Creating an integrated approach for measuring social and environmental impact

Good looks like business supporting farmers and workers who are suffering the harmful effects of climate change. Businesses must commit to paying a fairer price for produce. Fairer prices, fairer trading practices and paying a living income are key to supporting the communities on the front line of the climate crisis.

What’s more, the UK Government and the private sector must act quickly to decarbonise our supply chains. It is important that they do this in a way that is just, fair and does not cut producers out from supply chains. We must ensure government policy encourages (and where needed, compels) businesses to act to bring down supply chain emissions. The UK Government made a welcome announcement earlier this year that they will count international aviation and shipping (including from freight) in the UK’s climate targets going forward. This sends a strong signal that our imported emissions need to come down. We now need to see further support from UK climate aid and private finance towards on-farm programmes to shift to more sustainable means of production, and collective action to find greener freight alternatives in the coming decades.

From Edel Heuven: We all have a responsibility to act to the current climate crisis and particularly those businesses with high emissions must take urgent action and reduce their emissions.

Businesses need to follow a robust mitigation strategy and invest for climate and nature impact to address the remaining emissions in a pro-poor and people-focused manner. Businesses need to take a careful look in what way they contribute to the climate crisis – directly and indirectly by looking at looking at their impact at the climate and the environment. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The IPCC has calculated that we need to halve our emissions before 2030 and realize net zero emissions in 2050. However, in current scenarios we are heading for 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100 with current policies.

From Edel Heuven: The private sector plays an important role in the ambition to reach 1.5 degrees and ambitious corporate climate action is needed to close the gap and should be based on 4 pillars:

  1. Ambitious and science based corporate emission reduction targets and transparent reporting on the adherence to these targets. (These targets should focus on direct Greenhouse Gas emissions (scope 1 and 2) and indirect emissions (scope 3) focusing on their value chain. Furthermore, one should also take into account its historical emissions (if possible)
  2. Environmental impact and social impact assessments of the activities both in country as well as in the value chain of the private sector.

A1 : the climate crisis is a child rights crisis. If you look at the impacts of climate change on children’s rights, you see that this has a devastating effect on them and yet they are the least responsible for climate change. One of our latest report, Futures at Risk: Protecting the rights of children on the move in a changing climate, found that in 2020 alone, weather-related events – whether or not climate change-related – were linked to 30.1 million new displacements, including 9.8 million new internal displacements of children. That equates to almost 27,000 displacements every day. Every displacement represents possible disruption to children’s access to health, education, and protection.

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From Edel Heuven: 3) Corporate climate finance for high impact projects and initiatives that support transition and adaptation in countries in the Global South that are most vulnerable to climate change. These projects could support mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity in countries most vulnerable to climate change and pay attention to gender equality and the need for finance to support communities with mitigation and adaptation while at the same time lifting them out of poverty.
4) Development of pro-poor adaptation and mitigation technologies that are gender transformative.

I really like thinking about the IMP ABC framework here. Act to avoid harms. Benefit stakeholders. Contribute to solutions. Companies can then figure out the best mix between those three categories for them.

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In my opinion at this moment CLIMATE ACTION is a Business for All Businesses. Put in another words, Nature and Climate action is the core for Business, as well as the rest of society.
Coming back to purpose for a Business and lead actions to transform today what is needed, because We all have a lot to do to sustain Life, here are just some examples of what we are facing:
« Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations lead to cascading effects via six of the other key climate indicators: Ocean acidification, surface temperature, ocean heat content, glacial mass, sea ice extent, sea level rise; that perpetuate warming and contribute to high impact events, risking the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): rising poverty, food insecurity, health issues, water scarcity, rising inequalities, displacement, ecosystem collapse, biodiversity loss, conflict “ .

A1: UNICEF has documented how in Bangladesh climate change is one of the reasons why an estimated 3.45 million Bangladeshi children are involved in child labour. Children have been found to work in the informal sector as well as in garment factories to support their families, who had lost everything in floods or had to migrate because of them. This means that for businesses there is a heightened risk of child labour when they operate in areas with climate-change displaced populations and they need to identify and address this risk.

A1: From a tech industry perspective, I believe tech companies can play a major role in reducing global CO2 emissions. They can do this by leveraging renewable energy to support their data centers. Most of the world’s information systems run on data centers, a large majority in cloud data. We know that sustainability is a priority for the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

However, not all I.T providers are in sustainable cities or in economies that support these initiatives. In Africa, we need digital infrastructure assets to move towards a low carbon economy that resides in sustainable cities. Of course, that begins with local and national governments prioritising more efficient city planning and renewable energy. It’s evident that people are starting to act, and environmental goals are becoming increasingly important for corporations and their employees.

Many businesses operate in different geographies and regions and often a key issue is to understand the local landscape and needs first - be it an energy ecosystem (e.g. the power supply to a factory) - and from there look to engage not just immediate employees but also the local community as well. “Buy In” is essential - also to avoid coming up with solutions that don’t succeed as they affect realties.

A1 : Another example, is the minerals that are essential to the transition to a green economy. These have been reported as being tainted by child labour. As the demand and push for a transition to a greener economy increases, there is an urgent need to consider the unintended consequences on groups at particular risk of negative impacts, such as children. Without this, there will not be a fair and sustainable future.

