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Climate Pledge

A Winmark guide to Climate Pledges

Choosing a Pledge to Achieve Change

The pledge market can appear confusing at first, as there are a number of different routes that organisations can take. The pledges vary widely in their level of commitment and the resulting action required to achieve them. So, a pledge is the beginning of a strategic change and it’s important you choose or create the right one for your organisation.

The guide was produced by Winmark’s Chief Sustainability Officer network and is designed for senior executives reviewing which climate pledges they should make. Pledges are important as they set the intent for all climate and sustainability activity.

Report highlights are summarised below – download the report for full details of:

1/ The Pledge Change Process

2/ The Pledge Marketplace

3/ Recommended Pledge Process

Click here to download

The Pledge Change Process

The change process begins with an audit and governance and then once the focus is decided upon, the key is to integrate it into the company strategy. Climate and sustainability leads will need to first galvanize their organisation into action, before creating and communicating its intent externally. These six phases are summarised below
  1. CARBON AUDIT – before you start on the sustainability commitment and action journey you need to know where you are today. It is easier to get somewhere if you know where you are starting from and it also makes progress much easier to track and manage. Most organisations do not know where their carbon footprint sits. For example, The ICAEW, the accounting institute, conducted an audit and found that the data they held in the cloud was the major source of their footprint.

  2. BOARD PLEDGE & LEADERSHIP – ChapterZero, the non-executive board director climate network, advocates that the CEO and Chair / President must buy in to the cause to ensure a successful implementation. This is increasingly driven and supported by ESG (Environmental, Social and corporate Governance) investor engagement and pressure. As a corporate your reputation is a currency and therefore you need to think carefully about which pledge(s) you support. The Board should choose and make the pledge and should be fully supported by the executive team and the C-Suite.

  3. STRATEGIC FOCUS & ALIGNMENT – in business it is generally better to do less initiatives and to achieve them earlier, than to do more over a longer period. This applies to sustainability as well and it is worth having a tight focus on between one to three areas where you can make bold transformational moves and achieve great things. Having headline achievements can be important for internal and external stakeholders. Your pledge will be an important part of this and your strategic focus needs to be aligned to ensure relevance and success.

  4. GALVANIZING ACTION – like all change programmes it can be useful to start with a few quick wins. One way of identifying your quick wins is through some form of employee engagement programme, such as an ideas survey. Then you can quickly create a list of hopefully easy practical interventions that make people feel and see rapid progress. A good example of this is The Go-Ahead Group plc, which substantially reduced its pollution and costs at the same time, through increasing the tyre pressure in its fleet of 700 buses.

  5. CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT – following a bold environmental strategy is important for the world, it is important to customers – and is therefore good for business, so it needs to be built into your market offering. It can lead to innovation, waste reduction, new efficiencies, and make what your organisation does more attractive to customers. It may lead to new market and growth propositions, such as Eco-Friendly Packaging, and new lines of communication and engagement with customers.

  6. REPORT ON SUCCESS – what gets measured gets done, and pledges, like mission statements, may be markers on route to achieve a bigger vision. It is important that milestones are set and progress is tracked against them. Environmentalists and others are concerned that a 2050 pledge is too far out to create the climate urgency required today. 2030 is considered a more robust commitment. Many organisations create substantial sustainability reports detailing the progress they have made.

Climate Pledges

The Pledge Marketplace

When you plan to make a pledge, it is important that the one you choose is carbon and climate focused. If you do opt for a 2050 target date you will need to have both 2030 and 2040 milestones to ensure material progress is made and effort is maintained. Put simply: 2050 is too late. The pledge marketplace can be divided into four main groups: State & Intergovernmental Organisational (IGO), Finance & Investors, Sector and Own Pledges. These each in turn have their own pledge areas and organisations may commit to several pledges that align with their strategy, for example a UN, National and a local Sector pledge.

The Pledge Action Gap ("Greenwashing")

There is a general concern in the marketplace that there is a gap between what is being committed to and talked about (“Green Washing”) and the reality on the ground. There tends to be general agreement and activity around the ‘why’ - but less activity around the ‘how’. Winmark has coined this as the ‘Pledge Action Gap’ and this document is one of a series helping to address this issue. The main challenges to action fall into four main categories:
    The organisation has publicly bought-in but are not committing resources or acknowledging the consequences of the change

    Sometimes seen as the ‘permafrost’ against climate, they have significant workloads already and this is just another thing that eats up their time.

  3. MONEY
    Implementation requires sustained investment which is short of supply in a post Covid world. Climate positive decisions are not always financially positive decisions, triggering the ethics vs money debate.

    Employees, on the whole, want to play their part but do not know what to do or where to focus their attention. Therefore, know-how guidance and support are essential ingredients.

For full details of the types of pledges which might be relevant to your organisation, your country and your sector please download the full report.

Click here to download
Satyanarayana Nadella Microsfot

Satyanarayana Nadella, Executive Chairman and CEO, Microsoft

Microsoft committed to become carbon negative as a company by 2030 – meaning that by that date we will remove from the environment more carbon than we emit. By 2050, we committed that we’ll remove from the environment all the carbon that Microsoft has emitted directly or through electricity use since the company was founded in 1975.

Recommended Pledge Process

The Winmark Chief Sustainability Officer network recommended approach to making your pledge and taking action is:
  • PROCESS: Follow the Pledge Change Process given at the beginning of this guide.

  • PLEDGE: Review the pledges in the guide and choose the ones that work for you and your organisation.

  • JOIN A NETWORK like the Winmark Chief Sustainability Officer network to inspire confidence, help with actions and use as a source of cross-sector innovation.

Join our global community of Sustainability Leaders

Our network for Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) provides the opportunity for knowledge-sharing and learning within an exclusive community of CSO peers. Regular roundtable sessions led by experienced chairs, advisors and senior directors provide the opportunity to debate and discuss sustainability issues, leadership and strategy.

Annual membership is open to the Chief Sustainability Officers and sustainability leads of large and medium sized organisations globally. This is FREE thanks to a subsidy from a climate change foundation – sign up today!


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