This week, we have been discussing the topic of inequality, and what it might mean to different parties. And one thing is clear, it is a very complex and intricate theme to have a one-track opinion on.
When you google, yes, we google, the word ‘inequality’, the first thing that comes up is a mathematical explanation, which says: In mathematics, an inequality is a relation that makes a non-equal comparison between two numbers or other mathematical expressions. It is used most often to compare two numbers on the number line by their size. So, in even simpler words, when comparing a to b, one shall always be greater than the other, basic... It would also mean that if you want to swap over the inequality, you just add something to a or b, whichever is smaller (be it numeric or matter-based) and you invert the relation. In life, however, swapping over inequalities takes much more effort!
In society, inequality refers to the phenomenon of unequal and/or unfair distribution of resources and opportunities among its members. Moreover, when discussing inequality, one must include distinct yet overlapping economic, social, and spatial (environmental) dimensions. Since most of our brains went straight into the social aspect of this topic, we decided to start with a deep dive into this topic from the lens of social inequality.
According to Social Europe, (socialeurope.eu), inequality has mostly been a theme associated with the left-right political spectrum and has its roots as far back as the French revolution, when its supporters were using the slogan “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” meaning “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” to fight against the political regime of France of the time. The poorer part of the population of 18th century France felt, let's say, too restricted by the existing steep social gradients. On the other hand, the richer were quite content with the existing inequalities and believed them to be the product of natural differences between individuals or social groups that should not be the subject of interference.
Was it fair or unfair? Depends on which party you would interview. From one perspective, such a set-up of established social gradients has been the model of existence since, at least the beginning of recorded human history, and has established itself by combining political, cultural, social, and economic experiences and eventually constituted the common heritage of humanity. From the other perspective, there is a debate on the ever-so-complex concept of “deservingness”. How can we, humans, argue that one person deserves more and the other less?
The ones living in the Global North, including us based in Denmark, are often told to appreciate our privileges and share the resources and opportunities, whilst remaining humble about it. And we are happy to do so, however, the question is - how to do it most effectively?
All of us understand from our own life experiences, that we want different solutions to our problems. Hence, we at BeCause think that one of the key steps towards minimizing the social inequality gap would be to embrace diversity. All of us, no matter which social status we hold, have to learn to embrace varying ideas and opinions, in short, embrace difference in all types of ways, of living and of helping. Our planet needs people with different personalities, experiences, and mindsets in order to be able to innovate, problem-solve and ultimately, succeed.
How do we provide the space and equal opportunities for all to have access to innovation, problem-solving, and reaching one's goals? We believe it is access to education. We, of course, and thankfully, are not rediscovering America here. Education is UNESCO’s top priority because it is a basic human right and the foundation on which to build peace and drive sustainable development (UNESCO, 2017). There are various knowledge sources and ongoing projects, both on governmental levels and all the way down to local voluntary initiatives. Here are some we find interesting to explore and inform yourself on further:
· Childhood Education International
· African Education Foundation
We invite you all to never stop educating yourself in order to keep an open mind toward innovative solutions!
This week we have been reflecting on the topic of water, more precisely on its distribution…and more specifically on the evidently increasing uneven distribution… And how all of this unevenness might affect us!
Water is arguably the most valuable resource on our planet. All life depends on water to survive and thrive. However, with the increasing impact of climate change, which is continuously altering patterns of weather and water around the world, more and more are receiving news of water shortages, droughts, and floods. Should we be worried?
With so much information circulating regarding this topic, we decided to look at science as the initial source of truth. Below we would like to share our thoughts on the facts found:
Fact Nr. 1: The distribution of water on Earth’s surface is extremely uneven - only 3% of the water on our planet’s surface is fresh (aka drinking water); the remaining 97% resides in the oceans. Of the aforementioned surface freshwater, 69% resides in glaciers, 30% of freshwater is found underground, and less than 1% is located in lakes, rivers, and swamps. Looking from another perspective, only 1% of the water on the planet’s surface is usable by humans, and 99% of the usable quantity is situated underground.
From one perspective not having that much freshwater to begin with, kind of puts our minds at peace in terms of being worried about the minuscule available quantities. If we have made it thus far with so little, we assume, we should be fine in the future. Additionally, our middle school physics lesson on mass balance comes to mind, that all matter is neither created nor destroyed. So, let’s say, for now, we should be OK on the quantity…or?
