This story originally appeared on Bloomberg Green.
When Mindy Lubber started working at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres 18 years ago, she invited executives at top companies to attend a climate-risk summit for investors. Some companies sent an intern instead. Back then, sustainability just wasn’t on their agenda.
Today, she regularly takes calls from CEOs asking for invitations to Ceres’ summits.
“There’s been a sea change in how investors and companies look at sustainability,” says Lubber, who is now CEO of Ceres, which helps CEOs and CFOs at leading Fortune 500 companies achieve sustainability goals.
The challenge now is turning these commitments into tangible action and creating systemic change throughout organizations and sectors. Despite good intentions, research by Ceres and Vigeo Eiris found that just 2% of the 600 largest companies in the US have set targets that are in step with the latest science and on a path to keep warming to no more than 1.5 ºC.
The Ceres Roadmap 2030 helps companies to set both interim and long-term goals and help navigate the accelerated transition to a more just, equitable and sustainable economy.
“Anyone who just sets a long-term goal is not setting goals,” Lubber says. “Net zero is going to take short-term and medium-term goals, and there needs to be accountability."
Building an ecosystem for accountability
Companies taking leadership positions in sustainability, like Levi Strauss & Co. and HP, realize that alone they can’t make the necessary impact on climate and human rights, and they are building ecosystems with their partner networks to accelerate change and grow their businesses.
HP’s commitment to Sustainable Impact has become a difference maker for the business, driving more than $1 billion in new sales for the second year in a row. For Christoph Schell, HP’s Chief Commercial Officer, innovation in sustainability and social justice is a competitive advantage and a key driver in the company’s goal to be the most sustainable and just company in technology by 2030.
“In the same way that I track production innovation and pricing competitiveness, I am now tracking whether I am competitive, relative to my peer set, on sustainability and on social justice,” Schell says. “It’s become a feature of how we track opportunities and how we track success.”
Today, customers and stakeholders are holding companies accountable for meeting their sustainability commitments across their operations. HP does 88% of its business through its partners, Schell says, and the vast majority of these partners don’t have in-house experts on sustainability and social justice. Ultimately, he says, companies needs to hold themselves and their partners accountable — for the good of the planet and their business.