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New Climate Fund launched to Help Businesses Adapt

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As an approved Green Service provider, Clearstream Solutions can get you ready for a Green Future.
Last week the Climate Enterprise Action Fund with an initial allocation of €10m was launched. This Climate Enterprise Action Fund is now available to help companies reduce emissions & embed sustainability in how they work.
The Fund, which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland, through approved Green Service providers, will help businesses take action to drive down their emissions and embed sustainability in how they work.
This new fund supports Irish companies to build the capabilities required to deliver sustainable products, services and business models.

The grant funds companies to engage Clearstream Solutions to identify opportunities for your business and develop plans in areas like resource efficiency, renewable energy and the circular economy.

As an approved Green Service provider, financial supports available which reflect the needs of companies at different stages of their decarbonisation and sustainability journey also include the GreenStart and GreenPlus grants.

Contact brian@clearstreamsolutions.ie to discuss your Green Future journey.

The 5 Hot Button Issues in Corporate Climate Change

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The issue of corporate climate change action is an ever-evolving space. For those just starting on their carbon journey, the best place to start is to calculate your emissions to the ISO 14064-1 or The GHG Protocol standard. However, with efforts to tackle the crisis ramping up in recent times, it can be difficult to for more advanced companies to weed out the important issues among the noise. Having worked with a multitude of organisations across a broad range of activities, we at Clearstream Solutions have compiled a list of what we view as the 5 key issues that should be on the radar of any company serious about taking climate action.

  • Climate Risk and Opportunity

Many organisations will compile a risk register to mitigate future loss to their business. But despite red flags being raised by leaders and scientists alike, not all companies will consider the risk that climate change will pose to their business. The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was established as a solution to this. Their ongoing guidance can aid companies in assessing the physical risks of climate change to them in the future, as well as the risks and opportunities for a company as economies transition to Net Zero.

  • Measuring Scope 3

Measuring operational emissions from direct combustion or energy purchased has become the norm for many companies. However, it is now evident for a lot of organisations that this work is only the tip of the iceberg. It is becoming increasingly important to measure emissions across the entire value chain. For some sectors like retail, Scope 3 emissions can be over 95% of their overall emissions.

  • Product Emissions

There is a quote by Logitech which says: “Carbon is the new calorie”.  As those in your supply chain are looking to measure and reduce their own Scope 3 emissions, they will turn to you to be able to provide a footprint of your product. This is in addition to the new wave of eco-conscious consumers who are also interested in this information.

  • Verification

Verification has become standard for many companies measuring their emissions. Measuring emissions itself is important, but before stating them publicly or committing to targets, it’s always advised to get your emissions third party verified to ISO 14064-3 standard.

  • Targets

One of the most important steps towards reducing emissions is to commit to an emissions reduction target. There are many different types of targets an organisation can commit to reach their goal.  Leading companies will set a top level “moonshot” target such as Net Zero by 2050. These can be achieved by more short-term targets in the interim to keep focus, such as those from the Science Based Targets Initiative.

 The path to corporate climate leadership has many hurdles and will continue to evolve, but hopefully we have shed some light on some key issues currently in this space. For those who may need some assistance, please feel free to reach out to us at Clearstream Solutions for any climate related needs.

Gráinne is a Carbon Program Manager at Clearstream Solutions with both research and practical experience in organisational carbon footprinting. She assists companies with their carbon journey including measuring, managing, verifying emissions to the ISO 14064-3 standard, target setting and disclosure to frameworks such as CDP.

