January 11 2021
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the great promise of the 21st Century – the Paris Accord (or “Agreement”) on climate change. Can you believe, it is now five years on (260 weeks or so this past December) since the meeting in the “City of Lights” of the Conference of Parties (“COP 21”, a/k/a the U.N. Paris Climate Conference). This was the 21st meeting of the global assemblage focused on climate change challenges.
For most of us the calendar years are neat delineations of time and space – helps us remember “what” and “when” in near and far-times. But often important trends will not fit neatly in a given year. There is for example so much uncertainty in 2020 that continues in 2021.
As we cheered and toasted each other on 31 December 2019 around the world (with tooting horns, fireworks, lighted spheres dropping on famed Times Square in New York City and fireworks on the Thames in London) we probably were looking eagerly into the new year 2020 and the promise of things to come. Oh well.
Now here we are embarked into new year 2021, starting the third decade of the 21st Century, and groping our way toward the “next normal”. What ever that may have in store for us.
The next normal for when the Coronavirus, now taking many lives and infecting hundreds of millions of us…at last subsides. For when the economies of the world stabilize and everyone can get back to work, in whatever the workspace configurations may be. For when the long-term issues that are generating civil unrest and widespread – and now very violent! — protests can be addressed and we can begin to resolve inequality et al.
Our world has certainly been dramatically interrupted as the calendar changed in both 2020 and now as we begin year 2021.
One consistency, however, has been in our business and personal lives in all of the recent years and is accelerating in 2021: the effort to address the challenges of climate change, with all sectors of our society engaged in the effort.
There is greater effort now to limit global warming and the impact on society in the business sector (especially for large companies); in the public sector (at local, state, and national levels, among the almost 200 nations that are parties to the Paris Agreement); for NGOs; leaders of philanthropies; and we as individuals doing our part.
We all have a role to play in the collective striving to limit the rising temperatures of seas and atmosphere and forestall worldwide great tragedy and cataclysmic events if we fail.
And so now on to 2021. The Top Stories we’ve selected for you, and additional content in the various silos, focus our attention on what has been accomplished in 2019 and 2020 — and what challenges we need to address the challenges of 2021 and beyond.
As we assembled this week’s G&A Institute’s Highlights newsletter, we learned from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the year 2020 just ended was a period (neatly marked in “2020” for our historical records) of historic weather extremes that saw many billion-dollar weather and climate disasters…smashing prior records.
There were 22 separate billion-dollar events costing the United States of America almost US$100 billion in damages in just the 12 months of 2020.
And this troubling news: in 2020 Arctic air temps continued their long-term warming streak, recording the second warmest year on record. (Since 2000 Arctic temperatures have been more than twice as far as the average for Earth as a whole). When air and sea continue to warm, massive ice fields melt and ocean seas rise, ocean circulation patterns change, and more. Learn more at climate.gov.
Our selection of news and shared perspectives here bridge 2020 and 2021 trends and events. We can expect in the weeks ahead to be sharing content with you focused on climate change, diversity & inclusion, corporate purpose discussions, risk management, corporate governance, ESG matters, corporate reporting & disclosures, sustainable investing…and much more!
Best wishes to you for 2021 from the G&A Institute team. We’re beginning the second decade of publishing this newsletter as well – let us know how we are doing and how we can improve the G&A Institute “sharing”.
If you are not receiving the G&A Institute Sustainability Highlights(TM) newsletter on a regular basis, you can sign up here: https://www.ga-institute.com/newsletter.html
A year in review and looking ahead to 2021:
- The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers
- ESG data quality tops list of investor concerns in 2020
(Source: Responsible Investor)
- 7 ESG Trends for 2021 and Beyond: AccountAbility’s Predictions
- 2020: Lessons from an extraordinary year