Net Zero is not enough





The world is obsessed with Net Zero as we push towards climate change targets over the next 30 years. Why is our ambition so unambitious?


Scouts are taught to leave nature as you found it. If you build a fire, you scrub it out completely. If you build a shelter, you take it down. If you produce waste, you take it with you and dispose of it responsibly. Leaving something the way you found it is just common sense and the right thing to do. So why is Net Zero hailed as such a revelation?


As responsible citizens in 2021, we cannot leave the planet as we found it. That would be an ever descending spiral into a climate change emergency. How can this be aspirational if we fall so short of leaving the planet as we (the human race) found it?


The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now. Now is the time to drive net positive outcomes and contribute more than we are taking out. In order to do that successfully we all need to aspire to a net positive agenda. This may be a slightly longer term aspiration but there are actions we can take today. In the short term, we can build authentic partnerships between those contributing net positive gains and those ‘polluting’ (and by polluting we mean any activity that has a harmful impact to planet or people). Consumer benefits need to be re-framed. There is no point delivering shiny hair as a benefit if your CO2 emissions are polluting your customer’s lungs. That’s just a false benefit.


Offsetting is one way to deliver a net positive outcome but there is so much still untested and unknown. We all know about the carbon debt and the work we need to do to pay back the emissions of our forefathers. We are entering an age where the polluter pays so those damaging the environment will pay to make it right, that’s a start. What about the social debt to communities with poor access to education and are on social support? Or the generation grappling with rising mental health problems, depression and anxiety? How do we measure and pay back this social debt?


The pandemic has shown that we – from communities to companies to countries – can create transformative change when we collaborate around a common goal. There are millions of well-meaning initiatives creating global and local impacts, daring to be that little bit more ambitious, and delivering a Net Positive contribution. From Social causes focusing on loneliness, food banks and mental well-being as well as Environmental initiatives from tree planting to biodiversity stewardship.


The key is to build an ownable and meaningful portfolio of initiatives for your brand so it doesn’t feel like a case of socialwashing or greenwashing. When we build those enduring collaborations, we will see positive and measurable impact on the environment, society, and those brands that lead with action.