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The impact for business will mean to put climate action at the heart, to come out of the business as usual and to follow the path of innovation with an approach to identify growth and equilibrium with nature, people, and economic benefits.
Once again, regarding purpose, what could we do as business leaders and society to transform our practices in order to break the cycle we faced in 2020: “over 50 million people were doubly hit – by climate-related disasters (floods, droughts and storms) and by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Our dependance on natural capital to create and develop business is highly recognized.

The World Economic Forum (2020) cited the Dependency of business on nature, fallout of business impacts on nature and impacts of nature loss on society, as the three main ways in which destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems creates risks for business.
The three largest sectors in the economy that are highly dependent on nature generate close to USD 8 trillion of GVA: construction, agriculture, food and beverages.
The World Economic Forum also mentioned the urgency to create new business models and strategies, and better value nature contributions in supply chains, including accounting for natural capital and the costs of ecosystems degradation within economic development.

The economics of climate action are deeply anchored by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. If properly implemented this agreement holds the keys not only to a green future but also to a century chartered by inclusive growth. One of the key tenets that make up the philosophical underpinnings of the agreement is that of climate action. The urgency of the climate crisis is more apparent now than ever before. Natural calamities fueled by climate change displaced a record 7 million people in the first half of 2019. Since then millions more continue to be impacted directly and indirectly by climate change. It is increasingly clear that low-carbon and resilient economic growth can be an engine to help revitalize global growth, contribute to poverty reduction, generate jobs and income opportunities, all while vigorously countering growing climate risks. In order to fully pursue the promise of the social contracts that exist between people and governments, climate action needs to be a collective resolve.

CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has developed the Climate-Smart Village (CSV) Research for Development (R4D) approach. In East Africa, CCAFS facilitates six Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs): Lushoto (Tanzania), Wote and Nyando (Kenya), Hoima and Rakai (Uganda), and Borana (Ethiopia). Interventions include:

  • Formation of Farmers collective action groups.
  • The action groups act as innovation partnerships for capacity building and adoption of new crop and livestock interventions.
  • Groups pool financial resources for savings, provide labour for farm operations,
  • Action groups make it easier to provide agro-advisory services and farm inputs of good quality at affordable prices

Farmers in the CSVs are implementing crop-smart and livestock-smart innovations, including:

  • Better beans*: to improve farmers’ access to seeds of improved bean varieties and establish a sustainable seed delivery system.
  • Breeding resilient ruminants: to improved breeds of small ruminants, coupled with better livestock management practices for transforming their productivity, and supporting women’s and young people’s livelihoods.
  • Championing better potatoes: to enable farmers to access potato varieties that can be grown all year round and increase potato yields.
  • Testing high-yielding root crops: to introduce resistant cassava and sweet potato varieties through participatory action research.

TNFD – Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures:, this future framework is considered the most likely unified global solution to measuring nature and biodiversity loss moving forward, with Refinitiv taking a leading role in it’s creation - recommend all businesses follow suit and this will help measure impact for both net zero and nature positivity

A1: The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, with children and future generations suffering a disproportionate effect. Because of their unique metabolism, physiology and developmental needs, the changes in temperature, air and water quality and nutrition will likely have more severe and long-term impacts on children’s health, including mental health, development and well-being. Extreme weather and natural disasters can also disrupt access to essential services for children, such as education and health. The same happens in the case of children displaced because of climate change, as highlighted by our report Futures at Risk: Protecting the rights of children on the move in a changing climate. In addition, climate change-related cases that raise the issue of intergenerational justice are growing.

Another thought in terms of what does “good” look like is to also consider what does “good” require in terms of up-front investments ( terms of impact assessment).

Its important that business don’t just think about climate mitigation and reducing their carbon footprint but also supporting adaptation. IIED has worked with others to develop the locally led adaptation principles locally-led-adaptation that bring community perspectives into the decision making about use of resources. For us that’s an example of what good looks like.


Finally, to close my arguments, recently, Dasgupta, P. (2021), The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review. (London: HM Treasury), described:
« Nature is more than a mere economic good. Nature nurtures and nourishes us, so we will think of assets as durable entities that not only have use value but may also have intrinsic worth. Once we make that extension, the economics of biodiversity becomes a study in portfolio management…… if we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists »

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TNFD is a really important area to consider alongside the existing TCFD frameworks that are increasingly being adopted.

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Sustainable development can only be achieved by striking the right balance between economic, environmental and social components. Decarbonisation of our global economy will only succeed if climate justice includes solutions for workers, communities and the most vulnerable - also known as a ‘just transition’. The just transition recognises the need for equality – with the SDG mandate to leave no one behind at its heart – as well as equity – to ensure the low-carbon transition supports, benefits and empowers all.

Companies can positively contribute to a just transition through putting in place certain measures to ensure they minimise negative impacts: social dialogue and stakeholder engagement to inform the development and implementation of a just transition plan, access to green and decent jobs supported through retaining, re- and/or up-skilling workers, social protection and advocacy.

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