Fact Nr. 2: Water is always on the move, it is in the atmosphere, in the oceans, rivers, and lakes, on the land, and underground. Water literally never stops moving from place to place through the water cycle. The water cycle explained in one sentence would sound something like this: liquid water evaporates into water vapor, condenses to form clouds, and precipitates back to earth in the form of rain and snow. Furthermore, evaporation and precipitation rates are not evenly distributed around the world. As we all know, some areas receive more water, some less, business as usual. The recent science, however, suggests that it is not the total quantity of water on the planet that we should be worried about, but rather the problem lies within the changing patterns of water distribution. Moreover, science has long since proven that the water cycle is no exception to the impacts of climate change. Specifically, changing temperatures are affecting water vapor concentrations, cloud formation, and consequently precipitation and water replenishment patterns.
Indeed, news channels from the beginning of this summer (perspective of the Northern hemisphere), have been showing us worrisome news throughout the season. We see that some areas are experiencing heavier than usual rainfalls, for example, the ongoing floods in Pakistan (read more here), and other areas are suffering from the unusual absence of precipitation, an example of Norway, (read more here), that has not received its usual rainfall norm since April… Just these two examples, not to bore you with more, already show the globality of the problem. They show that nobody is safeguarded from climate change impacts based on their geographic location. We are all feeling the changing patterns of water distribution.
Conclusion thus far: Climate change is water change!
Even if we, the world’s governments, manage to hit the target to keep global warming to a ceiling of 2℃, the IPCC predicts we would still continue to endure various extreme events, relative to a baseline period of 1850-1900. Some parts of the world will be hit harder than others, yet the science is clear, all people and ecosystems will be affected.
We explored the countries that are under the highest water stress: Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
Read more here:
Fact Nr. 3: Water cycle intensification could make it much harder to get reliable supplies of fresh water across large areas of the planet. Back in 2018, the UN World Water Development Report stated that nearly 6 billion people will suffer from clean water scarcity by 2050. This would be the result of not only the changes in the water cycle and water availability but also the reduction of water resources intensified by increasing pollution of water, driven by dramatic population and economic growth.
Yes, we keep learning, that problem causes are never singular. And also, the impacts are never singular either, although we wished they would be! One thing is clear here, our total water demand cannot exceed the total water availability! However, if we take into account just the numbers of the global population growth, we know that water demand is continuously increasing. The accompanying somewhat scary conclusion that we also reached throughout our research and discussions was that the mass of available water may remain the same, if we for a moment ignored the changes in spatial and temporal distribution, however, the quality will continue deteriorating… are we ready for that?
Read more here:
Smart Water Magazine
Fact Nr. 4: Water scarcity will be the biggest climate-related hazard to assets within the next 30 years, especially for the utilities and materials sectors. While the news channels are occupied with displaying eye-catching events from the group of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wildfires, which are very likely to become more severe and frequent each year, the water scarcity threat remains in the shadows on many companies’ radars.
Potentially Fact Nr. 4 has us worried the most, as we reflect that we need water to grow and produce everything! We need water for irrigation, manufacturing, and power production. For example, as we speak, China’s factories have been forced to close again due to energy shortages that power their manufacturing facilities. Besides that, we need to consider that factories need to have functioning hygiene facilities for their workers.
Quite abstract for us here, in Europe, but here’s a list of impacts that we might very soon feel and will have to get used to as the new normal:
1. Extreme weather events are the new normal, meaning less snow in the winter, and hotter or rainier summers.
2. Global supply chain disruptions, meaning a shortage of supplies for various industries.
3. Future food security in question, meaning not only increasing prices but actual lack of some products.
4. Increased human conflicts, meaning an increased number of conflicts between water users at the local level.
5. Increase of refugee rate, meaning we will have to welcome more people from regions where water scarcity will have made it impossible to survive any longer.
Read more here:
We are leaving you here this week with a lot of open-ended questions…because we invite you to reflect, dig deeper and raise awareness and hopefully take mitigative actions from the perspective that is available to you!
Let’s start with a brief explanation of what COP is and why it has been created! So…COP, aka The Conference of Parties, is the apex decision-making body of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was formed in 1994 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and to protect the Earth from the threat of climate change.
