Could 2024 be a pivotal year for sustainability in the UK?

Written by Valentina Zajackowski

Here’s what we learnt from Innovation Zero Conference in London

“Of the top 20 largest nations, we are actually the first to have halved our emissions since 1990 and we’ve done this whilst growing our economy by 80%.”
These are the words of the UK’s Energy Security Secretary, Claire Coutinho, delivered during her speech at Innovation Zero Conference in London at the beginning of May.
As an event dedicated to accelerating progress on net zero, Coutinho’s speech recognised that innovation could be one of the UK’s biggest contributions to global sustainability efforts, while also acknowledging the importance of people and culture. “From people to culture to capital, we’ve got so many strengths that make me confident that we’ll play an important role in the global challenge of climate change.”

Calls for a just transition that must happen at speed and scale

Professor Jim Skea, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shared similar optimism. He said that progress had been made globally to bend the emissions trend.
Yet like many others at the two-day conference, Skea called for an urgent response to address irreversible damage caused by global warming. “Up to 3.5 billion people live in situations that are vulnerable to climate change and hazards and it is developing countries and small island state that are suffering adverse impact.”

How is the UK approaching climate change?

As one of the largest sustainability and net zero conferences in the UK, the event brought almost 10,000 people together to exchange ideas, learn about, and share solutions to support the UK’s plans and progress on climate change.

Alongside the calls for Government support, there was clear recognition of the role that the private sector can play in catalysing the action needed to address the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change, with collaboration emerging as a theme in many discussions. No one group of stakeholders alone can solve the problem. Lessons should be shared across industries, supply chains and organisations.

The conversation has moved from why and when, to how and where

The importance of long-term thinking was also underscored. While demonstrating sustainability to meet ESG reporting and procurement requirements are immediate priorities for many, a successful transition will require looking beyond short-term adjustments that focus on mitigation, to implementing long-term strategies designed for adaptation.
This will help set the stage for the shift away from ‘sustainability silos’. The transition to net zero will have strategic, financial, and operational implications, and so naturally mandates a cohesive approach. With businesses now recognising that their climate goals must be aligned with overall corporate strategy, sustainability is becoming a key fixture on the agenda of shareholder and board discussions.

Every job will be a green job

The need for widespread communication and knowledge-sharing across functions was another key theme of the event. Employees play a crucial role in how businesses will react, respond and prepare for climate change, and this year’s conference held dedicated tracks and sessions exploring the importance of people. This included discussions about specific professions, like marketing and advertising, and their role in creating a culture of sustainability.

In conclusion, the UK’s progress to achieve net zero by 2050 is already changing the way that businesses get work done. Events like Innovation Zero provide an important platform for bringing industries together to accelerate progress on Britian’s path to net zero, and make it possible to see just how every job today will become a green job tomorrow.

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