Four Key Takeaways from GreenBiz ’24 

Gina, Jana, and Matt smiling at GreenBiz

By Matt Mooney, 3R Associate Director of Sustainability Consulting 

Last month, business leaders from around the world convened at the annual GreenBiz conference to discuss trends, strategies, and solutions in our rapidly evolving field of corporate sustainability. The conference is an opportunity not only to get the scoop on new technologies and changing standards but also to connect with fellow professionals who are all at different points in their sustainability journeys. Here are our four biggest takeaways from the conference. 

A new reporting hydra emerges: Just as sustainability practitioners began to feel some relief with the ISSB’s attempt to tame the multi-headed beast of voluntary reporting standards, another has risen in its place – this one with regulatory clout and consequences. The most notable and much-discussed new compliance regulations include:  

  • CSRD, its associated EU country-level variations, EU Taxonomy, and CSDDD 
  • California’s SB253 
  • Australia  
  • Newly released US SEC ruling 

These will demand considerable effort from organizations to design processes that can address the varying requirements while monitoring for emerging changes. To be successful, partnerships between internal functions (most notably among sustainability, finance, and controllership teams) will be more important than ever. Obtaining external assurance also will become a necessity, and organizations should begin preparing (and budgeting) for this now.  

You can’t spell “sustainability” without AI: Several sessions from technology providers (including Salesforce, Microsoft, and others) sought to demonstrate how their products could support corporate responsibility programs with integrated generative AI technology. Several use cases demonstrated time-saving potential on work including: 

  • Identifying trends, correlations, outliers, and gaps in large data sets, such as monthly utility data (for energy, water, etc). 
  • Conducting research on peer benchmarking, applicable regulations, and available financial incentives. 
  • Producing first drafts of documents, such as sustainability reports, CDP responses, CSRD reports, and others, by “training” the technology with prior year versions. 

While there was a lot of talk on this topic, few audience members could attest to direct experience using the new AI features, leaving the true applied value of these nascent tools still to be proven. This goes along with the standard warning that, to be effective, any tool needs a strong process foundation behind it to avoid the classic trap of “garbage in, garbage out”. 

Suppliers will see increasing decarbonization pressure: Large companies with science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) targets (SBTs) are realizing that the relatively long time-horizons of those goals can be deceiving, especially related to Scope 3 emissions from their supply chains. Suppliers of those companies may be receiving customer requests for GHG data today that may turn into mandatory requirements tomorrow. While suppliers may be tempted to think that some of the “ESG backlash” in the US will lessen this pressure to comply, discussion at the conference indicated these large customers have an appetite to accelerate progress on their SBTs, not back away from them. 

 The importance of laughter and self-care: The practice of corporate sustainability at times can be weighty for the people managing it, dealing with heavy topics such as human trafficking, conflict minerals, and global climate disruption. A fantastic addition to the program was speaker Stuart Goldsmith, a self-styled “climate comedian” who uses his standup routines to raise awareness of climate change and other related issues. His talks during the main plenary session and an hour-long evening performance provided some welcome levity. Clips of his material are posted on his website and social media pages. 

The clear thread to the conference was the pace of change and evolution in corporate sustainability shows no sign of abating as new technologies, policies, and approaches continue to emerge and mature. If nothing else, there promises to be no shortage of material for next year’s GreenBiz 25. 

To learn more about how 3R can help your company address these areas and many others, please contact us here.