Hundreds of businesses, speakers and spokespeople (including us!) met at Reset Connect – the UK’s leading sustainability and net zero event – from the 28th-29th June to literally put the world to rights.
Over the course of two days, panellists would speak on subjects such as decarbonisation, investing, the net zero transformation, innovation and digitisation, to name a few, while businesses sought out ways to collaborate. In this sense, Reset Connect was unlike most conferences that usually vie for the attention of attendees in favour of working together under one shared goal – to save the planet as quickly as possible.
The sense of urgency and hope was palpable and we all came away with tons of learnings and actions for businesses and consumers alike from some of the biggest industry leaders. Here, we’ll share our top takeaways and how they can help you on your sustainability journey.
Implementing the Just Transition Framework
The transition to a climate-neutral economy will be one of the biggest transformations and challenges of our time.
The Just Transition Framework was developed to ensure that this transition is fair, that it minimises any potential socio-economic impact and that it turns our economy from degenerative to regenerative.
In the opening keynote speech – Living in the Doughnut: Creating an Economy that's Fit for our Times – Kate Raworth, co-founder of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, spoke about the Just Transition and how we should shift our mindsets to enable it.
“How can we grow?” is not the question of our times – it leads to degeneration. Instead we should be asking “How can we thrive?”
To answer this, she asked businesses to think about how they can change their perception of the five main factors that form their make-up:
Purpose – what is it and would it differ in a regenerative world?
Networks – how can we leverage them to thrive together?
Governance – what processes need to be in place and who needs to be at the table to ensure the transition and keep momentum?
Ownership – what responsibilities do owners have to change the mindsets of its stakeholders?
Finance – what financial roadblocks and opportunities are out there that will harm or help the transition?
By considering these points in their entirety, businesses can start to imagine a world in which a regenerative economy is not only possible, but can begin now.
Investing in a sustainable future
The intention to become sustainable is all very well and good, but – until the Just Transition takes effect – funding is very much needed to get us there, so financing was a hot topic throughout the event; not only from the perspective of investing in purpose-led businesses, but also from the viewpoint of the consumer and where their money goes to help fund the shift.
In a panel discussion on Sustainable Finance and Investment in the Future, the group – which included CEOs and ESG directors at companies like Make My Money Matter and the Financial Conduct Authority – discussed the disconnect between what people think they’re invested in vs. what they have actually put their money into.
“We assume people [investors and banks] are making sustainable decisions on our behalf. But we need more transparency and more choice.”
To this end, we can’t assume that financial companies are doing all they can to self regulate.
In a talk on Challenges that Inhibit Decarbonisation, the panellists discussed the solutions that could help with this, which included:
An impact calculation on every investment fund
Factoring ESG into the cost of projects
Investors paying an extra percentage if certain KPIs are not met
On top of this, an opportunity that kept cropping up throughout was how the current divide between public and private money could be changed so they work in tandem to accelerate net zero goals.
When it comes to finding funding as a purpose-led business, Paul Holland, CEO at Beyond Encryption said at the discussion on Innovation as the Catalyst for Change, “to get buy-in businesses need to be able to articulate their innovation in a way that other people can understand it easily.”
As with investment, there seems to be themes of transparency and simplicity running through everything. Not only does everyone need to be sincere about their approach, but we also need to present ideas in a way that can be grasped by the masses, or interest will quickly wane.
Forever a topic of frustration when it comes to sustainability, the spokespeople at Reset Connect did not shy away from reminding attendees how far we’ve yet to go to avoid greenwashing, which continues to diminish the efforts of so many purpose-led businesses.
If we were to sum up the outcomes of these discussions in one word it would be: regulation.
Speakers at both the Sustainable Finance and Investment in the Future and Challenges that Inhibit Decarbonisation panels relayed the need for more stringent regulation, saying there is not enough of a push to stop businesses from omitting certain details and that regulation is needed to secure enough transparency to allow consumers to choose the right course of action for themselves.
In lieu of regulation, there is little motivation for many businesses to be transparent. But panellists at Launching a Purpose-Led Business discussed how detrimental this could be as many customers, employees and even board members now demand it. Being as honest as possible will not only gain trust but often leads to retention and motivation among stakeholders.
Speakers from same panel as well as those from Managing the Change to Sustainability within Major Corporates and Established Brands stated what businesses can do now to turn greenwashing on its head, which included:
Being clear on the problem you’re trying to solve and sticking to it
Removing jargon to avoid demotivation
Keep it simple to avoid complication but not so simple as lose credibility
Ask yourself: does your business really care? Then ask your employees the same question.
Don’t be afraid of stating the data, warts and all. More and more people are calling out inaction and the data doesn’t lie.
One of the biggest drivers of the climate crisis is the way the world currently thinks and behaves, but changing this is also one of the biggest challenges for businesses.
Throughout the event, delegates addressed this issue and debated how brands can influence change on a mass scale.
Panellists at Managing the Change to Sustainability within Major Corporates and Established Brands were huge proponents of partnerships, stating how they can propel a platform and enhance influence, but warned of choosing the right businesses or initiatives to partner with as these can so often fall flat.
Those at the Challenges that Inhibit Decarbonisation talk took a different approach, suggesting more widespread education on how climate change is already influencing the way we live today. Societies are often so focused on their own country’s misgivings that they fail to empathise with those that are directly affected by the climate crisis now. The narrative of “it’s not happening here, so it’s not my problem” is seen so regularly that it’s leading to inaction in the places that could have the most impact.
But as we’ve seen with shows like Our Planet and Seaspiracy, there is not one piece of content that will educate the world fully nor one that will keep the hype going. To keep it fresh in everyone’s minds, we need constant content that’s consistent and engaging – reinforcement will build behavioural change.
What’s needed for net zero?
Of course, the biggest topic to mark the whole event was looking towards the future and the actions we need to take to drive change and save the planet now. Every speaker had their two cents on this, but here are some high level takeaways:
Make ESG simple – no one has time to read a thousand-page report
We need to reset the poetry. Stop talking about the fact we’re all going to die and talk about the opportunity that generations will want to be involved in. It’s an achievable goal
You have to fundamentally change the processes that are out there to deliver value. But you can shape your own ecosystem
To be future proof, purpose-led businesses need adaptability – your survivability is dependent on it
We only have 8 years to completely change how we feel about economic systems. Don’t waste them
If there wasn’t a chance that we could do something, we wouldn’t. There is time to act, but it needs extraordinary action now
Take action today
If you’re looking for something simple that you can do right now, look no further.
Launched as a beta version at Reset Connect, U-App is a community app that offers a concrete tool for companies, organisations and people to contribute to the global air purification effort, and be rewarded for doing so.
If the world you wish for is one where you can choose what to breathe (as you currently do with food and drink), a world where you can clean the toxins emitted, a world capable of actively reversing the growing emissions that cause climate change to spiral U-App ensures your voice is heard.