The third session of Global Compact Network Canada’s (GCNC) “Paving the Way for Responsible Conduct in the Decade of Action” five-part webinar series took place on June 10th and focused on “How Businesses Can Drive Ambitious Corporate Climate Action.”
Ayman Chowdhury, Head of Secretariat of GCNC, opened the session by emphasizing the importance of the environment as one of the main pillars of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. The discussion focused on how Canadian companies can leverage sustainable business models to define challenges, implement solutions, and measure outcomes to further drive accelerated corporate climate action. The expert speaker panel featured Lila Karbassi, Chief Programmes at UN Global Compact; Rachel Bannon-Godfrey, Senior Principal, Sustainability Discipline Leader at Stantec Buildings; William Surphlis, President and Founder of Brooklin Consulting; and Catherine Thibault, Director, Public Affairs and Global Communications at CAE Inc.
Lila Karabassi indicated that one of the priorities of the UN Global Compact revolves around how businesses can mitigate the effects of climate change. She suggested that, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change will result in significant disruptions affecting the most vulnerable as well as the global economy. Therefore, major transformations to re-think long-term risks are becoming increasingly important. For example, the Science-Based Target Initiative focuses on finding ways to limit the increasing global temperature by no more than 1.5°C as established in the Paris Agreement and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data.
From CAE Inc.’s perspective, the first Canadian aerospace company to become carbon neutral as of September 2020, Catherine Thibault explained how their business model resulted in reduced emissions through the use of training flight simulators, carbon offsetting mechanisms, and partnerships driving innovation. She indicated that a post-pandemic recovery would require more collaboration with industry partners to accelerate climate action.
William Surphlis explained how Brooklin Consulting’s most significant environmental challenge was reducing their travel footprint, which was positively impacted by COVID-19’s disruptions to traditional in-person client engagement. To contribute to climate action, the company has taken a crucial step by committing to becoming carbon neutral and has built capacity for this goal by educating their team and clients and making data on their environmental performance available to stakeholders.
Rachel Bannon-Godfrey described that for Stantec, one of the greatest environmental challenges is helping stakeholders realize that every building counts as buildings are one of the most significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, whenever Stantec launches a new project, all architecture, engineering, and design decisions are meant to follow a precautionary principle to reduce environmental and social risks.
The panelists closed the discussion by agreeing on the importance of setting targets as one of the most efficient ways for corporations to address environmental issues. Rachel Bannon-Godfrey also pointed out the importance of considering the social aspects related to environmental sustainability such as involving diverse voices when setting targets to bring about climate action. All panelists emphasized how stakeholders are paying special attention to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, resulting in increasing pressure to measure companies’ performance and transparently disclose information.
The fourth session, “Building Resilience: The Evolving Role of Corporate Governance,” of this webinar series will take place on July 8th from 1 pm – 2 pm EDT. Register here.