COP members have been meeting every year since the year 1995, and these include environmental experts, ministers, heads of state, non-governmental organizations, and in some meetings civil society and private sector representatives. The number of participating countries has been gradually increasing ever since the first year. As of 2019, the number of member countries in the UNFCCC has reached 197.
Another positive development in recent years was the emphasis placed on the participation of young people, by creating space and special events for them during each conference.
Also important to note, is that organizing COP every year was a conscious decision for the countries to advance more effectively in the fight against climate change.
OK, here is the chronological overview of all the historic conferences!
1. Conference of the Parties 1
Berlin Mandate 28 Mar 1995 - 07 Apr 1995
The first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties voiced concerns about the adequacy of countries' abilities to meet commitments under the Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (BSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
From it came the Berlin Mandate, a sort of catalog of commitments that was quite indefinite, allowing countries to choose initiatives tailored to their needs.
2. Conference of the Parties 2
Geneva, Switzerland 08 Jul 1996 - 19 Jul 1996
The second UNFCCC Conference of the Parties addressed the need to establish binding quantitative targets on the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries, with precise reductions for 2005, 2010, and 2020.
The main achievements of COP 2 were the consideration of several reports on activities within the Convention’s mandate and the adoption of 18 decisions on DDT, exemptions, financial resources and mechanisms, implementation plans, technical assistance, synergies, and effectiveness evaluation.
3. Conference of the Parties 3
Kyoto, Japan 01 Dec - 10 Dec 1997
The main achievement of the third UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. This protocol lays the foundation of the carbon market.
4. Conference of the Parties 4
Buenos Aires, Argentina 02 Nov 1998 - 13 Nov 1998
The fourth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties COP 4 was supposed to address and finalize the remaining issues unresolved in Kyoto. However, the complexity and difficulty of finding agreement on these issues proved insurmountable, and instead, the parties adopted a 2-year "Plan of Action" to advance efforts and devise mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, to be completed by 2000.
During this conference, Argentina and Kazakhstan expressed their commitment to take on the greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligation, the first two non-Annex countries to do so.
5. Conference of the Parties 5
Bonn, Germany 25 Oct 1999 - 05 Nov 1999
The fifth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties took place between 25 October and 5 November 1999, in Bonn, Germany. It was primarily a technical meeting and did not reach major conclusions. The main achievement can be considered as the implementation of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action to reduce the risk of global climate change and also set out a collective strategy for achieving strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth. Furthermore, this conference marks the beginning of cooperation with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
6. Conference of the Parties 6
The Hague, Netherlands 13 Nov 2000 - 24 Nov 2000
The sixth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties discussions evolved rapidly into a high-level negotiation over the major political issues. These included: the major controversy over the United States' proposal to allow credit for carbon "sinks" in forests and agricultural lands that would satisfy a major proportion of the U.S. emissions reductions in this way; disagreements over consequences for non-compliance by countries that did not meet their emission reduction targets; and difficulties in resolving how developing countries could obtain financial assistance to deal with adverse effects of climate change and meet their obligations to plan for measuring and possibly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In the final hours of COP 6, despite some compromises agreed upon between the United States and some EU countries the talks in The Hague collapsed. Jan Pronk, the President of COP 6, suspended COP 6 without agreement. The continuation of COP 6 (termed "COP 6 bis") was resumed in Bonn, Germany, in the second half of July 2001.
7. Conference of the Parties 7
Marrakech, Morocco 29 Oct 2001 - 10 Nov 2001
At the seventh UNFCCC Conference of the Parties meeting negotiators wrapped up the work on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, finalizing most of the operational details and setting the stage for nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The completed package of decisions is known as the Marrakech Accords. The United States delegation maintained its observer role, declining to participate actively in the negotiations. Other parties continued to express hope that the United States would re-engage in the process at some point and worked to achieve ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the requisite number of countries to bring it into force (55 countries needed to ratify it, including those accounting for 55% of developed-country emissions of carbon dioxide in 1990). The date of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (August–September 2002) was put forward as a target to bring the Kyoto Protocol into force.
8. Conference of the Parties 8
New Delhi, India 23 Oct 2002 - 01 Nov 2002
The eighth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration that, amongst others, called for efforts by developed countries to transfer technology and minimize the impact of climate change on developing countries. It also approved the New Delhi work program on Article 6 of the Convention.