Plastics – the good, the bad, and the future

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Plastics are made from finite petrochemical sources such as oil and gas. These extremely versatile materials have become increasingly used across the global economy in sectors such as packaging, electronics and medicine. Plastics low cost, low weight and durability has enabled the extension of the shelf life of food, increased the fuel efficiency of cars and the convenience of life, allowing eating and drinking on the go. The versatility and performance of plastics has led to increased growth in its production and use. When combined with current linear economic models which ingrain a throwaway culture, it has led to a global plastic pollution problem. Consumers have become increasingly aware of the mismanagement of these fossil-based plastics at the end of life which has led to large scale pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers, in soils, in the atmosphere and within animal tissue. Fuelled by increasing media attention, the growing body of evidence as to the detrimental environmental and social effects of this pollution is extensive and has rightly overshadowed the benefits of plastic.  

So, what can be done moving forward to address this global plastic problem?

It is vital to rethink how we can use plastic and look past just the benefits it provides in its function but also to include how it is handled at its end of life. Waste management systems globally do not have the capacity or scope to recover and dispose of or recycle these plastics safely. It is imperative that adequate investment is directed to these systems to increase the recovery and recirculation of plastics into the economy, extending the lifespan of plastics moving away from the linear take-make-waste model to a circular one. Action will also include upstream (pre-consumption) and downstream (post-consumption) measures reducing plastic in value chains where possible, implementing reusable models and engaging with customers to ensure recyclable plastic products are directed to adequate waste streams ensuring this resource isn’t lost from the economy.

Identifying alternative renewable feedstocks which can be used to develop circular biodegradable or compostable bioplastics will enable the decoupling from finite carbon-intensive fossil-based sources and offer increased options in the waste management of plastics. Biodegradable or compostable bioplastic is not the silver bullet to the global plastic pollution problem, as biomaterials still require appropriate management at end of life and can often consumer confusion on how to dispose of it appropriately. However, it does provide an alternative approach to decreasing the level of waste generated. For instance, in situations where plastics that can be recycled aren’t due to food contamination. Ensuring that bioplastics can deliver the same functionality as conventional plastics and do not contribute to the food waste problem due to decreased performance, is a significant challenge for these alternative materials.

Ultimately, the elephant in the room is climate change, and the massive challenge that mitigating climate change poses. The plastic issue is a branch of this growing problem of the climate emergency, and our reliance on fossil-based resources to generate materials and energy. Therefore, on top of the performance challenge for bioplastics, and as part of any move towards more biodegradable or compostable biological solutions, it is critical to ensure that the life cycle environmental impact of such materials delivers an improvement on their fossil-based counterparts. It is vital not to assume that just because the plastic is made from a renewable resource that it is more sustainable or has a lower carbon impact.  Compostable bioplastics, once the infrastructure is in place, offer an added value of the development of a locally generated product (i.e. compost) that can improve crop production, soil moisture retention and reduced dependency on the energy-intensive production of fossil-based fertilisers.

The solution to our current plastic pollution problem is not straightforward. It will require a combination of:

  • Post-consumption management,
  • Consumer engagement,
  • Reduction in plastic use,
  • Rethinking design,
  • And embedding circularity principles into alternative materials or increasing the reusability and lifespan of conventional plastics (reusable and refill systems).

Clearstream Solutions can help you to measure and understand the impact your plastic products and supply chains have on the environment. We work with our clients to set and achieve carbon and plastic reduction targets and ensure your transition to more environmentally appropriate alternatives is as smooth as possible.

Niall Collins is the Circular Economy and LCA program manager at Clearstream Solutions. He is an LCA practitioner with research and commercial experience in conducting Life Cycle Assessments in accordance with the ISO 14040:2006 standard. He helps companies measure the environmental impact of their products, set reduction targets and validate any environmental savings made through actions taken to reach these targets.

CDP Ireland Network Event: November 2019

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Corporate ESG Measurement and Reporting

Addressing the accelerating challenge of climate change

As part of Climate Finance Week 2019, the CDP Ireland Network is hosting an event on ESG reporting and measurement. It will focus on why leading Irish companies are making sustainability a priority for their businesses and why investors are increasingly considering ESG factors in their investment decisions. It is suitable for companies at all stages of the responsible business journey and will look at emerging trends such as ESG reporting, TCFD, Carbon Pricing and Science-Based Targets.

