Lessons from Climate Week NYC and The Nest Summit

10 Oct

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The Nest Summitthe official event partner of Climate Week NYCtapped Benecomms earlier this year to support the event's public relations outreach and strategy. In September 2021, Benecomms was honored and thrilled to attend the event held at the Javits Center, bringing together CEOs, CSOs, thought leaders, and change-makers from around the globe.

Held just one month after the IPCC released its Sixth Assessment Report (detailing that we are experiencing climate impacts today, and these impacts will get significantly worse in frequency and intensity unless we rapidly decarbonize the economy), the Nest Summit speakers detailed impactful solutions and showed support for collaboration in the fight against climate change. 

Benecomms founder Helen Bertelli spoke on strategies that business leaders are employing to affect change. Her presentation, based on new research bringing together the disciplines of change management, communications, and climate risk assessment, also featured never-before-seen survey data from Women in Climate Tech, an international organization of industry leaders.

Helen Bertelli on Climate Change Communications

To watch Helen’s presentation, click here. And to read more on the presentations and insights from the Nest Summit, continue scrolling.


Opening Remarks - The Journey to Net Zero with Dr. Jonathan Foley, Executive Director of Project Drawdown

Dr. Jonathan Foley, environmental scientist and executive director of Project Drawdown, works to find the most impactful data-driven solutions to climate change. He joined remotely to give a snapshot of our current available climate solutions, as well as areas with room for innovation. 

Project Drawdown gets its name from a technical climate science term: “Drawdown is the point in the future when levels in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby halting climate change.” 

This key moment is also described as “moment of ‘global net zero’ when most greenhouse gases are sharply cut and some remaining emissions are removed.” Framing net zero goals in terms of a global achievement helps us understand that it needs to be a collaborative effort, where no one organization succeeds unless we all succeed in reaching it. 

How do we get there? According to Foley, the first principle for mitigation is to cut the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs): electricity (25%), food (24%), industry (21%), transportation (14%), buildings (6%), and others (10%). Reducing emissions, Foley says, accounts for 90% of the work to be done, because it’s easier to prevent pollution than trying to remove it later on. 

The second principle is to support and grow carbon sinks. Currently, natural carbon sinks from forests on land (24%) and organic processes in the ocean (17%) absorb the GHGs we produce, while 59% stay in the atmosphere. Technologies and practices to sink even more GHGs could play an important role on the path to global net zero.

Critically, however, Foley stresses we have very limited time. The short timeline should not deter us, however. It’s an opportunity to “reimagine our world.” 

“The future is up for grabs. It belongs to any and all who will take the risk and accept the responsibility of consciously creating the future they want.”

Watch the full presentation here


building back better starts with better buildings 

 Moderator Paula R. Glover, President of the Alliance to Save Energy led a conversation with panelists:

  •  Alan Steel, President and CEO of the Javits Center and Board Member of the Climate Museum, 
  • John Kovach, Vice President and Performance Services for Siemens Americas, and 
  • Sarah Orban Salati, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of the New York Power Authority. 

The presenters shared their work in reopening the Javits Center where the Nest Summit was held. The Javits Center was rebuilt using an existing building, and Alan Steel worked to transform its reputation and impact by embedding sustainability in its mission. 

Every aspect of its construction, materials, design, and operational technology serve diverse members of the community, and inspire others to think deeper about climate resilience. It also features a green roof and “bird proof” glass which reduces bird deaths by 95%. 

The sustainability goals of the Javits Center have come with a number of technical and logistical challenges. John Kovach explains that building developers need buy-in from trustees, ways to address upfront costs, and monitoring technologies, to ensure the building meets its energy efficiency goals. 

The project is the result of a public-private partnership with New York Power Authority, which pursues numerous projects towards achieving its goal of carbon neutrality by 2040. In addition to this building, Sarah Orban Salati explained, sustainability projects across New York are underway from the JFK airport to solar storage projects in 47 schools. 

In spite of advances in the renewable energy industry, significant gender and racial equity disparities exist in its workforce. The panelists discussed ways their work specifically addresses this problem. 

