From earth overshoot to Net Zero? Greenwish, Greenwash, and the 99% that give the rest a bad name.

Cristian Storto Fotografia

The 29th of July 2021 was earth overshoot day; we are utilising more resources than we can regenerate from this day onward. This day today is a month earlier than last year. We are creating a bill that will have to be paid by future generations. Simply, we collectively are building up a debt that we can’t afford to pay back.

In the Netherlands, the earth overshoot day was in May 2021. The Netherlands is said to consume 3x more than the rest of the world. This is partly due to the NL’s incentives for large corporates, which are also often the large corporate polluters, who are said to support corporates in about 8 billion euros of subsidies…

That is about 8 billion worth of decisions made that are not paving the way towards a net-zero economy. Considering the climate emergency of our declining natural resources, this is shocking.

As Pablo Berrutti said, “Climate science is complex, understanding 80% on what needs to be done is not”

In a piece that Duncan Austin wrote, “ from win-win to net-zero: Would the real sustainability please stand up?’ After a 25-year long career in sustainability on both the non-profit and investment firms side, he concluded that the solution to our sustainability problem does not lie in continuing the linear line of existing strategies with more urgency. Instead, we need new approaches that include our current time and moment.

“The sustainable business movement must avoid falling into the trap of responding simply by pursuing existing strategies with more urgency, and instead urgently adopt new strategies that the moment demands. As the sustainable business paradigm reveals its limits, businesspeople collaborating to demand sustainable policies might now achieve more” Duncan Austin

What does he mean by these existing strategies? Looking at the plan, we are pushing the same agenda forward, mainly operating in silos and not fully taking advantage of the systems we work in and utilizing new technology that champions this systems management approach. Often the use of new technology or strategy is mentioned as risky and therefore approached with great caution.

We are at a stage where economic failures have caused fractures in our society and natural ecosystem. Our priority within creating a sustainability strategy should focus on the question; How do we fully incorporate externalities in our economy as a baseline and responsibility?

Moving from voluntary climate action to accountability for what you use

Externalities are at the core of this new strategy for sustainability, and the use of technology to manage the process and follow-up is a critical factor in its success. Sustainability efforts can only be successful when a new generation of champions promotes greater systemic understanding and action within businesses.

Externalities are at the core of this change.

Developing an approach like this could likely thwart the short-term commercial imperatives introduced by our limited market systems — the initial efforts of CSR and SRI that applaud individual effort move this enthusiasm towards creating consciously designed collaboration structures. On our way to building these collaboration structures, setting an agreed-upon minimum standard of responsibility, as Duncan Austin mentioned, “a public environmental pledge. We need to understand how much of Net-zero pledge excitement and momentum are optional and therefore not impactful.”

We need to be more straightforward and take a pledge moving from a nice-to-have to must-haves and enabling the change-making we desperately need. Real stewards of change, are only a handful not even nearly enough for the transformation we need. Most organizations focus on what needs to be done to survive because that is how our reward and consequence systems work, and that is understandable. However, we are looking for the change-makers…

So will the real change-maker please stand up and lead the example for proven and evidence-based net-zero claims?

Coming soon…

The additionnality.wtf summit organized online on October 26 aims to bring the topic of additionality to the forefront ahead of COP26. Experts, impact funds, NGOs, and committed entrepreneurs will share their concrete achievements and experiences with all participants.