This article first appeared on La Tercera on November 23, 2021.
A few months ago we learned of the devastating report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warns of the dangerous and irreversible effects of global warming if we do not take this issue with the seriousness it deserves. Indeed, we are already at a point of no return.
And precisely, COP26, which ended a few days ago in Glasgow, was the perfect scenario to discuss and seek agreements on this global emergency. However, its results left a certain aftertaste as it became evident that particular and short-term interests would have prevailed over a strategic and long-term view, and where the conclusions do not seem to be enough to avoid a climate catastrophe.
A clear example was the last-minute amendment introduced by China and India to the document being drafted, where they replaced the word “elimination” with “progressive reduction” of the use of coal and subsidies to inefficient fossil fuels. A change that tinges the desire to accelerate the elimination of this energy, but also reflects a “cock of the walk” of power and indifference to the emergency that afflicts us. Despite the above, the fact that coal has been named as one of the causes of climate change represents a step forward.
Achieving consensus and suitable commitments is not easy when such transcendental issues are discussed among representatives of 197 countries that are so dissimilar from each other. Even less so in the presence of more than 500 lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry, who, according to Global Witness, had come to Glasgow to try to influence the discussions. When we are talking about the future of the planet and, therefore, of our existence, lobbying is unethical.
Faced with the reality of climate change, the role of business in creating more sustainable environments, as well as in removing the obstacles that impede this progress, is essential. Along these lines, environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria have become increasingly important as a focus of action. This is because today’s companies must be sustainable, evaluate their risks (only those that affect them), have the right talent, and connect with the demands of their environment, otherwise, they are doomed to disappear. Therefore, the adoption of these criteria must be generalized, for which companies must define their purpose and evaluate how they integrate it into the business, but not as an appendix, but as part of the heart of it.
This is what the Financial Market Commission (CMF) is doing through its new regulation that incorporates information requirements on sustainability and corporate governance in the Annual Reports of companies regulated by the entity so that they report their policies, practices, and goals adopted in ESG matters. In this way, companies will be able to review their policies and actions, and even compare them with those being carried out by others, which will raise standards.
Likewise, the Confederation of Production and Commerce (CPC) launched a business commitment to participate in the debate on contingent issues, defining among its commitments the strengthening of a culture of integrity in companies to generate greater trust, transparency, and sustainable development; as well as a pact for equity, equal opportunities, climate change, efficient use of water and progress towards carbon neutrality.
And also joining this challenge, several trade associations and businessmen subscribed to the commitment “Chile with purpose” in the meeting organized by the 3xi Corporation, to deepen the integral sustainability of companies.
Undoubtedly, these are very good first steps to move towards change. But, it is to be hoped that these commitments do not remain only in good intentions and much less in greenwashing, which describes companies that take sustainability as a business and not as its purpose, making changes that are more of form than substance and, therefore, making misleading use of marketing and green investment.
For the same reason, it is essential to understand from the top of the companies, the role they play in society, as well as the need to work together to achieve the demanding goals imposed by the global climate emergency. If this is not made clear, any announcement that is not felt and owned will be seen as a strategy to take advantage of a tragedy.
We are leaving an indelible mark on our planet and we must be aware of it. Good intentions are no longer enough, it is time for action.
By Susana Sierra