Sustainability issues, both public and corporate, have been hot topics at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. Hence, it is vital not only mentioning companies that are the world’s most sustainable, but to underline necessity in preparing skills and professions required for sustainability and socio-economic transition. Besides, some examples from the Baltic Sea region are worth mentioning.
About 7,000 firms and corporations with revenue over $1 billion have been assessed for the 2023 annual report. Companies are assessed on 25 indicators including taxes paid, sustainable revenue and investment, carbon productivity and other SDG targets; the ratio of CEO to average worker pay is additionally taken into account. The companies must also have sustainable solutions at the heart of their business models and invest to reduce their carbon footprint. Some indicators have fixed scores, while others are weighted according to each industry’s relative impact on the overall economy.
Digital and AI technologies are having presently a crucial role in helping corporate managers to deal with SDGs, e.g. in tackling complexities of the most powerful levers when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint. Typically, business leaders have been forced to make a choice between making short-term changes that are less expensive (e.g. carbon offsetting), or longer-term adjustments (such as investing in greener transportation) that have greater efficiency but don’t have immediate benefits.
Presently, high-tech, AI and digital solutions can provide a feasible option to address the SDG implementation problems immediately while still getting long-term results In particularly AIs can help companies leverage the decision-making through the real-time solutions in order to make optimal SDG-wise decisions in corporate operations.
More in: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/07/03/ai-is-the-secret-to-businesses-cutting-carbon-emissions-and-costs-at-the-same-time
Best SDG’s companies in the world
Several global regions prepare sustainability indexes to note the feasibility of reaching global sustainability goals –so-called SDGs- by 2030. There is however also a recognized index for corporate sustainability, e.g. Corporate Knights has been ranking the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations since 2005. The Corporate Knights’ Global 100 is driving the transition to a low-carbon, circular economy and is used by global investors, like Goldman Sachs to mange private wealth portfolios. Such an index also serves as the benchmark for numerous funds, exchange traders and corporate investors. The corporate ranking is also valuable for cross-industry comparisons, which is on all accounts extremely difficult.
It is quite symbolic that in 2022, the first two best companies are the Danish Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Chr. Hansen Holding A/S.
Source: On Global 100 index in 2022 https://www.corporateknights.com/rankings/global-100-rankings/2022-global-100-rankings/100-most-sustainable-corporations-of-2022/
However, in 2023, Schnitzer Steel Company, a US scrap steel recycler in Portland rapidly reached to the top of the Global 100 (from 15th place in 2022), which highlights the growing importance of both the circular economy and low-carbon metals in the energy transition; Vestas, wind turbine company came this year in second place.
More in: https://www.corporateknights.com/rankings/global-100-rankings/2023-global-100-rankings/
Each year, Canadian research firm Corporate Knights creates the Global 100, an index of what it deems to be the world’s 100 greenest firms. It aims to spotlight the corporations that do the most good for people and planet, “driving the transition to a low-carbon, circular economy”. If the world’s “dirtiest sector” as the Schnitzer Steel can become the most sustainable company in the world, then there is no excuse for any other company in any sector not to step up, mentioned Corporate Knights CEO Toby Heaps.
Steel is often seen as a “dirty industry”, steel production accounts for around 8 per cent of total global CO2 emissions. Most steel is produced by reducing iron or using energy intensive coal-fired furnaces.
Recycling steel’s process can also reduce emissions by moving away fossil fuels in its production. Green steel production has progressed in recent years, with new technologies emerging to decarbonise the industry. Approaches include electricity or ‘green’ hydrogen powered furnaces, carbon capture and improving recyclability.
The firm topped the Global 100 thanks to vast improvements made in its energy, carbon, water and waste ‘productivity’, meaning it used these resources more efficiently when measured against revenue. The company increased its energy productivity by 74 per cent, water productivity by 69 per cent and carbon productivity by 55 per cent in 2021. It also reported 100 per cent of its $2.8 billion (€2.6 bn) revenues and all of its $0.1 billion investment went to sustainable projects in 2021.
New skills in sustainability
Another aspect in corporate sustainability is adequate workforce: most managers are familiar with the problem, e.g. during recent covid-pandemic. In a survey by Gartner, 56% of people said that pandemic made them additionally contribute to society. For most in hunt for purpose at work finding a career transforming businesses according to SDGs becomes extremely vital.
The SDG-trick is such that a modern specialist shall be both the technical expert and the expert generalist at the same time. Influencing and leading change within business (from the factory floor to the boardroom) is as much an art as it is a science, argue experts.
Thus, a successful sustainability professional -first and foremost- have to be a technical expert; the company’s colleagues expect to get advise on everything” i.e. from climate science to biodiversity, from carbon foot-printing to recycling and to the basics of circular economy, the politics of international climate negotiations, SDG-social impact, energy management, air quality, contaminated land management, responsible sourcing, diversity and inclusion, as well as about different environmental social governance, so-called ESG.
Besides deep knowledge in purely technical spheres, an SDG specialist need to put a range of different skills into corporate practice.
Thus, so-called SDG-strategist shall be as well familiar with such issues as organisational changes and compliance, risk assessment and due diligence, investment solutions and/or employment-employee relationship, to name a few. Assuming that depth and breadth of a SDG-analyst so complex, it definitely makes such a profession a fascinating choice!
And no doubt, it takes time and considerable efforts to become an SDG-professional, as one has to acquire all above mentioned necessary skills.
Several universities around the world and in Europe are already offering courses on SDGs and sustainable business; with a hard work one can definitely become a new-born corporate sustainability professional with skills in great demand presently everywhere!
According to LinkedIn, the growth in SDG and “green job” is already outpacing the growth in traditional profession and skills: e.g. sustainable business is becoming “a new normal”, as numerous firms and companies urgently need sustainability specialists to support and create transformational changes in the crucial years of SDG implementation for 2030.
Reference and citations from: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/05/01/looking-for-a-career-change-there-are-more-green-jobs-than-people-with-the-skills-to-do-th
Baltic Sea’s sustainable development: examples
Baltic Sea “summits”, usually within the EU’s sub-regional strategic cooperation of the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea region, so-called EUSBSR, provide incentives for active SDG implementation in quickly transforming national economies.
The eight EU states as members of the EUSBSR are unanimous on specific goals and targets to bring SDG-projects into reality, mainly in contemporary urgent energy security and consumption. For example, the task is to provide renewable energy sources to about six million households in the region by 2030. A noble and ambitious goal (not so far away, just seven years to go), and six million households is more than the number of the households in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark combined.
For example, in Estonia, three major offshore wind farms are already planned, with a total capacity of almost 1,500 megawatts; it is nearly as much as the country’s current power generation capacity. The national energy company Eesti Energia has already announced that all its power production should come from wind and solar by the end of this decade.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_22_6081
Note. Out Institute has published several articles both on the strategy’s planning and implementation, as well as sustainability and perspectives in cooperation.
See, e.g. https://www.integrin.dk/2022/09/19/european-strategy-for-the-baltic-sea-region-planning-and-practical-implementation/;
The EU assists the member states in establishing “Just Transition Funds” to help create green and renewable-energy companies, or modernise the old ones. The EU advice will provide for necessary science and research for perspective projects; it will bring new jobs into the Baltic Sea region. In some Baltic States there are already “Just Transition Funds” to invest in creating and funding new firms, in sustainable research and innovation, in up-skilling and reskilling programs, as well as investment in digitalisation and climate change. National transition plans are aimed at providing more modernisation and diversification, as well as additional and long-term independence in fossil fuels and renewables.