Science is key to understanding and finding solutions to climate change. It is also an integral part of a successful business sustainability strategy. Since its creation in 2017, Plan A has always put science at the heart of our product, methodology and approach.
True to this principle, we are proud to announce the appointment of a six-member Scientific Advisory Board as a further milestone in our Sustainability Initiative. This board will help Plan A shape its product and improve how we deliver on our missions of decarbonising the economy and transforming non-financial insights into a business advantage.
Our distinguished members come from some of the world's most prominent organisations in climate science, decarbonisation, ESG, sustainability studies, policy, and business. The advisory board members are:
- Prof. Dr Jürgen P. Kropp, Deputy Head of the Climate Resilience Research Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
- Dr Kirsten Dunlop, Managing Director of Climate-KIC, Europe's largest public-private innovation partnership for climate innovation
- Michael Sheren, Präsident und Chief Strategy Officer der Metaverse Green Exchange und Prince of Wales Fellow am Institute For Sustainable Leadership der Universität Cambridge; ehemaliger Senior Advisor der Bank of England
- Chad Frischmann, CEO and Founder of Regenerative Intelligence, a global advisory enabling the implementation of a ‘system of solutions' for the planet and people; former co-author, lead researcher, and architect of "Project Drawdown"
- Martin Wainstein, Founder and Executive Director of the Open Earth Foundation, a non-profit research and development organisation developing digital innovations to improve planetary resilience; founder of Yale Open Lab
- Gonzalo Muñoz Abogabir, High Level Champion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, Board Member of B Lab and Founder of Sistema B
To celebrate this milestone, we asked our board members to participate in a cross-disciplinary conversation, which we pulled highlights from below. In this exchange, our board members outline the correlation between the planetary crisis and human activities and outline key blocks of global solutions to climate change.
Climate science is the truth
Since the beginning of the past century, climate science has proved that climate change is primarily due to human activities, with the worst of its effects still to come. The scientific community has been unequivocally alerting our governments, financial institutions and civil and private sectors for years to act swiftly and boldly on sustainability. Science also holds various solutions that would enable us to curb global GHG emissions or support humanity in adapting to a new environment. Our board member, Prof. Dr Jürgen P. Kropp, discusses how sustainability research brings undeniable proof that climate change is happening.
“Climate change is, after all, the only obvious problem that humanity has yet to solve in this century. It is essential to recognise that we are exceeding our planetary boundaries, and this often manifests itself locally, but then accumulates into global problems. Here in the ecological system would be the loss of biodiversity, water crisis, or even the loss of fertile land. In terms of anthropo-ecosystems, the overexploitation of renewable and non-renewable resources, how we make products from them, how we use them and how we put them to downstream use. In this century, we must enter a fundamental circularity because we are still far away from it.
Behind any great discovery, there is a human invention. Since the beginning of time, humans have thrived thanks to inventions, making civilisations prosperous and enabling new life cycles to happen, century after century.
You will thank Thomas Edison today for electricity or the scientists that discovered nuclear fission - but everything comes at a price. Sometimes great inventions can be the doom of society, like the period of significant industrialisation enabling innovation to produce the society and system we live in today. However, this period also led slowly to climate change with intensive GHG emissions release, which is why we refer to the two-degree limit above “pre-industrial levels".
Unravelling the thread of human ingenuity and its positive and negative effects, we asked Prof. Dr Jürgen P. Kropp what he considers the most significant human invention.
“During the development of human civilisation, there were and will always be inventions that also produce negative consequences (see combustion engine, nuclear energy, intensive agriculture, steam engine, etc.). I think a real innovation which finally enabled the mass exchange of knowledge and information - and thus a discourse about (scientific) problems, was the invention of writing (the oldest code systems are no older than 6,500 years!). This led to the realisation that man is only a small element in the universe and the finiteness of ourselves, but also that our resources will become a problem. Rational discussion of such issues has evolved from scripture through the enlightenment to our current sustainability discourses. This makes me confident that we will be able to solve our problems realistically.”