The event will open with our keynote speaker Paul Dickinson, Executive Chair and founder of CDP. Paul will highlight the global corporate sustainability movement, the latest trends in measurement and reporting and why it is essential that companies are addressing this agenda.

This will be followed by two panels. On the first panel we will hear from Irish corporates on the benefits of operating a responsible business, while on the second we’ll be joined by investors to hear how both Irish and global asset managers are assessing companies and what they are looking for when it comes to responsible investment and ESG disclosures. We will also get an insight on how the EU are tackling the Sustainable Finance agenda and what this will means for Irish companies.

After the break we will move onto the more practical side of the morning’s event. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in two workshops. In the first workshop they will have the opportunity to learn about the latest and emerging sustainability topics. Each topic will be coordinated by a practitioner who will be able to provide real examples from their own experience in implementing these initiatives in their company.

  • Sustainability & ESG Reporting. Understand the available frameworks & schemes, the emerging best practices, common challenges, and success stories when it comes to reporting.
  • Setting and meeting climate change targets. Demystify science-based targets, pledges and learn about the types of projects that can best help companies meet their sustainability targets such as renewables, offsetting emissions, responsible sourcing & circular economy projects.
  • Embracing Climate Related Risk and Opportunities. Understand how to best integrate the TCFD recommendations into your business and how to effectively disclose this information to your stakeholders.

The second workshop will allow participants to gain latest insights into the CDP Climate Change, Forestry, Water and Supply Chain programmes. Again these will be led by practitioners who have experience in implementing these programmes in their business.

This event is hosted by the CDP Ireland Network, which represents CDP’s interests in Ireland and encourages Irish companies to report their environmental impact (carbon, water, forestry) in a consistent and credible way. The network is managed by a Steering Committee which consists of Irish companies who respond to CDP and members from the investment community.

If you are interested in finding out more about responding to CDP in 2020 please contact brian@clearstreamsolutions.ie or che@clearstreamsolutions.ie

To download agenda click here.


Event Details:  

Date: Wednesday November 6

Time: Registration and light refreshments at 9am, with a 9.30am start. Lunch hosted by CPL’s Future of Work Institute. Close at 1.30pm.

Location: The Printworks, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2

Registration: This event is free to attend, however registration is necessary as spaces are limited. Click here to register now.

This event is being hosted by the CDP Ireland Network in conjunction with Sustainable Nation as part of Climate Finance Week .It is kindly supported by CPL Resources and Sustainability Skillnet.

 

Sustainability Reporting Demystified

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In recent years there is increasing pressure on companies to not only engage in sustainability measures, but to share their actions and performance with stakeholders through sustainability reporting. But what exactly is sustainability reporting? And how can a company produce an effective sustainability report?

What is sustainability reporting?

Sustainability reporting is often known by a number of names. Some call it non-financial reporting, some CSR, and others ESG or citizenship reports. However, these are all a method of communicating to various stakeholder groups across a range of environmental, social, and governance issues.

Traditionally, sustainability reports were relatively unstructured and covered a range of mostly disconnected issues. Now, we are seeing a shift to a more structured approach, using recognized frameworks such as the GRI, the UN Global Compact and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability reporting is becoming an effective means to consolidate what is otherwise a wide and disparate range of topics and issues. The biggest driver behind reporting is engagement with a variety of stakeholders through communication of a company’s sustainability measures.

Who are these stakeholders, and what are their expectations for reporting?

There are a number of stakeholders that are increasingly becoming engaged with sustainability. While the stakeholders involved depends on a particular company, the stakeholders that we at Clearstream typically find most interested in a company’s sustainability performance are investors, customers, employees and industry regulators.

In our experience, investors are often the biggest driver of a company’s engagement with sustainability. Investors have recognized the importance of non-financial issues to a company’s economic performance and are increasingly looking at risk and opportunity in these areas. They are looking to see if the companies they invest in are disclosing ESG issues in an annual report, on the company website, or through frameworks such as CDP. From the viewpoint of investors, a financial report tells them what you did in the past, but a sustainability report tells them what you are going to do in the future.

