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Tackling green businesses in committing to climate emergencies

Semi-opencast coal mining using heavy machineries at Borjan, Mon District, Nagaland. PHOTO:

Semi-opencast coal mining using heavy machineries at Borjan, Mon District, Nagaland. PHOTO:

Drillings for oil and minerals, and extensive commercial farming and plantations, have devastated large areas of natural landscapes and rainforests.

By Salam Rajesh


Unchecked global environmental emergencies, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, can cause social and economic damages far larger than those caused by the recent coronavirus, says Richard Mattison, Chief Executive Officer, S&P Global Trucost in the latest issue of State of Green Business 2021 report published jointly by GreenBiz Group and S&P Global Trucost.

Taking States to task, the report says that governments across continents are taking steps to make reporting on green businesses mandatory. As part of the process, during September 2020, New Zealand announced that it would implement mandatory climate risk reporting in line with the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

Following New Zealand’s footsteps, decisions were quickly taken up by other nations with United Kingdom announcing in November 2020 that TCFD climate risk reporting will become mandatory for large companies and financial institutions as early as 2021. Similarly in May 2021, Canada announced that businesses would be required to disclose their climate impacts and commit to making environmentally sustainable decisions.

The report outlines that following the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures recommendations, during October 2020 alone more than 1,500 organizations had expressed their support for the TCFD. Up to 60 percent of the world’s 100 largest public companies supported the TCFD recommendations, the report says.

On the average, 42 percent of companies with a market capitalization greater than 10 billion US dollars had disclosed at least some information in line with each individual TCFD recommendation during 2019, the report further stated.

Reflecting on the report, Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group says, “The year 2020 was like no other: Crisis after grim crisis, as the ravages of a changing climate revealed themselves in ways large and small, a pandemic devastated families and nations alike, racial justice protests roiled communities, the global economy convulsed and political leaders the world over scrambled to respond – some more successfully than others”.

Net zero became a key commitment during 2020 – goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date. And while those target dates are typically decades hence, they set the stage for activists, investors and other self-appointed watchdogs to monitor corporate progress toward their stated goals”, Joel points out reflecting on current “Net zero” goals set by world communities to meet the climate emergencies.

Joel’s outpouring touches on the highly debated point that many of the goals and targets set by world forums on climate change mitigation and adaptation had so far failed to achieve much on ground. This failure is attributed to the lack of commitment and political will power of many of the nations affiliated to the United Nations.

The Kyoto Protocols and the Aichi Targets on climate emergency are basically cited as abstract failures for failing to achieve what was originally agreed upon at the respective summits. ‘Net Zero’ in carbon emission is far from being achieved at any level, with some highly industrialized countries failing to commit fully to the goals.

Heads of States such as that of Australia, Brazil, India and the United States had deterred from committing fully to the goals by way of diluting environmental laws and pushing for policies largely seen as detrimental to the natural environment, with long term consequences for the human environment.

One factor that has always been an issue with environmental concerns is the question on human rights when either companies or States push through with so-said ‘developmental’ projects that intrude into green zones. During the past decades, conflicts of interest between companies and indigenous peoples have been on the issue of violation of human rights when companies seek to make inroads into nature reserves where tribes and natives have lived and thrived upon for ages.

The United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) as well as the growing interest of asset owners and managers in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have created space for lager deliberations on this singular issue, the State of Green Business 2021 report says. As part of their responsibility to implement the UNGPs, companies must have systems and practices in place enabling them to know and show that they respect human rights, the report further points out.

At the home ground, this discussion filters down to the state of rights violation that has been quite focused with regards to the highly controversial Loktak Hydroelectric Power Project which is being implemented in Manipur by the central company, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited.

Decades have passed without the said company having addressed efficiently the issue on resettlement and rehabilitation of the thousands of displaced indigenous peoples – farmers and fishers – who are victims of the hydro project. Ironically, NHPC as the responsible company implementing the project refuses to acknowledge the fact it has committed rights violation by its own acts.

The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights so far has not been discussed or understood in detail in the State, so much so as no responsible offices of the State Government had cared to pick up the issue for deliberation to resolve conflicts. Focus on rights violation in the State has been basically on excesses by state armed forces and not on rights violation by companies.

The SGB 2021 report is particular on the aspect of Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) that ought to be the mandate for companies functioning in green businesses. The four key steps in HRDD includes, (a) assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, (b) integrating and acting on the findings, (c) tracking responses, and (d) communicating about how impacts are addressed.

Climate emergency is responsibly being connected to negative impacts of activities that big companies commits while indulging in extractive industries in green zones, more particularly in highly biodiversity sensitive tropical rainforests, seashores, and mountain ranges. Drillings for oil and minerals, and extensive commercial farming and plantations, have devastated large areas of natural landscapes and rainforests.

The SGB 2021 report comes down to the hard fact that ‘Growing corporate demand for natural capital, coupled with decreasing supply due to environmental impacts and climate change related events such as droughts, are contributing to natural resource constraints, including water scarcity’.

Hinting on a worst case scenario in future times, the report states that ‘In the post-pandemic world, businesses will face an enormous challenge to provide products and services against a backdrop of increasingly scarce resources such as water’.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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