The Kyoto Protocol could enter into force once it was ratified by 55 countries, including countries responsible for 55% of the developed world's 1990 CO2 emissions. With the United States and Australia refusing ratification, Russia's agreement was required to meet the ratification criteria and therefore Russia could delay the process. So, COP 8 was marked by Russia's hesitation, stating that it needed more time to think it over.
9. Conference of the Parties 9
Milan, Italy 01 Dec 2003 - 12 Dec 2003
The ninth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was marked by the agreement to use the Adaptation Fund established at COP 7 in 2001 primarily in supporting developing countries better adapt to climate change. The fund would also be used for capacity-building through technology transfer.
At COP9, the parties also agreed to review the first national reports submitted by 110 non-Annex I countries.
10. Conference of the Parties 10
Buenos Aires, Argentina 06 Dec 2004 - 17 Dec 2004
The tenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties discussed the progress made since the first Conference of the Parties 10 years ago and its future challenges, with special emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation. The parties also began discussing the post-Kyoto mechanism, on how to allocate emission reduction obligations following 2012, when the first commitment period ends.
11. Conference of the Parties 11
Montreal, Canada 28 Nov 2005 - 09 Dec 2005
The eleventh UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was the first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 1) since their initial meeting in Kyoto in 1997. It was one of the largest intergovernmental conferences on climate change ever. The event marked the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. Hosting more than 10,000 delegates. The Montreal Action Plan was an agreement to "extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiration date and negotiate deeper cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions".
12. Conference of the Parties 12
Nairobi, Kenya 06 Nov 2006 - 17 Nov 2006
The twelfth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was marked by the adoption of a five-year plan of work to support climate change adaptation by developing countries, and an agreement on the procedures and modalities for the Adaptation Fund. The parties also agreed to improve the projects for a clean development mechanism.
13. Conference of the Parties 13
Bali, Indonesia 03 Dec 2007 - 17 Dec 2007
The thirteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was marked by the agreement on a timeline and structured negotiation on the post-2012 framework (the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol), namely by the adoption of the Bali Action Plan (Decision 1/CP.13).
The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) was established as a new subsidiary body to conduct the negotiations aimed at urgently enhancing the implementation of the Convention up to and beyond 2012.
14. Conference of the Parties 14
Poznań, Poland 01 Dec 2008 - 12 Dec 2008
The fourteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties primary focus was on the negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, the conference was marked by the agreement on principles for the financing of a fund to help the poorest nations cope with the effects of climate change and the approval of a mechanism to incorporate forest protection into the efforts of the international community to combat climate change.
15. Conference of the Parties 15
Copenhagen, Denmark 07 Dec 2009 - 18 Dec 2009
The fifteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties overall goal was to establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires. However, on 14 November 2009, the New York Times announced that "President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement. Agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific "politically binding" agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future".
16. Conference of the Parties 16
Cancún, Mexico 28 Nov 2010 - 10 Dec 2010
The sixteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties outcome was an agreement adopted by the states' parties that called for the US$100 billion per annum "Green Climate Fund", and a "Climate Technology Centre" and network. However, the funding of the Green Climate Fund was not agreed upon. Nor was a commitment to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol agreed upon, but it was concluded that the base year shall be 1990 and the global warming potentials shall be those provided by the IPCC.
All parties "Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties,".
17. Conference of the Parties 17
Durban, South Africa 28 Nov 2011 - 09 Dec 2011
The seventeenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties agreed to a start for negotiations on a legally binding deal comprising all countries, to be adopted in 2015, governing the period post 2020. There was also progress regarding the creation of a Green Climate Fund (GCF) for which a management framework was adopted. The fund is to distribute US$100 billion per year to help poor countries adapt to climate impacts.
While the president of the conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, declared it a success, scientists and environmental groups warned that the deal was not sufficient to avoid global warming beyond 2 °C as more urgent action is needed.
18. Conference of the Parties 18
Doha, Qatar 26 Nov 2012 - 07 Dec 2012
The eighteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties produced a package of documents collectively titled The Doha Climate Gateway. The conference made little progress toward the funding of the Green Climate Fund.
