Marion Verles, Gold Standard CEO: The Climate Chain

December 2015 saw the ratification of the first truly global climate treaty in Paris, where over 190 countries committed to new decarbonisation targets. A few months earlier, an ambitious agenda was adopted, setting the Global Goals for Sustainable Development to ensure a world where everyone has the right to a healthy and productive environment. These two issues are inexorably linked; without climate security, development is at risk – particularly for the most vulnerable. And if our development pathway is not a sustainable one, climate threats will only increase.


While the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the commitments submitted by countries represent a significant step in the fight against climate change, the amount of ambition is still insufficient to keep global warming at a level that is safe for the most vulnerable communities and critical ecosystems on the planet.
Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a rapid decarbonisation that means phasing out CO2 emissions from industry and energy-related sources before 2050 and reaching net zero emissions for all greenhouse gases within the next 50 years.

Yet there remains a gap between the level of emissions that the 190 countries have committed to and the emissions trajectory needed according to science to keep our planet safe. Closing this gap requires more ambitious commitments by governments, but also, significant action by non-state actors, including the business sector.

And it's not just about closing the emissions gap, there is also a financing gap. It's estimated that US$1 trillion (HK$7.8 trillion) of investment is needed in low- carbon energy technologies by 2030 and additional trillions are required to reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their 169 targets. This financial gap is not something that public money can fulfill alone. Business has a crucial role to play in meeting these targets and transitioning the world to a low-carbon economy.

Apart from helping to ensure that we stay within a 2 degrees Celsius limit and protecting our families against the dire consequences of a hotter planet, there are many reasons and opportunities for engaging in a climate management or corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.
  • Pressure from governments and regulation: Legislation that impacts the private sector will continue to grow in order for national governments to meet their commitments and respond to the pressure on the world'́s natural and social capital.
  • Pressure from clients and customers: With the rise of younger demographics, such as the millennials, consumers are more aware of the impact our consumerist society is having on the planet, asking the brands they support to be accountable for their environmental and social impact.
  • More efficient and more sustainable: Understanding your climate footprint or impact on society by evaluating your triple bottom line enables you to better assess the value your business and operations deliver. This approach also provides opportunities to make your business more efficient, saving you money and ensuring your long-term sustainability.
Increasingly, having a strategy to mitigate these impacts and reporting progress to bodies like the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the UN Global Compact is becoming a license to operate.

Investing in climate and development projects is a powerful way to meet both your climate and CSR commitments whilst helping the transition to a low-carbon, climate secure world.

High-quality emission reduction projects, like those certified under Gold Standard, provide a multiplicity of sustainability benefits that go beyond climate mitigation, such as building more sustainable livelihoods, preserving biodiversity and natural resources and supporting the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Climate finance generated from carbon offsetting provides an additional source of financing for these projects, and in many cases, this additional finance is what has enabled their implementation. Without such investments, local communities wouldn't have access to cleaner technologies that help improve their social, economic and environmental wellbeing.

However, there has been some criticism of the concept of carbon offsetting. This has meant that, historically, carbon offsetting hasn't been recognised under any corporate disclosure schemes.

Yet by changing the narrative to reducing emissions internally, and then financing additional emission reductions outside of operations or supply chains, carbon credits can still be used as vehicle to finance the global emissions reductions needed by science and accelerate progress toward a low-carbon economy. Gold Standard is working with the Science Based Targets initiative to incorporate these principles into their scheme, helping to incentivise more companies to meet this finance and emissions gap.


Embarking on a corporate climate strategy can seem like a daunting and complicated process. To help alleviate this, Gold Standard is working with WWF to create best practice guidelines for climate action. In brief, corporate climate strategies should follow a three-pillar approach:

  • Measure and report your carbon footprint using the greenhouse gas (GHG) protocol and report your results to the CDP.
  • Reduce emissions according to the Science Based Targets. This approach includes two steps. First, reducing emissions within your own operation and, second, financing additional emissions reductions that are transparent. Additionally, follow environmental and social safeguards that contribute to sustainable development and have been verified by a third party.
  • Communicate and advocate your efforts in a transparent and clear way.
In the words of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon: “Ours can be the first generation to end poverty – and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late.”

We need to mobilise efforts to deal with this issue, so why not embrace the challenge and make it a business opportunity that will ensure the long-term sustainability of your organisation as well as that of the planet?
This column originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Peak, a Hong Kong based publication.
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