Watch the full presentation here


The sustainability leader's guide to climate commitments and disclosure

Phil Redman, Offering Manager at OneTrust presented some of the emerging best practices for ESG integration. The industry has grown a lot over the past ten years, but to reach global net zero goals, businesses of all sectors, sizes, and organizational models will need to start tracking and progressing towards more ambitious ESG targets. 

The trend toward ESG regulation and widespread adoption is only expected to grow. Currently the SEC is considering establishing regulatory guidelines which might require ESG disclosure, while businesses have always played an important leadership role in society. They have a responsibility to be stewards of both people and the planet. More and more, stakeholders, consumers, and supply chain partners are upholding greater ESG standards, as well. 

Redman shared how ESG announcements have shifted from setting goals and targets to actually drawing down emissions through alignment with Science Based Targets (SBTI) or transitioning to renewable energy and joining RE100.  

ESG integration is easier than ever for businesses of all sizes. Today’s businesses can shorten the time they take to collect data and implement an ESG program by about half thanks to support from data collection and reporting technologies like the OneTrust ESGIQ dashboard. 

Watch the full presentation here


climate risk and the future of real estate

Tory Grieves, Vice President of Analytics at The Climate Service (TCS) speaks with moderator Chris Walker, North America’s Director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, on groundbreaking TCS research on market level climate risks in the real estate sector. 

Traditionally climate risk assessment in real estate has looked at the direct impacts to buildings and other real assets based on predictions regarding floods and other hazards. While these direct impacts are important to track and monitor, relatively little research exists on market level impacts. 

This is why TCS used its analytics capabilities to establish a framework for assessing market level impacts in cities across the United States, which looks at municipal adaptation policies and funding, insurance availability and affordability, liquidity, and rental market growth as additional climate risk factors that could impact real estate investment. 

Decisions investors make can have profound consequences for vulnerable communities, and divestment is not always a viable solution. Taking a market-level view in addition to assessing risk for individual assets gives real estate investors a stronger strategic lens for assessing and responding to climate risk. 

The TCS Climanomics® platform delivers TCFD-aligned financial risk assessments for climate change. Real estate investors can use the platform to access these market level insights. 

Watch the full presentation here


beyond profit: sustainable investing - a force for good (returns)

Lazaro Tiant - Investment director, Sustainability at Schroders, speaks with moderator Chris Walker, North America’s Director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, on the ways Schroders is preparing its investors for long-term resilience.

With a growing ESG market, it’s important for ESG investors to have better information and strategies at their resources to make better investment decisions. Schroders has developed a range of tools to not only help investors determine their portfolios’ ESG performance, but to identify and actively manage laggards. 

Schroders takes a three-pronged “actively nimble” approach to ESG investment by: 

  1. Acting to avoid harm
  2. Benefiting stakeholders
  3. Contributing to solutions

In the past, investors had to rely on data that was up to a year and a half behind to make important decisions. Now, a range of data analytics tools gives investors more accurate information which depicts real time progress on metrics as wide ranging as fiduciary responsibility, positive and negative externalities, and municipal bond evaluations. 

Tiant assures us, “you can’t act without knowing where you are.” The tools and active management services Schroders provides give investors access to a more robust, contextually informed, and nimble approach to making an ESG impact. 

Watch the full presentation here


corporate climate action that matters

Taylor Francis, co-founder of Watershed gave an inspiring presentation on the ways that companies are using its software to decarbonize their operations during this “critical decade” for CO2 emissions reductions.  

Watershed is a software providing companies the means to 

  • measure Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and compare their data with other companies, 
  • reduce CO2 emissions by purchasing renewable power, updating product designs, and funding CO2 emissions removal, and 
  • report the progress using Watershed’s dashboard. 

Francis explains how companies need to make more ambitious and faster reductions than they have in the past. Details like which reporting standards you follow, setting Science Based Targets, and mitigating Scope 3 emissions are all key factors in ensuring progress. Francis shares a number of ways different companies have found solutions for decarbonizing their operations and incentivizing the growth of new markets using Watershed. 

