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The Coalition’s net zero target for 2050 was a long time coming and should (certainly no guarantees) save the Prime Minister major embarrassment at the Glasgow climate conference next week.   

But for many business and corporate affairs leaders, the challenge is only just beginning – and while the environment has had substantial airtime this year, we can expect the focus to return to social issues next year, adding further layers of complexity to corporate life for organisations of all sizes.  

The smaller the organisation, the less likely they are to have been directly impacted by environmental or ethical issues. Talk of stakeholder capitalism and ESG is fine at UN climate summits but has little relevance on the ground. This is changing. Doing business with many larger companies or winning government contracts already means demonstrating your sustainability credentials, as well as transparency in your supply chain and diversity amongst your workforce.  

Expect COP to supercharge this, particularly on the sustainability front.  

Yet sustainability is a vague, catch-all term with no clear agreed framework for measuring and reporting. This creates a vacuum for confusion or greenwashing and creates more questions than answers.  

COP will do little to address this, leaving business leaders to plot a path forward while under ever more pressure from customers, investors, and the community to act sustainably.   

The challenge is how to cut through the noise and transparently communicate action and progress.  

Key to this will be having a sustainability policy, communicating it to all stakeholders and reporting against it. Currently, mainly the preserve of listed firms, sustainability policies are quickly becoming the status quo.  

And businesses that don’t have them will be frozen out. If you can’t say how you are cutting emissions or waste, wave goodbye to that contract.  

The Prime Minister’s pledge to commit to net zero may seem distant and political. Still, it and other countries’ commitments at COP will rapidly have real-world impacts on organisations across Australia. Business and corporate affairs leaders need to be prepared for the post-COP world.  

Author Nick Albrow

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