Greenstone's North American team recently attended the North American Sustainability & Responsibility Summit (NASRS) held outside of Austin, Texas. The summit served as a platform for sustainability, CSR, and EHS leaders from various industries and organisations to network and learn from each other. Keynotes, case studies, workshops, panel discussions, and networking opportunities over two and a half days allowed attendees to share ideas and innovative solutions to common challenges.
During the event, a number of important themes emerged. In this article, the Greenstone team shares five key topics that were discussed at NASRS23.
1. Net-zero goals
An important area of discussion was net-zero goals. Although net-zero goals are not a new trend, many corporations have now set specific science-based targets and are making significant progress towards achieving them. With the progress, many companies discussed reaching an inflexion point where they have reduced their carbon footprint as much reasonably possible. This inflexion point leads them to consider offsets and removals. Attendees were challenged to use offsets only when necessary and to focus on innovation until the last minute.
During a keynote discussion on the topic, Microsoft communicated that they focus on carbon removal credits instead of offsets or avoidance. It was also discussed that due-diligence is key to ensure only high-quality removal credits are purchased.
A common theme of the discussions that took place at NASRS23 was the concept of ‘greenhushing’. This term refers to companies taking steps to remain silent about their climate strategies by either avoiding the topic or refusing to comment on it.
The reasons behind greenhushing can include avoiding backlash from those opposed to climate action, not wanting to be called out for falling short of their targets, or hiding any instances of greenwashing. Greenhushing is cause for concern as it hinders progress towards achieving sustainability goals and puts companies at odds with their stakeholders.
It is important for companies to find a balance between disclosure and action. They must avoid reporting for solely the sake of reporting and engaging in greenwashing or greenhushing. Instead, companies should focus on taking action and making a meaningful impact in their sustainability efforts. By doing so, they can maintain transparency with their stakeholders and work towards achieving their goals.
3. Life Cycle Analysis and Product Emissions
The circular economy and life cycle analysis (LCA) were discussed by many in attendance at the event, particularly when it comes to expanding scope 3 to include emissions from sold products. By expanding scope 3 reporting to include emissions from the products they design, manufacture, and sell, companies can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of their operations, identify opportunities to reduce emissions throughout the entire product life cycle, and provide clarity to consumers, investors, and other stakeholders who inquire about their products.
LCAs are a critical component of calculating product emissions. A number of resources and standards exist to assist companies with their LCA and calculation of sold product emissions, including ISO’s overarching standard in which they outline the four phases of an LCA and the GHG Protocol’s Product Life Cycle and Accounting Reporting Standard.
4. Electrification and Decarbonisation
In line with efforts to reduce carbon emissions and decarbonise the global economy, electrification was mentioned considerably throughout the event. Many large companies are focusing on electrification, including GM, which aspires to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new U.S. light-duty vehicles by 2035. This is in line with the growing trend towards electric vehicles (EVs) as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
In addition, Frito-Lay has also launched a large initiative to decarbonise one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the United States. Not only does the transition to renewable energy sources help companies can reduce their carbon footprint and improve their overall sustainability performance, but it also has positive impacts on local communities including decreased air pollution.
5. Partnerships across the value chain
The reduction of value chain emissions continues to be a hot topic amongst sustainability professionals. Organisations want to ensure their value chains are sustainable and many have found success through closely collaborating with their suppliers and value chain partners.
By clearly communicating expectations and combining expertise, companies are able to work directly with their suppliers to innovate and tackle emissions together. For example, PepsiCo and Frito-Lay directly work with the farmers who source their products. Through this partnership, they are able to learn what works for their farmers and spread the adoption of regenerative farming.