The success of Glasgow (COP26) will be decided in the corporate boardroom. Even in business schools, sustainability is often an optional subject; corporates need to support their executives to learn more about climate change
By Miniya Chatterji
In November, delegates from nearly 200 countries met in Glasgow for COP26, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the aim of meeting climate goals (to contain global warming). For this, every country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) need to trickle down to action taken by its largest companies. The failure of these companies to do so can result in countries’ unmet commitments.
The transition of companies towards ‘net zero’ requires skills, technology and funds. Amongst most Indian corporates, all of these currently run low. India is the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US, and the Climate Action Tracker rates India’s climate targets and policies as ‘highly insufficient’ in its consistency with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. For India to improve its rating, a major onus lies on companies operating in India to recruit a workforce technically skilled in climate action, invest in technological shifts, and structure financing mechanisms to support their transition to operating on net zero conditions.
To do so, there are three challenges. The first is the climate education vacuum that needs to be filled by schools and universities. Second, there is a lack of skills in climate finance that includes financial structuring, availing of international funding, and know how to build PPPs. The third is the problem of priority—climate action is often ranked 11th in a company’s top 10 priorities.
While there is no silver bullet, a movement led by role models such as Wipro, Marico, Maruti Suzuki and Tech Mahindra is in place. The common denominator amongst these early movers is their skills in climate sciences. Corporates that follow will need to invest in executive training—the current generation of the workforce has all but missed the bus of learning about climate action in their formal school and university education. The education system in India and most parts of the world does not yet offer a mandatory understanding of our changing climate and ways to mitigate or adapt to it. For the most part, neither in school nor at university are we taught to account for GHGs, conduct impact assessments, understand carbon footprint, waste, energy, hazardous materials and ways to manage them. Even in business schools, sustainability is often an optional subject. Corporates will, therefore, need to step in and support their executives to learn.
To do so, online courses offered by a handful of credible platforms are an option, as these allow their students to simultaneously study and work. The World Bank offers easy-to-follow online courses on topics such as climate finance, GHG accounting and protocols. The International Energy Agency in Paris offers online training in energy efficiency as well as on energy-efficiency indicators, apart from webinars and other virtual resources that lean towards statistics. Coursera has a few offerings on sustainable business. On the other hand, courses such as those offered by the Amsterdam-based Global Reporting Initiative Academy provide skills to scientifically assess the social and environmental impact caused by their business, and report it factually to stakeholders. Sinzer has free tutorials to learn how to scientifically calculate social returns on investments and more.
Some incubators and accelerators also offer support to entrepreneurs towards building sustainable companies. The Circulars Awards help start-ups incorporate practices based on circular economy principles. The Anant Fellowship for Climate Action provides knowledge via innovative hybrid online-offline formats and mentorship from industry stalwarts to a cohort of practitioners every year.
The success of Glasgow will thus be determined in the boardrooms of companies that embark upon upskilling their employees in climate sciences.
The author is CEO, Sustain Labs, and director, Anant Fellowship for Climate Action
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