GreenBiz 2024 Unwrapped: Five Topics Shaping Sustainability

Topics Shaping Sustainability blog people pink cority

Cority’s North American team had the opportunity to attend GreenBiz 24 in Arizona, USA, last month. This three-day event had an action-packed agenda of keynote sessions, breakouts, workshops, roundtables and networking events that brought over 2,000 sustainability professionals together to harness each other’s knowledge and address the complex issues they face day-to-day. 

The team attended workshops, plenaries and panel discussions throughout the three-day event that covered topics including evolving ESG regulations, supply chain engagement and Scope 3, biodiversity and artificial intelligence, plus much more.  

In this article, the Cority team shares five key topics that were discussed at the event. 

1Increasing Regulation

There has been a global shift from voluntary sustainability reporting to ESG data being at the heart of compliance requirements associated with regulations. Increased regulation around the world is requiring companies to disclose information regarding the extra-financial aspects of their business to interested stakeholders. Thus, being proactive in monitoring current and emerging ESG regulations to ensure compliance and remain competitive has become a business imperative. 

At GreenBiz, regulation came up a lot. In particular, CSRD in Europe, the California Climate Regulations and the SEC ruling. Linked to this was the topic of data verification. Data assurance, or verification, is required for most regulations and the expectation on ESG data is that it will go through the same governance and controls as financial data. This is the case for CSRD in Europe and the US regulations are quick to follow suit. As more and more eyes are looking at ESG data for business and investment decisions, it has moved from being a business project to an audit-aligned process in many organizations.  

2Biodiversity & Water

Biodiversity and water played heavily on the agenda at GreenBiz this year and several key speakers were positioning these areas as the ‘new carbon’. ISSB, CSRD and CSDDD are going to start incorporating more questions on biodiversity and water and climate transition plans will be essential in navigating these landscapes. As organizations move from thinking about their immediate impacts to those in Scope and the value chain, the reach of biodiversity and water impacts prompts an unavoidable engagement with a wider set of stakeholders, most notably suppliers. 

In January 2024, GRI updated the Biodiversity standard to align with best practice and market expectations. GRI Disclosure 101-4 requires an organization to explain how it has determined which products and services in its supply chain have the most significant actual and potential impacts on biodiversity. It covers products and services from suppliers throughout an organization’s supply chain, including from suppliers beyond the first tier. 

3Scope 3 Emissions Data

Scope 3 emissions – those indirect emissions from your value chain – often account for most of an organization’s total emissions, which is why it is critical to measure this category and find opportunities for reduction. 

Beginning in 2024, EU-operating entities (approx. 49,000 companies) will be required to report environmental and social impacts under CSRD and a large component of this is tracking and reporting on Scope 3 emissions aligned with ESRS. California has also released new legislation – Climate Corporate Data Accountability (SB 253) – that requires companies doing business in the state to report on Scope 3 emissions. 

Some of the biggest challenges Cority sees organizations face with starting their Scope 3 data collection are around data acquisition and data quality. At GreenBiz, Scope 3 and the challenges that come with it were discussed at length in many different tracks. There was a big emphasis on the use of spend data to calculate Scope 3. Although it’s a positive start, spend data is often not actionable and poor in terms of quality leading organizations to seek automation and support with applying more non-spend methodologies such as supplier specific emissions and hybrid models aligned with the GHG Protocol. 

4Artificial Intelligence

The role of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how it is transforming sustainability was a hot topic for this year’s event.  

One of the key areas where AI can contribute to sustainability is in environmental conservation. AI-powered systems can monitor ecosystems, track wildlife populations, and detect environmental changes in real-time. For example, AI algorithms can analyze satellite imagery to monitor deforestation, identify illegal logging activities, and track changes in biodiversity hotspots. This information can inform conservation efforts and help policymakers make data-driven decisions to protect fragile ecosystems. 

But this is by no means the only use case for AI in sustainability and many other uses were discussed at GreenBiz. AI is increasingly being applied to address carbon emissions and supply chain risks, offering innovative solutions to mitigate environmental impacts and enhance carbon reporting through automated proxy generation. 

For many, the immaturity of AI use cases can come with a level of skepticism, confusion and ethical doubt. Collaborative efforts between businesses, governments, and civil society are crucial to harnessing the full potential of AI for sustainability and risk management. 

5Building a Unified View of Your Supply Chain

At GreenBiz, Cority’s Director of Product Marketing Sustainability, David Wynn, shared invaluable insights alongside industry leaders from Crocs, DP World, Insulet Corporation, and Amgen in a session titled “𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗱 𝗩𝗶𝗲𝘄 𝗼𝗳 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗹𝘆 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗶𝗻.” This session tackled the challenges and opportunities surrounding supply chain emissions and sustainability goals.  

Procurement and supply chain management is evolving, and so are the ways businesses interact with their suppliers, manage their relationships with them, and make purchasing decisions. Procurement teams are not only tasked with ensuring that suppliers meet the standards set by their organization and that the business is not exposed to supply chain risk. They are also responsible for building and maintaining supplier relationships and looking for ways to engage with their supplier base. Now more than ever, procurement professionals are under scrutiny to also ensure that their business and supply chain are operating sustainably; from an environmental, social, governance (ESG) and compliance perspective.