19. Conference of the Parties 19
Warsaw, Poland 11 Nov 2013 - 23 Nov 2013
The nineteenth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was marked by several preliminary and actual agreements, including unused credits from phase one of the Kyoto Protocol, improvements to several UNFCCC action mechanisms, and a refinement of the measurement, reporting, and verification of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Delegates also focused on the potential conditions of a final global climate change agreement expected to be ratified in 2015 at the Paris Conference. The conference led to an agreement that all states would start cutting emissions as soon as possible, but preferably by the first quarter of 2015.
The Warsaw International Mechanism was also proposed.
20. Conference of the Parties 20
Lima, Peru 01 Dec 2014 - 12 Dec 2014
The twentieth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties is remembered by the fact that for the first time, all countries agree to develop and share their commitment to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
21. Conference of the Parties 21
Paris, France 30 Nov 2015 - 12 Dec 2015
The twenty-first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties negotiations resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement on 12 December, governing climate change reduction measures from 2020. The adoption of this agreement ended the work of the Durban platform, established during COP17. The agreement would enter into force on 4 November 2016. On 4 October 2016, the threshold for adoption was reached with over 55 countries representing at least 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ratifying the Agreement.
22. Conference of the Parties 22
Marrakech, Morocco 07 Nov 2016 - 18 Nov 2016
The twenty-second UNFCCC Conference of the Parties focal issue was that of water scarcity, water cleanliness, and water-related sustainability, a major problem in the developing world, including many African states. Prior to the event, a special initiative on water was presided by Charafat Afailal, Morocco's Minister in Charge of Water, and Aziz Mekouar, COP 22 Ambassador for Multilateral Negotiations.
Another focal issue was the need to reduce greenhouse emissions and utilize low-carbon energy sources. Mr. Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, called for the transformation of the global economy in all sectors to achieve a low-emissions global economy.
23. Conference of the Parties 23
Bonn, Germany 06 Nov 2017 - 17 Nov 2017
The twenty-third UNFCCC Conference of the Parties marks the progress made on the Rulebook to detail how the Paris Agreement will work in practice (Paris Rulebook), to conclude in 2018.
Facilitative Dialogues, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, were also created, a process allowing countries to share experiences and good practices to achieve the Agreement objectives. The Talanoa Dialogue Platform was launched to promote the participation and dialogue of local and indigenous communities.
A Gender Action Plan was adopted to ensure the role of women in decision-making related to climate change
24. Conference of the Parties 24
Katowice, Poland 03 Dec 2018 - 14 Dec 2018
The twenty-fourth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was held two months after the IPCC published its report analyzing the impacts of a 1.5°C global temperature increase, which focused the conference’s debate on a need for greater urgency in reducing polluting emissions. However, the report was not considered to be a guide for action in the texts agreed upon during the conference.
Meanwhile, the Talanoa Dialogue ended, with the next step being to review the 2020 climate plans to align them with the set objective of limiting global warming.
Also, one of the most important articles of the negotiation was left unresolved: Article 6 permitting the development of carbon markets.
25. Conference of the Parties 25
Madrid, Spain 02 Dec 2019 - 13 Dec 2019
The twenty-fifth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties was aiming to finalize the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement – the operating manual needed when it takes effect in 2020 – by settling on rules for carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation under “Article 6” of the deal.
The talks held were unable to reach a consensus in many areas, pushing decisions into next year under “Rule 16” of the UN climate process.
Matters including Article 6, reporting requirements for transparency, and “common timeframes” for climate pledges were all punted into 2020 when countries are also due to raise the ambition of their efforts.
The conference is also remembered by a disconnect that was highlighted by a huge protest march through the heart of the Spanish capital and by the presence of climate activist Greta Thunberg, who arrived from her transatlantic journey by sail just in time to make several high-profile appearances in the COP25 conference halls.
26. Conference of the Parties 26
Glasgow, Scotland 31 Oct 2021 - 12 Nov 2021
The twenty-sixth UNFCCC Conference of the Parties goals focused on the following topics: securing global net zero by mid-century and keeping 1.5 degrees within reach; adapting measures to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilizing finance in private and public sectors required to secure global net zero; finalizing the Paris Rulebook.
The two headline outcomes from COP26 were the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreeing on the Paris Rulebook.
