 million people in rural and off-grid Kenya solar lighting by 2020, was launched at the Hay Literary Festival this year. For Jaguar Land Rover, Hay is a perfect fit for its brand and core customer audience. Parent company Tata has been the leading sponsor at Hay for many years and has a long history of investing in education and skills, and Jaguar Land Rover believes in using technology for good and in power of engineering to improve lives and help to build a cleaner future.
Hay Festival brings “readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events” and is increasingly becoming one of the foremost thought leadership platforms for integrated sustainability thinking. It provided a powerful stage on which to create awareness of the climate and development challenges that this project addresses, and the important role climate finance play.
Indeed, it was at the Festival that the BBC’s Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin chose to air his piece covering Trump’s expected withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a piece which highlighted the global opposition to a U.S. government that invests in a fossil-fuelled industrial past, rather than a clean tech future.
It is heartening to witness a company willing to take action above and beyond its own immediate sphere of responsibility, leveraging its core skillsets around engineering and technology, to help deliver an impressive set of climate and development outcomes through a single project.
There are myriad ambitious CSR initiatives in place funded by corporates and their well-intentioned partners, all setting out to achieve very laudable goals. But pragmatism is required to secure ongoing funding and a genuine long-term involvement from the corporate sector in international development and climate action. If we are to continue to attract investment from the private sector in large-scale and ambitious sustainable development projects, we need to maintain a ruthless focus on creating measurable positive development impacts, and marry it with a clear commitment to ensuring that the collaboration creates a win-win for people, planet as well as profit.