Christian Arno

10 creative ways businesses can engage with COP26

8 min Read
Close up of roof of Armadillo building (SEC), Glasgow

COP26. 31 October - 12 November 2021. Glasgow. 

It’s the fifth - and most important - UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties since the Paris Agreement of COP21. Saddle up people. With deadlines from the famed Paris Agreement to review, pledges to revisit, recent climate promises from China and the US to secure, and urgent deliverables to mark and prioritise in order to stop our planet from warming over 1.5 degrees; this isn’t a time for popcorn, it’s a time for action.

What actually goes on at COP?

There’s the formal negotiations and consultations with global politicians and UN parties. Media, NGOs, businesses and charities can act as ‘observers’ during the negotiation process to add pressure to discussions.Then there’s the informal events, workshops, installations and presentations for businesses and the general public. As well as hosting the largest collection of world leaders ever in the UK, an estimated 30,000 attendees, including activists and campaigners, will secure front row seats or take to the streets in Glasgow. 

How can businesses engage with COP26?

In the lead up to the event:

  • Become part of the United Nations Race to Zero initiative and make a commitment to halving your total business emissions by 2030 and achieving Net Zero stat. As the world’s largest Net Zero alliance, it represents over 15% of the global economy, 1 billion people, and 21% of the world’s biggest companies. Be one of them. On a side note, I had the opportunity to speak at The London Stock Exchange’s Race To Zero event recently, which saw more than half of all FTSE100 companies (by value) make the commitment. See the video here.
  • Use your internal and external communications to engage your employees, your wider supply chain and your customers with COP26. This could include news updates, thought-leadership pieces, or a list of demands from your sector to the policymakers. This not only shows the world your commitment to the cause, it also puts pressure on the policymakers to make the necessary decisions for your industry.
  • Become an official partner, alongside the likes of Sky, Unilever and Scottish Power, and lend your resources, commitment and expertise to driving a successful COP26. If you do not quite match the criteria, you could connect with another corporation that does, maybe one of your customers or suppliers. Alternatively, you could sponsor one of the side events put on by Glasgow City Council

During the event:

  • Maybe you’ve got a golden ticket to the event itself or you’re planning on sending some lucky employees to the side events. If so, think about how you can creatively use this to incite engagement on your communication channels and fire up your followers to join the fight. Secure a list of names you want to meet, who could act on your climate demands and help your business become a leader in the movement. And most of all take inspiration from the talks, installations and demonstrations. Education for change is exactly what COP is there for. 
  • If you’re not going, as many people won’t be, there is still a chance to get involved. As with previous COPs, there are times when discussions require private sector feedback on extremely short notice. Businesses can access these talks via the International Chamber of Commerce’s Twitter page and inform policy decisions by outlining the potential impacts on their sector of each proposed change. 
  • Keep your community connected with COP’s ongoings. This is the perfect time to align with climate messaging and get your company behind the fight. Why not organise a Green Team takeover of your social channels? You could also hold your own environmental events around the two weeks, with a focus on how, as a corporation, you are combatting the crisis.

After the event:

  • Follow through on your COP-related discussions and commitments. The end of COP26 should signify the start of heightened climate action. Set science-based targets and drive emissions down to Net Zero, whether that’s through renewables, electrifying your fleet, activating nature-based solutions, funnelling climate investments or incentivising behaviour change. 
  • Share the learnings from COP26 with your company. Whether that’s your experience from attending in-person events or any news and policy changes that impact your business. No doubt there will be some creative ways of exploring and communicating the climate crisis at the Summit, which will make for inspiring content!

What are the opportunities that COP26, and being 'a business to believe in', brings?

How organisations respond to COP26 will separate the leaders from the laggards, and the benefits a business will reap from engaging in an accelerated climate movement are manifold: 

  • With more than two-thirds of global GDP now covered by an actual or intended Net Zero strategy, the businesses that fully embrace the shift now will have more commercial opportunities in the new, low-carbon market. There is already evidence of growing investor interest in SDG-based business models, and companies that have a clearly communicated sustainability strategy will attract top talent and The Conscious Consumer. As Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Champion for Action COP26 said: “Everyone understands this is an inevitable transition and the people who are slow will lose market share and take a bigger economic hit.”
  • COP26 will bring sustainability to the forefront of peoples’ minds. This creates an opportunity for businesses to ride the wave and align everyone behind their own ambitions. Research shows that, although understanding the climate crisis as an urgent problem, almost two-thirds of people don’t know what to do to help the environment. This leaves a clear opening for proactive businesses to lend their expertise, build partnerships with their consumers and pave a better future together. 

Fulfilling ambition, action and advocacy towards the climate fight will secure your company a place in the future. So, ask yourself, do you want your organisation to be a business of tomorrow? 

I sign this post off with the rallying cry from Michelle Scrimgeour, CEO of Legal & General and Co-Chair at COP26 Business Leaders Group: “This is inclusive capitalism in action - inaction is not an option.” 

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Pawprint helps to build businesses to believe in. With our tool, you’ll not only engage employees on a topic they care about, but you’ll also shrink your carbon footprint and give back to charities fighting other areas of the environmental crisis. To learn more, click here.

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