27. Conference of the Parties 27
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt 06 Nov 2022 - 18 Nov 2022
In November 2022, the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt will host the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27), to build on previous successes and pave the way for future ambition to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change.
The diversity of life on our planet is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources, including diversity within species, between species, and ecosystems.
Biodiversity like so includes not only the millions of varied species on Earth, but it also consists of the diverse types of different ecosystems, marine and terrestrial, in which human societies live and on which their livelihoods depend, such as forests, wetlands, coastal areas, and mountains.
One might hear, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, will I lose the ability to grow crops? Will I lose the ability to harvest wood? Will this have an impact on the tourist inflow to my hotel? Will my favorite holiday location ever be the same as it was? Potentially the answer is – Yes, to all these questions.
Biodiversity ultimately provides us all with essential survival opportunities, such as sources of food, materials, and occupational, recreational opportunities. The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to preserve for future generations.
And yet... biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate on a global scale. This is arguable because its value as underpinning human well-being is still not fully understood and integrated into good governance practices by public and private decision-makers.
And yes, we know... solving the problem of declining biodiversity has been on the international agenda for some decades now. The appreciation of the severity of the problem, however, is changing very slowly... It often feels like it takes a tragedy for us to really see things clearly!
This summer (2022), for instance, is still on track to be the fifth warmest year on record in most datasets. The northern hemisphere, particularly continental Europe, the UK, and parts of the US, saw the warmest temperatures on record with record-breaking heatwaves. If such warming rates continue, by 2030 global temperatures will increase by more than 1.5°C compared to before the industrial revolution.
Empirical studies show that deviations from average location-specific temperatures are impacting the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function. As seen more every year, many areas all over the planet have already begun to experience abnormal weather patterns, such as extended periods of extreme temperatures or lower precipitation, resulting in changes in habitats. These changes in ambient conditions mean that more species undergo thermal stress and as a result become functionally redundant. That consequently impacts the productivity and stability of ecosystems. Substantial evidence exists across diverse biomes that ecosystems with higher levels of biodiversity are also more productive and stable. In layman’s terms, rising global temperatures have the potential to alter ecosystems over longer periods by changing what can grow and live within them. So yes, the places and spaces you have been accustomed to, might literally never look, and serve you in the same capacity.
Of course, such environmental changes directly impact the way ecosystems can support and service us, humans. Furthermore, the loss of biodiversity-dependent ecosystem services has disproportionate effects on people who are vulnerable for other reasons, including gender, age, disability, poverty, or minority status. Hence, the impact of biodiversity loss on the productivity and stability of ecosystems is a major concern. Under the circumstances, we see it as proof enough that we are, in fact, on the straight trajectory towards losing our planet’s greatest asset.
This again, is no new fact, as biodiversity is included in numerous goals and targets. More notoriously, in the central, transformative promise and principle ‘Leave No One Behind’ of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Leave No One Behind
“The full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, and water, depends on the services provided by ecosystems. The provision of ecosystem services depends on the health and sustainability of ecosystems, which in turn depend on biodiversity. The full enjoyment of human rights thus depends on biodiversity, and the degradation and loss of biodiversity undermine the ability of human beings to enjoy their human rights.” (UN Human Rights Council, 34th Session)
And now on a more practical note, to get everyone involved-->
As we, at BeCause, were contemplating the topic of biodiversity, naturally we looked for some easy-to-understand sources of information regarding this topic. Here we take the opportunity to share some of our favorite finds with you in the hope that they will prove valuable to you and drive positive outcomes to preserve our beautiful planet!
Nowadays sustainability reporting has become an often heard and used concept, and of late has provoked both, companies and academics to expand their research in sustainability and inasmuch as on sustainability indicators. At BeCause we had asked ourselves a few questions in this regard and would like to share our thoughts and finds with you!
First and foremost, we saw the need to look at different explanations in regards to what sustainability reporting is. As you can imagine, there are many definitions and explanations available online. And while there are both some overlaps and differences found, what the authors mostly agree upon is that: sustainability reporting is part of a non-financial risk report in which an organization provides transparency on their environmental and socio-ethical actions, outlines preventative measures for mitigating mid to long-term risks, as well as communicates progress towards the pre-defined commitments and targets.
