Eye drops for a green wash

If you’re looking for a scorecard to judge the long-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference which kicks off on October 31, watch this scorecard debut: the global body that now sets the financial accounting rules for state-owned enterprises. plans to announce a similar body to establish “sustainability standards.” The aim is to ensure that companies are transparent and precise about their promises both to fight against climate change and to adapt to climate-related risks.

The proposed International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) would help investors and others hold companies accountable for their promises to reduce their impact on the environment. In other words, the board would provide eye drops for any green wash, or challenge a company’s rhetoric and numbers when they don’t result in verifiable action.

Broken promises on climate action, both from companies and countries, have hampered these United Nations climate conferences. This 26th conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, could see the global use of quantifiable metrics to measure real progress.

One of the reasons for global standards is that many companies want them. Under pressure from shareholders and employee activists to be less polluting, they are now faced with a proliferation of standards by different organizations. Standards are often inconsistent, lack comparability, or are too subjective. Businesses want clarity and simplicity, especially when operating in many countries.

Several countries, from China to Canada, are eager to host the seat of the new board of directors, as it could be a powerful influencing force on climate action. This will help build long-term confidence in businesses as credible climate change fighters and define the best path to a healthy climate.

Differences remain as to how the ISSB will operate. Will it allow subjective judgments, such as the long-term benefits of planting trees? Will it just help businesses find new ways to improve their bottom line by helping the environment? Will it force them to lower their profit expectations in the name of a global cause? The nudge often works better than the restraint.

For now, at least, the world is doing more to achieve the public good of a healthy climate. While new limits can be placed on air pollution, the idea of ​​a common good has no limits.

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