This year's COP27, taking place in Egypt, looks to build on previous years' momentum by bringing together prominent figures across government, business and activist groups to discuss, challenge and implement structures that support a greener future.
Inevitably, brands still refining their sustainability efforts which look to get involved in COP27 face backlash and accusations of greenwashing. But this tension isn't going to go away. As a society, tangible change can only occur if we collectively face up to the gap between where we are and where we need to be.
For some organisations, this may mean taking criticism onboard as they work through improving their sustainability credentials - and engaging with forums like COP27 is an essential part of this work. The question is not whether brands should play a role at such events, but how their actions throughout the year live up to their commitments.
And making good on commitments related to climate change has never been more imperative. In September, we released the latest FutureBrand Index, the annual perception study of PwC's Top 100 companies. This year's research revealed that climate change is perceived to be the fastest growing – and therefore most urgent – threat to business success year-on-year, rising from 10% - 13%. This is all the more significant given that the other threats - such as technology integration - decreased or stagnated in terms of perceived importance.
Little wonder the organisations at the top of our ranking - renewables giant NextEra Energy or Indian conglomerate Tata Consultancy Services - strongly focus on tangible action to decrease emissions.
However, even those organisations whose primary business is unrelated to emissions can still make a difference. At this year's conference, the US proposed a long-term plan for companies to participate in a volunteer programme that would see them fund emerging nations' fossil fuel switch. This initiative would undoubtedly see an increase in positive brand perception.
Consistently attending, sponsoring or having a voice at climate summits is a way for brands to remain engaged with the topic. Cross-collaboration between brands to collectively tackle climate change shows real commitment to the issue.
"Looking at initiatives like Race to Zero, set up by global brands H&M Group, IKEA, Kingfisher and Walmart with a goal to drive overall climate action within the retail industry, it’s important to recognise where brands are putting in the effort. As opposed to being accused of greenwashing or applying these tactics for clout, brands committed to learning how they can reposition their strategy to ensure sustainability is prominent should be applauded. Trying to move ahead of the competition when it comes to sustainability is regressive. Solidarity between competitors is the only way to solve this common challenge, which we can only achieve if we combine efforts and investments – impact measurement tools, innovative solutions, etc. We find that these initiatives, when sincere, are welcomed by the whole of society."
Charlotte Gosset Growth and Sustainability Officer - FutureBrand Paris
Businesses have a huge responsibility when it comes to reversing damage caused by environmental neglect. Those who actively engage with climate change action and education will be those shaping the future in which humanity can sustainably live, work and play.