Watch the full presentation here.  

food and agriculture: a surprisingly pressing environmental issue

Johnathan Foley, Executive Director of Project Drawdown, Carol Shattuck, CEO of Food Rescue Us, and Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance spoke not only about the ways food contributes to climate change, but the ways solving food system problems can provide multiple positive impacts for society. 

Firstly, Foley introduced some key statistics related to the food system, which is responsible for 24% of GHGs. Agricultural land covers roughly 35-40% of the world’s total land mass, and 75% of agricultural land supports the livestock industry. Apart from its direct GHG emissions from deforestation, methane gas released from animals and food waste, agriculture has additional environmental consequences related to water use and pollution from fertilizers and pesticides. The upside is that agricultural land also presents a huge range of possibilities, because soil can be used as a carbon sink.  

Key climate solutions related to food include:

  • Reducing global meat consumption to increase available land for carbon sinks
  • Protect rainforests from encroaching agricultural land
  • Shift agricultural practices to regenerative cropping and management
  • Replenish the soils of degraded agricultural lands

Elizabeth Whitlow introduced a new certification for food products that assesses and verifies regenerative farming practices. The Regenerative Organic Certified standard goes beyond organic certifications to promote farming in a way that generates healthy soils. The three pillars of ROC are soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. The aim is to enable food companies to establish a legitimate claim to their use of the phrase “regenerative farming.”

Finally, Carol Shattuck shared how Food Rescue Us started to address the complementary problems of food waste and food insecurity. Currently, 40% of food supply in the US goes to waste, while 40 million people are food insecure. Food Rescue Us is an app-based platform that helps food rescuing volunteers deliver edible spoilage from restaurants, grocery stores and other food suppliers to charitable organizations feeding people in need. So far, the direct transfer model currently operates in 21 states plus DC. 

Watch the full presentation here.  


how agriculture is growing into a nature based solution

In a conversation led by Max Dubuisson, Head of Global Carbon Policy and Compliance, Indigo Ag, a variety of panelists from across the industry joined to share how they’re working to develop the potential for agriculture to provide a nature based solution to climate change. 

Dubuisson was joined by Sonya Hoo, managing director and partner, Boston Consulting Group, Julian Lings, Senior Sustainability Manager, VF Corporation, Sami Osmani, Policy Director, Climate Action Reserve, and Ben Riensche, Owner and Manager, Blue Diamond Farming Company. 

Carbon markets have been available since 2008, and now agriculture based offsets are available. These offsets can benefit both corporations which need to offset CO2 emissions and farmers, who can participate in offsetting programs to diversify their sources of income. 

Osmani shared how offsets work and how they are measured. His non-profit organization works as an intermediary between carbon offsetting projects and the corporations that purchase offsets, helping them to track and monitor their offsets. Hoo shared her perspective on how and why the market for agricultural offsets is expected to grow. Lings, joining from cotton manufacturer VF Corporation shared how carbon markets can become an important part of the sustainability story that agricultural companies share.    

Riensche, a sixth generation farmer in Iowa growing soybeans and corn, shared his perspective on the operational challenges farmers face, and their aims for farming in a way that is least impactful as possible. Whereas in the past, the farm’s yield was the only measurement of financial viability, now farmers can benefit from programs that improve the quality of their soils and the longevity of their crops.  

Watch the full presentation here.  


faster forward-advancing sustainability in events & fashion

Informa, a leading events management company listed on the FTSE 100, organized a series of talks with panelists from across the sustainable fashion value chain. 

This session started with a remote chat between Informa’s Ben Wielgus, Head of Sustainability and Richard Menzies-Gow, Head of IR, Communications and Brand. The two discussed how Informa’s sustainability approach has grown and expanded, driven by young consumers’ demand. Events play a key role in sustainability both in how they’re run and the messages they convey. Specifically, Informa has 12 key initiatives to improve sustainability over time.  