But wait, before we dive deeper into the subject of sustainability reporting, we likewise see the need to clarify some terminology… In conversations, you might have also heard of the term ESG, which stands for Environmental Social Governance, and due to an often lack of understanding, is used interchangeably with the term sustainability. Oftentimes sustainability is thought to be one of the sub-components of ESG, as both definitions encompass environmental and social parameters. In some sense you could say that is so, however, the terms carry significant differences that have implications for corporate strategy, prioritization, communication, and reporting. So, if we look at both terms from a business perspective, what are these differences? In short, sustainability refers to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole. While ESG, at its core, is a term often preferred for capital markets and is used by investors when considering whether or not to invest in a company based on the assessment of ESG data that indicates the level of maturation of business practices as well as helps to identify superior risk-adjusted returns. So, in reality, it’s quite the opposite of what is often thought that sustainability is more of a "blanket" term and encompasses an organization's overall efforts to do better, while ESG narrows it down to three specific topics that are crucial for business and investors.
And now back to reporting, be it sustainability or ESG reporting, why are these topics so often talked about these days? Well…not for the ease of subject that both of these topics reflect, unfortunately. With the rising pressure from various stakeholders (e.g., regulatory, shareholders, consumers, and employees) towards organizations to improve their transparency and quality of reporting, they must level up and brave the array among sustainability regulations and reporting frameworks. And the difficulties lie in knowing what laws and regulations apply to one's business and how to choose the right reporting framework. Here we see that knowing a bit of history could help organizations put their struggles into the right concepts and create an understanding of all the existing linkages between the regulatory and reporting frameworks. To provide more context for sustainability reporting, we would like to provide some historical context for the subject matter.
Initial thoughts and deliberations on the prosperity and longevity of the human race can be traced back to many writers and philosophers, e.g., works such as Plato's Republic and Thomas More's Utopia, in which both explore the topic of an idealized society. However, the topic of human long-term prosperity came really into play during the second half of the 20th century when first concerns and speculations regarding environmental pollution and its impact on the planet had been raised by physical scientists. Works, such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) and the Limits to Growth report (1972) from the Club of Rome, started raising awareness of the negative impacts that the sprint for the never-ending economic growth is causing. Influential reports, such as the World Conservation Strategy (1980) by The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the report Our Common Future (1987) written by the Brundtland Commission, outlined the key environmental and societal issues that threaten not only the current but also future generations. The high-level attention to sustainability culminated in a two-week-long Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) and laid the foundations for the sustainability movement in the years ahead that were laid out in the document called Agenda 21. This document set forth a set of non-binding goals and actions that would inspire nations, organizations, and corporations to build momentum and respond to the growing concerns. However, there was a lack of a standardized approach, as many responded with the creation of their own goals and plans, such as the Business Charter for Sustainable Development, crafted by the International Chamber of Commerce, and the Sustainable Development Strategy adopted by the European Union (EU) in 2001.
Of course, both governmental and private business entities, throughout the 20th century have been active in various areas to boost environmental and social prosperity, i.e., environmental conservation and restoration, community engagement, corporate philanthropy, racial and gender equity programs. As one can observe, the problem was not the lack of action but that these topics were not generally included under the overarching umbrella of sustainability, but typically lumped together under environmental protection and corporate responsibility. Lack of uniformity in defining what sustainability really meant restricted the potential of extracting the maximum possible value from the number of activities both the public and private sectors actually pursued.
The aftereffect of all the international dialogue and miscellaneous actions over the course of several decades resulted in the creation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000), shortly after replaced by the United Nations Goals for Sustainability, more commonly known as the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals, 2015). As lofty as the 17 target areas may appear, underlying these are a set of very ambitious yet very concrete goals. Some goals are more measurable than others, yet unarguably the SDGs have helped governments and companies more easily describe their sustainability efforts, which were often in the form of published voluntary non-financial reports.
The motivation for voluntary sustainability reports was mostly rooted in the companies' motivation to restore the trust of their stakeholders in the companies' willingness to behave responsibly. This notion has led to the emergence of reference frameworks, guidelines, standards, and regulations in the sustainability area. Such frameworks, i.e., GRI, CDP, SASB, TCFD, served not only as support tools for companies but also allowed for a certain level of standardization of both the information disclosed and the method of communication. Reporting practices have shown that besides the initial purpose of creating more transparency and accountability, the reports leveraged the improvement of internal operational processes and stakeholder engagement. In particular, communication of sustainability reports has been found to have a positive impact on company financial performance and increased stock value, as rising percentages of managed investment assets are screened for ESG criteria. However, the vast array of ever-evolving frameworks surrounding sustainability reporting increasingly challenged the companies by the form, content, and process of their sustainability reporting.
