The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its largest ever scientific report on the current state and trajectory of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission impacts on our planet. Important extracts from the Sixth Assessment Report: The Physical Science Basis include:

Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones […] has strengthened.

The present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years. […] Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.

Global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher in 2011– 2020 than 1850–1900, and warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded [before the end] of the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades. Our current trajectory would have us passing 1.5°C within just over a decade.

These conclusions are a stark reminder that across all regions there is an urgent need to reduce emissions and that action now is critical for the global outlook of the economy with emissions needing to reduce by at least 45% by 2030. This is a timely publication ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in late October. With continued regulatory shifts and corporate target setting on the rise, attention is increasingly shifting towards executing on net-zero agendas. While these differ by industry and geography, effective climate transition is of critical importance across the board.

Investors continue to play a central role in driving change through capital allocation, thereby incentivizing corporates to improve their sustainability performance as a means to securing investment and favorable cost of capital. Mercer’s Sustainable Investment team helps support investors through sustainable investment governance and strategy design and climate assessment, such as through its Analytics for Climate Transition (ACT), ESG and impact assessment tools.

At a corporate level, all change of course happens through people. As such, HR has a critical role to play in driving required changes to help the organization become sustainable at the core. The process of making a company truly sustainable begins with taking care of the talent ecosystem itself. Our recent work with the World Economic Forum on the New Shape of Work relates to this aspect of people sustainability. Only then can employees offer the best of themselves to the company and its clients. Next comes the complex yet familiar process of driving strategic transformation. This sustainability transformation fundamentally requires that the organization be clear about its purpose, or desired impact, on clients and on the world more broadly – and then ensure that this drives everyday decisions throughout the company. Evolving jobs, performance and incentives (both financial and non-financial) will be center-stage in this exercise of sustainability integration.

As we strive to work together towards a brighter future, consider these three questions:

  • Is our investment strategy aligned to our sustainability targets and/or to the Paris Accord?
  • Are our employees treated in a sustainable manner?
  • How well have we articulated – and do we live by – our purpose?

Connect with our experts to find out more