Next, Kelly Helfment, President of Informa Markets Fashion moderated a conversation with Saima Chowdhury, CEO and founder Grey State Apparel, Dr. Cindy J Lin, Sustainability and Environmental Science Expert CEO and Co-Founder of Hey Social Good, and Charlotte McCurdy, Assistant Professor, Principal, RISD, Charlotte McCurdy Research. 

Lin shared the ways social impact data can influence companies to make better ethical decisions, which is why she founded her company which connects customers with the performance metrics of social good brands. 

Chowdhury aims to use her company to show how fashion can be done better both on the production and consumption sides of the equation. This includes designing clothes for a long life to begin with and minimizing issues like carbon emissions, deadstock, and waste at the end of a product’s life. 

Finally, McCurdy emphasized the need for co-creation and co-investing in better systems, to spur competition for improvements to fashion technologies. 

Watch the full presentation here.    


business as a platform for change 

Patrick Flynn, Vice President of Sustainability at Salesforce shared the company’s sustainability leadership by reaching net zero emissions across its value chain and achieving 100% renewable energy. He was joined by Kristina Kloberdanz, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Mastercard to discuss the unique ways their partnership has benefitted Mastercard’s sustainability aims as well. 

Currently, Salesforce aims to achieve net zero by 2030 for its Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Salesforce is pursuing a 6 pillar strategy which encompasses 

  • emissions reductions
  • carbon sequestration 
  • restoring ecosystems 
  • education and mobilization
  • innovation
  • regulation and advocacy

It also recognizes that achieving internal goals isn’t significant in the context of climate change. Collaboration and partnerships to ensure other companies have the systems and processes available to them to improve their own sustainability goals. This is why Salesforce created its Sustainability Cloud 2.0 to help other companies measure and reduce their carbon footprints. 

Mastercard’s Kloberdanz joined the conversation to share the ways her company is mobilizing its “superpower,” which is the ability to engage its 3 billion cardholders around sustainable consumption. Like Salesforce, a cloud based company, Mastercard’s immediate footprint is relatively small, but it has an expansive reach. It’s using this reach to pursue programs like its Sustainability Innovation Lab, Lab for Financial Inclusion, and others. 

The two sustainability leaders discussed the ways they are engaging their supply chains and mobilizing their partners and customers to make bolder actions together. 

Watch the full presentation here.  


nyc & company: taking action on urban resilience 

Adam Lake, Head of Climate Week NYC, Climate Group launched this conversation with an engaging talk about how challenge breeds opportunity. He describes the difficult decisions Climate Week had to make in 2020 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which fundamentally shifted his view of what is possible in terms of change. 

Not only did the conference have to rapidly shift from in person meetings to an all digital platform in the span of less than a year, it had to embrace the possibility of not receiving the same funding from sponsorships to put on the conference. In spite of these challenges, the conference prevailed by unlocking access to more individuals than ever before, significantly minimizing the carbon footprint of its conference from flights, and even greater funding opportunities. Today, it continues as a hybrid digital and in-person conference. 

Next, President of the Javits Center Alan Steel sat down with Jainey Bavishi, Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency to chat about the ways the city is adapting to climate change. This important conversation took place just weeks after the tail of Hurricane Ida brought flash floods to New York City, overwhelming its sewers and stormwater systems. 

As part of her work, she is working to improve New York City’s sewer systems, green infrastructure, and stormwater management practices with innovative approaches to reducing the risks to communities brought by climate impacts. The changes range from complex engineering projects along coastal areas to cloudburst management strategies in which lowered areas like parking lots, parks and basketball courts offset the pressure on the sewage system during times of extreme precipitation. 

The city has developed a map of the hazards most impacting the different areas of the city. It is also improving the problems associated with extreme heat experienced by low income communities through affordable solutions like painting reflective rooftops designed to cool buildings, establishing building codes with tree planting requirements, and engaging volunteers to check in on vulnerable households during hot periods. 

An important part of the work the Office of Climate Resiliency does is ensure the different communities of New York City are engaged and informed about the realities of climate change. 

Watch the full presentation here

Tagged With: #socialinnovation, sustainability, climatecommunications, #climateweekNYC, #climate

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