Sapience attends The Economist event ‘Sustainability Week: Countdown to COP26’

Published: Oct 12th, 2021

Updated: Jan 25th, 2023

Last week, the Sapience team enjoyed tuning into the ‘Sustainability Week: Countdown to COP26’ event hosted by The Economist. The agenda had a brilliant range of talks, where panel members discussed topics as varied as clean energy, responsible consumption, greenwashing and biodiversity. COP26 is just around the corner, and hopefully we will soon see some of the discussion points from these talks translated into action. Read on to discover some of the insights that our team gleaned throughout the event… 

Innovation in industry

The talk ‘Innovation showcase: Transitioning industry to net zero: The critical decade?’ highlighted the key steps that must be taken over the next ten years to reduce the environmental impact of industry. Currently, four heavy industry sectors are responsible for approximately 20% of global CO2 emissions: iron & steel, cement, chemicals and aluminium. We are still in the very early stages of cleaning up these processes to reduce carbon emissions. 

Faustine Delasalle, Co-executive director of Mission Possible Partnership and director at Energy Transitions Commission, outlined the core routes to helping these sectors reach net-zero. Crucially, she made it clear that these technologies need rapid deployment and development before 2030, as in order to make them cost-effective, it will take the mobilisation of the entire value chain.

Investing in sustainability

Lyndsey Anderson, Global Head of Research and Insight at The Economist Intelligence Unit, was joined by Mario Greco, Group Chief Executive at Zurich Insurance for the talk ‘Opening the door to a more resilient future’. This interview tackled some of the big questions around the best ways to integrate ESG criteria into insurance and investment processes, and how to define the main challenges to taking an ethical approach to business. 

Mario Greco emphasised that speed and action are the priorities in addressing climate change, but that the transition to becoming carbon-neutral or negative won’t be easy for many companies. There will need to be a financial incentive for businesses to take sufficient action against polluting, and it was very interesting to hear the speakers discuss the ripple effects that ethical business choices can have on stakeholders, investors and employees.  

Upgrading construction

Reducing the environmental impact of the building and construction industry will be crucial to reaching net-zero. Inger Andersen, Executive Director at the United Nations Environment Programme and under-secretary general at the UN, spoke with Helen Joyce, Executive Editor for The Economist’s event business about how the sector can be made more sustainable. In the discussion it was noted that construction and infrastructure have an impact on each of the three main environmental crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the pollution crisis. New materials and construction methods will need to be developed to combat this.  

Inger Anderson gave some very interesting examples of incentives that have been implemented by global governments in response to this need, citing programmes in countries as varies as Namibia, Kenya and Columbia.  

It was great to attend so many varied panels and the Sapience team is ready to put all of their new knowledge to good use. Consumers and investors are increasingly scrutinising the ESG credentials of businesses across sectors, so it’s more important than ever that companies are communicating their sustainability objectives with clarity and sincerity.  


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