Customers are also looking for evidence of commitment to sustainability in their sourcing and supply chain through programs such as CDP, EcoVadis, Sedex and Verego. They hope to identify potential risk and opportunity in their value chains through their supplier’s sustainability reporting.

In addition to companies providing information to investors and customers through programs such as CDP, companies may also be rated even if they are not directly engaging through these platforms. Companies such as Sustainalytics and MSCI are measuring, assessing and reporting on a company’s performance to interested stakeholders, making it important for a company to be proactively involved in reporting and communicating their sustainability message.

A progressively more important aspect of a company’s sustainability measures is the impact they have on internal stakeholders.  Employees and management are becoming empowered to drive and engage with their company on issues of sustainability. Employees want to work for companies that are conscious of sustainability responsibilities and are beginning to evaluate this within their own companies and when finding new places to work.

The last general stakeholder of concern is regulators, governments and industry bodies. These organizations are tightening their focus on companies’ non-financial performance. Programs such as mandatory carbon reporting and emissions schemes or the EU non-financial reporting directive and other programs addressing modern slavery and supply chain transparency are becoming more common and important for a company to consider and address in their sustainability plan.

What are the steps to writing a sustainability report?

A sustainability report is an output and result of a company’s sustainability performance, not a sustainability achievement itself. Therefore, there are several important steps prior to reporting and communicating sustainability efforts. When we are working with a client, we start with defining the scope and boundary of the sustainability plan. For example, what topics are they covering? Are they addressing local, or global initiatives? During this step, a lot of our clients will decide to address a range of topics from climate change to biodiversity to workplace concerns. The second step is to collect and validate data across all the selected areas. This data is used to set targets and identify areas of improvement. Once a client has defined the scope, collected data and established targets, they are in a position to begin the process of reporting and communicating their sustainability performance to stakeholders.

What makes a good sustainability report?

In our experience, we at Clearstream find that there are three key components of a good sustainability report. The first is clear guidance and support from senior management. This is crucial for a sustainability plan to be most effective within a company. Sustainability reports must also address issues of material concern. For example, the Taskforce on Climate Related Disclosures (TCFD) provides good guidance for companies to assess the financial risk of climate change in their business. The final component of a good sustainability report is a series of measures and targets. We are seeing that stakeholders are no longer looking just to see if a company is willing to disclose its sustainability measures, but also the specific actions they are taking to address sustainability and their performance in each of these areas. I also love to see companies report where they are struggling and what challenges they are facing as a sign of maturity and appropriate attention to these issues.

It is important to note that all companies are on a journey in terms of the maturity of their sustainability initiatives. No level of reporting that a company engages in is useless, unless it is completely inaccurate. The existence of a sustainability report within a company is better than nothing, as it shows awareness that there is something they should be addressing and involves some level of raising the profile of the issues and documenting the company’s approach. The worst a company can do is choose to not engage with their stakeholders on the topic at all.

How might we see sustainability reporting change in the future?

We have already seen, and will continue to see, a shift towards more structured reports following the recognized frameworks of programs such as the GRI and CDP. We are also seeing a consolidation of maturity in the approach to reporting and greater regulation from industry and accounting groups.

In general, sustainability reporting is becoming more mainstream. One of the most transformational impacts that I have seen sustainability reporting have on a business is when a company includes sustainability as a mandatory requirement in their annual report, as many public companies are starting to do. This focuses the board’s attention on the topic as now metrics and progress must be signed off on by the CEO. Sustainability is no longer just a sustainability officer hygiene concern; it has become a boardroom issue.

 

This interview was conducted by Katelyn Boisvert on behalf of Clearstream Solutions. To find out more about this topic contact brian@clearstreamsolutions.ie