COP26 certainly brought its fair share of headlines. From last-minute deals to keep climate increases to a 1.5C threshold, to emotional displays from delegates, and apologies from rich nations on a historic lack of financial aid – the result was another thrust of the climate discourse into the public sphere.
This global talk on climate change is nothing new. In 1997, the watershed Kyoto Protocol agreed on international greenhouse emission reductions, while in 2007 COP promised financial aid for such abatement in poorer countries, and 2016’s Paris Agreement set the infamous 2C global temperature limit.
The negotiations have continued since results are seemingly scarce. Meanwhile, the public grows increasingly frustrated. Recent global climate protests have intensified the calls for transparent and tangible action at the highest levels of government and business, while consumers themselves are doing their bit by adopting sustainability practises into the core of their purchasing habits.
A 2021 Deloitte report, for instance, found that 61% of consumers reduced their purchase of single-use plastics over the last 12 months, while ‘greenwashing’ has become a regular source of concern, with the Advertising Standards Authority stating it is the area they receive the greatest number of complaints in.
Consumers are becoming increasingly empowered and they are looking for concrete data to back up their sustainable purchases. It is clear that mere lip service towards tackling the climate crisis is no longer acceptable. Only financial investment can supercharge the technological innovations needed to abate emissions.
Key negotiating figures like John Kerry and Mark Cairney positioned big business as the means of plugging the funding gap in climate finance, while entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates have advocated for startups in the climate sector as the new unicorns, prompting a gold rush in investments. Version 2.0 of climate tech is proving more resilient, with an expanded range of innovations capitalising on maturing expertise.
Developing sustainable materials is a huge opportunity to cut carbon emissions, create circularity and use the planet’s resources more effectively, and it is terrific to see innovative players such as Spiber raise $312m in the last 12 months.
At ELeather, our OEM customers were initially focused on the durability and cost effectiveness of our engineered sustainable materials, whereas recently we have seen a seismic shift towards our ability to support their sustainability agendas.
Now, more than ever, it is clear that the general public values mission-driven, environmental goals, meaning that it is now easier for companies such as ours to attract young, top talent who are seeking purpose-led organisations and careers.
Ultimately, if we are to capitalise on the diplomatic gains produced by global events such as COP26, they must be followed with immediate action. Consumers demand it and they are proving their commitment to supporting sustainable products by voting with their wallet. They will continue to hold governments and businesses accountable if they fail to deliver on their strategies or are seen to be Greenwashing.
In 2022, sustainability makes integral business sense and ESG is no longer a box-ticking exercise; the investment community is increasingly active, sophisticated, and knowledgeable about the market.