Within the context of the EU, the legislative framework for sustainability reporting practices was initially based on Directive 2014/95/EU, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) which came into effect in all EU member states in 2018, and since has been adapted to varying degrees into national law of all 28 member states. The NFRD purely defined the scope for non-financial reporting but didn't provide the users with standardized guidelines on the form and process. On this note, a revision of the NFRD was initiated in January 2020 to improve the quality and reliability of non-financial reporting, and as an outcome in 2021, the EU Commission introduced the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). Furthermore, the EU Commission is addressing the issue of comparability of non-financial information through the creation of the European Sustainability Reporting Standards built by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG). The purpose of putting forward a unique standard is to ease the burden of searching for the "right" reporting framework, and in so reducing the cost of reporting for the companies, as well as facilitate the comparability of non-financial information for various stakeholders.
At BeCause we are looking forward to the finalization of the EFRAG non-financial reporting standards, and meanwhile are facilitating the navigation of our customers through the complex landscape of various sustainability reporting standards and frameworks. To know more, visit us on because.eco.
Due to the rising investor-, stakeholder-, and regulatory demand of publishing sustainability information, you might start feeling pressured to report such data through standardized reporting. However, due to the existing ocean of various sustainability reporting frameworks, standards, and guidelines, it can be challenging to know where to start, how and why.
GRI is one of the most comprehensible reporting frameworks, and the most used for sustainability reporting. With its many standards covering the three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, social, economic), it is helpful for your organization to communicate its impact and compare both its internal and external progress. Hence, your organization can become more transparent.
By not being limited to any industries, it is a fitting reporting framework to any company, regardless of size or maturity.
In our opinion, GRI is also the easiest to work with. It provides guidance in a detailed approach and has materiality assessment guidelines. Also, they are continuously publishing new sector specific standards, which can further help with evaluating the relevant material topics within a sector.
There is nothing more discouraging than getting lost in the jungle of information needs and musts, just after starting your sustainability reporting journey. These tools are useful for any reporter, whether having in-depth sustainability knowledge or not.
The short answer is: yes. Whether you are a large or smaller business, you can gain benefits from it. What kind? Here is a longer list:
· Possibility to better evaluate and improve your strategies and policies
· Possibility to better identify and reduce risks
· Possibility to better determine goals and targets
· Possibility to compare progress on a yearly basis
· Possibility to show responsibility for your impacts by being transparent and honest
· Possibility for stakeholders to evaluate the organization’s sustainable development
· Possibility to communicate industry-specific insights and in so contribute to research, analysis, and policy making
In the digital age we live in, the importance of easy information sharing, and access is inevitable. We wish for immediate access, user-friendly apps and platforms, real-time data, accurate data, relevant data...
Still, many companies share sustainability information through excel sheets, word files and emails, and keep waiting months to publish updated sustainability information - which, let’s face it, is not so updated anymore by that time. The method of sending information back and forth is rather outdated and inefficient. Not to mention the time and resources spent on correcting human error – which can happen of course. We all know it. We all experience it from time to time.
Publishing sustainability information needs accuracy and needs to be up to date for the sake of reliability and comparability. Copy-pasting the wrong information, sending or receiving the wrong document, and becoming overwhelmed by too much information are all affecting stakeholder interrelations.
On the BeCause platform, we have integrated all disclosure requirements as questions, supported by easily accessible guidelines, and knowledge support, where manual process is replaced with an automated approach. You only need to collect and fill in the necessary qualitative and quantitative data, coordinate internally through our help center, and communicate your progress through reports, or our widget feature. Our platform is also your tour guide, through which you will find the right path in the labyrinth of uncertainty.
We believe that the way sustainability reporting is developing and becoming more important, it is good to be an early bird, and to facilitate beginnings with a digitized report. Make your stakeholders happy to avoid scattered information in multiple excel sheets, and help your own colleagues see and understand what you have already accomplished in your company, and what is the goal that you are all striving for.