Business sustainability: getting past smokes and mirrors
Solving the challenge of climate change naturally cannot be achieved without evolving our approach to business. For this change to happen, companies must integrate sustainability strategies to the core of their model - not just in the form of sustainability rhetoric. We asked Michael Sheren, President and Chief Strategy Officer of the Metaverse Green Exchange and Prince of Wales Fellow at Cambridge University's Institute For Sustainable Leadership, what he looks for when addressing a company’s sustainability strategy.
“The most important thing to look at in a company’s sustainability strategy is to determine if it is empirically grounded and will result in a year-on-year reduction in its carbon emission footprint. Suppose the strategy is built on smoke and mirrors and is not about a hard (and often expensive) business model transformation that will lead to a sustainable company, the strategy must be reconsidered.”
Defining successful science-based decarbonisation strategies that respect all bottom lines has been the work of Plan A since day one. We have experienced the global rise of interest in corporate sustainability and the challenges of decarbonisation. What is the role of the private sector in the sustainable transition?
“The private sector must actively take responsibility for its carbon footprint. Policy marketers can provide regulation, legislation, and incentives for companies to adapt and develop a sustainable business model. However, in the end, it is up to each company to understand the path of travel and fund the CAPEX and R&D programs necessary to make a sustainable business model. For those private sector companies that do not act, the result could be the failure of their company.”
How do we finally succeed? Climate solutions: Stop throwing methane away
Climate change is not one problem but a complex set of problems.
These issues are not minor: resource depletion, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, air, soil and water pollution, deforestation… How can one approach these tremendous challenges? Chad Frischmann, CEO and Founder of Regenerative Intelligence, challenges us to think differently:
The most pressing climate change issues are methane, methane, and methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a short lifetime in the atmosphere, but it contributes a whopping 86x more impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. That means the planet is closer to catastrophic tipping points if we continue emitting methane at the growth rate.
So let us wake up to reality. Some pretty simple solutions can reduce methane emissions practically overnight.
1) Tightening some bolts, fixing some pipes, replacing parts, and eliminating all the pointless leaks spewing this deadly gas into the atmosphere from the crisscrossing pipes distributing gas to heat homes and boiling water all over the world. The cost is negligible and may have a positive return on investment if one adds the profits from the saved product into the equation (which you gas providers should!).
2) Stop wasting so much food! Purchase what you will eat, and then eat that delicious food that so much energy, time, emissions, and your hard-earned money went into. When organic materials like food decompose in fields, trash bins, or landfills, methane is produced and enters the atmosphere, quickening the temperature. With a staggering 30-40% of all food produced globally going to waste (that is like everyone going home with three bags of groceries and dumping one paper bag, glass, tin, food, and all into the trash), you can imagine the scale of the methane being produced.
I also want to highlight two solutions because they represent two very different kinds of methane. The first addresses fossil fuels, or long decomposed phytoplankton extracted from the Earth and exploited for energy production. The second addresses new methane produced from organic matter to satisfy our exaggerated appetites.
Solutions - even for a single thread of climate change - span a wide range of stakeholders. From end-consumers to producers and the logistics around them, the methane question shows that coordination and collaboration, much more than inventing new technologies, will make or break the global transition to sustainability.
Our planet is the basis that supports life (in our known corner of the universe). Our planet bears beautiful biodiversity, spectacular landscapes, water and oxygen. When it comes to the most beautiful gift our planet has given us, Chad Frischmann continues:
“Photosynthesis. This miraculous magical process of alchemy converts energy from the sun, carbon dioxide, and water into the life that powers and supports more life. What is a more wondrous thing there in this universe?”
As we begin with our planet’s limits, we finish with the marvel of nature. We are confident that this new governance structure for Plan A will help us continue on our path to true, scientific, measurable and efficient decarbonisation for companies and organisations across the planet. There is no plan B for our world, and we welcome each of these new members on board.
We want to thank all our board members for their trust in us and for joining us on our mission to decarbonise the economy. We will publish additional materials detailing our progress towards a better and faster transition to sustainability for ourselves and our clients.