Way back in March, your friendly Protocol Climate team offered you some tips for writing a climate plan that doesn’t suck. Surely you took that advice. But if for some reason you didn’t, the United Nations has your back.
The U.N. dropped a 10-step how-to guide to ensure net zero plans are real talk and not greenwashing, care of an expert panel that has a name much too long to print. And it’s well worth a read whether you're a CSO looking to improve your company’s climate plan or a Big Tech watchdog who wants to make sure companies are doing the right thing.
Among the 10 recommendations, a few jump out. No shade to recommendation one (publicly announce a net zero plan), but some of the others are salient and a little less remedial, particularly for tech companies:
- Recommendation three deals with the role carbon credits should play in a net zero plan. The answer is that they need to be high quality and show both additionality (cutting emissions that otherwise wouldn’t have happened) and permanence (storing said emissions for a long period of time).
- For the tech industry, which is increasingly turning to carbon credits and offsets to “prove” it’s serious about net zero, the recommendation — along with a slew of reporting on carbon markets’ failures — should be a wake-up call.
- Recommendation five calls for phasing out fossil fuels. While Big Tech isn’t directly drilling oil wells, it is actively aiding the industry.
- “All net zero pledges should include specific targets aimed at ending the use of and/or support for fossil fuels,” the report says. That’s a clear invitation for companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others providing computing to sunset their support for Big Oil.
- Recommendations six and 10 call for aligning advocacy and speeding up regulations as opposed to relying on voluntary schemes.
- The tech industry has had fraught relationships with trade groups that have, at times, opposed climate regulations. The report also makes tech companies need to have an escalation strategy if trade groups block legislation, policies, or regulations that could help them reach net zero.
Big Tech is already doing some things right. The industry is better at setting climate goals than other sectors of the Fortune 500.
- Workers have pushed leadership to strengthen those plans. (A key part of recommendation four is getting workers involved, so head-pat to some CEOs.)
- Yet the industry is also starting to hemorrhage talent for not turning net zero plans into action fast enough or setting interim targets (another key recommendation from the report).
- The new report makes clear exactly what work tech companies still need to do if they want to get on track.