The topic of environmental protection is a priority for young generations, companies must adopt credible climate commitments

26. 8 .2021, Natálie Hrabánková, Deloitte Legal

Addressing the climate change and environmental protection continue to be a priority for young generations. This trend creates pressure on companies which have to adopt sustainable solutions. However, it is not always clear who is to be responsible for the green transformation in companies – one of the favourites is surprisingly the legal department. However, transformation is not easy, and it is necessary to know how to set credible climate commitments and abstain from mere greenwashing. One of the ways is better cooperation and mutual support between individual sectors and companies.

Environmental protection is a priority for millennials and generation Z

A survey conducted by Deloitte among millennials and respondents from generation Z in 2021 shows that environmental topics remain a priority for young generations despite the pandemic. The environmental protection has been, on a stable basis, an area that most worries representatives of younger generations, while almost one third changed their consumer behaviour in favour of companies having a positive impact on the environment.

At the same time, almost 60% of young people are afraid that companies will stop seeing the impacts on the environment as a priority with the end of the pandemic. Companies have to realise that the coming generation of customers, employees and decision-makers sees environmental protection as a key aspect of their lives. It is necessary to respond to this change, otherwise companies will face a difficult future.

Inhouse lawyers as a centre of corporate sustainability

A recent survey conducted by Deloitte and entitled The role of the chief legal officer in addressing ESG issues shows that the second most important factor that has an impact on the loyalty of the customer to a brand is its attitude to current sustainability trends. The Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, or their incorporation in corporate plans is reflected not only in the popularity with customers, but also financial results of a company, and also in human resources, primarily in HR matters and recruitment of new employees.

Not every company has a specialised ESG department, and therefore the importance of in-house legal departments has been increasing as they frequently assume the responsibility for ESG. This area usually relates to compliance, risk management of third parties and regulation, i.e. traditional issues within the responsibility of the legal department. In the future, we can expect an increase in this trend and the need of in-house lawyers to assume the responsibility for sustainability.

How to set credible climate commitments

With increasing pressure on companies in respect of their interest in progressive activities relating to the climate crisis, their responsibility to meet their obligations has been increasing. They do not have this responsibility only to their management, but also to other involved parties, primarily employees, shareholders and customers. These are often very cautious, almost sceptical to labels guaranteeing environmentally friendly and sustainable processes. It is primarily consumers who may often have a problem to distinguish which producer really meets the obligations which it publicly proclaims.

The lack of trust that results from unauthentic behaviour of companies leads to a loss in the interest of potential customers, and potential disinterest of investors, employee dissatisfaction and overall financial decline. Investors are essential for the selection of correct means, because the authenticity of the message can be ensured with their help. How to achieve this is described in our road map for better commitments mitigating the climate crisis – first of all, it is important to determine the basis and commit to adherence to the determined plan, subsequently create a transparent and trustworthy management which will supervise the compliance, and last but not least pursue an effective strategy focusing on the achieving of determined goals.

What every leader of sustainable transformation must know?

The following decade is key for the development of the current climatic crisis and the pressure on the companies that may have a significant share in the change continues to grow. For this reason, companies will have to implement their decisions that will significantly impact the climatic situation during the following ten years, with discretion and in compliance with the requirements for environmental protection. According to the movement for the positive development in the climatic crisis, it is important not to overlook the following attributes in this situation:

  • Companies must primarily focus on looking forward to the near future from which it is apparent where the current trends go and what impacts they will have if not adhered to.
  • In addition, it is necessary to have a look “inside”, focus on internal functioning of a specific company and consider current procedures and strategies, or adapt them to the requirements leading to the mitigation of the climatic crisis.
  • As the last step, companies need to look around and identify the possibilities through which it is possible to achieve a safer future in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Solution for the climatic change is based on the cooperation across sectors and companies

How may the management of a company lead an organisation and entire sectors towards greater sustainability? An effective solution is provided by a system approach. With increasing worries about the environment even major companies started to focus on low carbon future and this goal is getting to top levels of their priorities. As such, companies seek to adjust their agendas according to current trends and requirements in terms of sustainability, however most of them are doing it only on their own. Similarly, large governmental organisations seek to pursue environmentally friendly practices only on their own.

However, it is believed that the cooperation between individual companies has the actual potential to impact the climatic crisis. For this reason, it is necessary to create a single system with clear rules which can be joined and a smooth cooperation with an objective of environmental protection will be ensured. Not only companies that could otherwise pose a risk for the development in sustainability, but also government organisations and technology sectors that are able to create clear data, structure and solutions should get involved.

Key elements of a comprehensive cooperation across all the above parts include a reduction of excessive use of things, reduction in the waste production, repairs of damaged things instead of their immediate liquidation and proper verification of adequacy of the means for specific purposes before their (potentially unnecessary) purchase. The low carbon future is thus not only on the shoulders of chemical factories, but consist in the cooperation in all industrial sectors.

‐ Natálie Hrabánková, Deloitte Legal

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