As we increasingly face the devastating effects of a changing climate, organisations grapple with disruption to business, supply chains, and impacts to the bottom line. Often, the blame for these impacts is placed on the increasing amount of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in our atmosphere. Because of this, most of our reduction efforts are focused on carbon. While these efforts are undeniably essential to preserving a liveable planet, the switch to a sustainable, net-zero future must happen in a fair and inclusive way.
In our current globalised economy, most emitting activities occur far down the supply chain, often in locations with limited access to basic needs. To form comprehensive environmental and risk mitigation within a business, organisations need to adopt holistic risk management strategies that reach beyond reducing GHG emissions and embrace the concept of a Just Transition through both social and environmental factors.
What is a Just Transition?
Just Transition is a set of principles and practices that ensure an equitable and just approach to maintaining a liveable planet. It asserts that workers, frontline and fenceline communities, and all people impacted by a changing environment have a fundamental right to clean air, water, land, and food, and should have a seat at the table in ensuring those rights are met. Supporting a Just Transition means actively working to ensure no one is left behind during the shift to cleaner industries. This can be done through working towards policies that bring green jobs and opportunities, investing in accessible infrastructure, and supporting all communities equally in disaster preparedness and recovery. Fundamentally, supporting a Just Transition emphasises equity and inclusivity as core pillars in an environmentally responsible future.
Why Does It Matter?
You may be asking – why does this matter, and how does a Just Transition differ from any other sustainability effort or policy? Unfortunately, those affected first and most by climate change – individuals in manufacturing, agriculture, coastal areas, and those directly impacted by pollution from chemicals, fossil fuels, traffic, and noise – often belong to historically marginalised groups with limited influence in crafting policy solutions. As demands for emissions reductions move up the supply chain, these same stakeholders are left bearing the economic, environmental, and social burdens, while having the least amount of power. A Just Transition ensures that people on the frontlines and fence lines are included in the workforce, paid fair wages, and work under safe conditions. It also ensures their voices are given a platform to inform the development and implementation of policies that prioritise social equity and promote the development of green jobs and sustainable industries. This is crucial for building a resilient, effective, and empowered supply chain.
How Can You Drive Impact?
Using Just Transition principles as a guide, organisations can drive impact through the following steps:
1. Map Your Value Chain
To begin, it is critical to understand where the environmental and social opportunities and risks exist within your value chain. This involves tracing products and services back to their origin, and identifying the suppliers, sub-suppliers, and practices used at each step. While mapping can be seen as tedious and expensive, it does not have to be this way. With the right framework, technology, and support from experts, tracing your value chain will become the foundation of your sustainable value chain management and provide the insights you need to act upon and support a Just Transition.
2. Engage Stakeholders
As part of a Just Transition, engaging those on the frontlines to aid in the development of policies, practices, and standards can have a positive cascading effect throughout the entire value chain. A fundamental element of Just Transition is identifying and participating in place-based solutions, which posits a consultative process of those who are most vulnerable (e.g., workers who extract raw materials, communities who live around a mine). By actively engaging all stakeholders, organisations empower them to contribute to policy and practice ownership, leading to more effective implementation and better decision-making through diverse perspectives and needs. Moreover, engagement includes embedding long-term communication outlets, like grievance mechanisms, to ensure continued opportunities for stakeholders to raise concerns and provide ideas or feedback on the policies, principles, and standards that were determined during early engagements.
3. Implement Policies & Practices
Building off UN Sustainable Development guidance, recommendations from the International Labor Organization or other reputable frameworks, organisations may adopt and implement policies that ensure responsible sourcing, implementing fair and living wage practices, becoming certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and much more.
4. Educate, Advocate and Empower
Although change in a singular organisation is powerful, true, systematic change requires efforts from multiple organisations up and down the value chain. Education on the benefits and processes of a Just Transition is the first step, followed closely by advocacy for a more globalised effort. No organisation operates in isolation, and joining efforts across your industry and region means greater influence to implement holistic sustainability initiatives.
As we strive to create a world where our supply chains and businesses are resilient, where we minimise social and environmental risk, and do more good than harm, a Just Transition provides a lens through which organisations can evaluate their current policies and practices, and adjust for the near- and long-term future. This perspective takes us beyond a focus on carbon, to a place where everyone who is impacted by our value chains can play a role in creating positive change, from reducing emissions and recovering resources to providing fair wages and supporting a low-carbon, socially equitable economy.
As the sustainability activator, Anthesis brings a broad reach of experience to help our clients implement holistic strategies to address environmental and social risks. To learn more about our offerings and how we help our clients create a positive change across their value chain, reach out today.