The sustainable year ahead: What’s in the Content Coms green Christmas stocking?
Our environment editor, Giles Crosse, takes a look at some of the green policy changes set to drive better business – and what else is on our wish list for 2024.
New sustainability reporting standards
At Content Coms we’ve long advocated that what you can’t measure, you can’t manage – but the current patchwork of reporting requirements for firms is confusing at best. At worst, it hinders efforts to be transparent on climate action.
That’s why the forthcoming UK Sustainability Disclosure Standards (SDS), expected by July 2024, are so key. Law firm Pinsent Masons explains: ‘New UK sustainability corporate disclosure standards are expected to be endorsed by the UK government by July 2024.’
The SDS will set out corporate disclosures on the sustainability-related risks and opportunities that companies face. They will form the basis of any future requirements in UK legislation or regulation for companies to report on risks and opportunities relating to sustainability matters, including risks and opportunities arising from climate change.
‘The disclosures required by these standards will help investors to compare information between companies, thereby aiding decision making; supporting the efficient allocation of capital and smooth running of the UK’s capital markets,’ the Government added.
There is more; as well as the new standards-based requirements for UK registered companies and limited liability partnerships, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has separately confirmed it intends to update its existing rules on climate-related reporting for listed companies and some changes to funds and assets.
These are based on recommendations made by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – to “refer to the UK-endorsed ISSB standards”.
The FCA expects to consult on proposals to implement disclosure rules referencing the UK-endorsed standards for UK-listed companies in the first half of 2024.
Crikey; that’s complicated!
Now, this might all sound like a great deal of red tape to those of us focusing on Christmas dinner. But these rules and requirements are the very fundamentals of transitioning UK PLC to low carbon, through metric-based analysis and proof.
They are also core to refuting greenwash and delivering a level playing field for comparison on climate performance between companies. Hence, they are a very big deal for 2024.
Biodiversity Net Gain
Recently, sustainability platform edie reported that at the start of this year, the UK government confirmed developers will need to achieve 10% biodiversity net-gain (BNG) at all large domestic, commercial and mixed-use sites from November. The BNG was first introduced as part of the Environment Act back in 2021.
But then, the government told the BBC that the new legislation framework will no longer be implemented this year. It has since confirmed the 10% BNG target will actually come into force in January 2024. BNG for small sites will be applicable from April 2024, and implementation for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects is planned for 2025.
Either way, BNG is a welcome addition to the Xmas present list. At Content Coms, we are particularly fond of green buildings, green development and indeed the built environment as a whole.
The government says BNG is a strategy to develop land and contribute to the recovery of nature. It is a way of making sure the habitat for wildlife is in a better state than it was before development.
You will need to understand the requirements of BNG if you’re a land manager, developer, or local planning authority. Plenty of Xmas reading for these stakeholders here!
A stable environment
Overall, we would love to see a renewed sense of stability within UK politics and environment as a whole into 2024.
Plenty has been written surrounding Net Zero rollbacks from the existing UK administration, so we won’t retread older ground. We will simply say any environmental progress demands policies don’t change, and businesses genuinely require stability to plan Net Zero futures.
If we can rebuild certainty within the UK 2024 environmental agenda, that would be a most welcome Christmas gift – to both corporates and the people working within them.
The gift of clarity
A recent study by ECIU, covered by The Guardian, notes that British households’ food bills have been driven up by more than £600 over the past two years by the global climate emergency and soaring energy prices.
We know corporate and governmental action on climate can avoid all these rises, offering healthier forms of food, energy and living.
Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU, said that the dependence of the UK’s current farming system on volatile oil, gas and fertiliser prices had created a “perfect storm of extreme weather, high gas prices and global instability.”
He argued: “The good news is that steps to make farming more sustainable cannot only cut emissions but also make our food production more resilient to the extremes of flooding and drought. Government plans in England to support greener farming with more hedgerows, improved soil health and tree planting schemes are therefore vital to our future food security.”
The transition to a healthier food and energy system remains too slow. A lot has happened in the last few years; wars, a global pandemic; just to name a few. But we can still align UK business with the decisions that will deliver a more enlightened, more liveable world.
And finally… we offer our best Christmas wishes to all our friends and colleagues. Have a very happy holidays.