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Inside Reset Connect: what you can learn from sustainability leaders

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.

Tackling greenwashing

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.

Changing behaviours

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.