Rebuilding trust with intent to drive the sustainability agenda | HCLTech

Rebuilding trust with intent to drive the sustainability agenda

An increase in practices like greenwashing and a lack of international cooperation is eroding trust in sustainability initiatives
5 minutes read
Nicholas Ismail
Nicholas Ismail
Global Head of Brand Journalism, HCLTech
5 minutes read
Rebuilding trust with intent to drive the sustainability agenda

As the world edges closer to the point of no return when it comes to climate change, there is an increasing urgency around sustainability and the move toward renewable forms of energy. This is a message that’s been reinforced at recent events like COP28 in Dubai, where for the first time a deal was agreed that called on all countries to move away from using fossil fuels.

“The urgency is now felt. 2023 was the hottest year on record,” said Santhosh Jayaram, Global Head of Sustainability at HCLTech, during a video podcast at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

According to Jayaram, the leaders of the world’s largest organizations will now be feeling the pressure to enact meaningful sustainability initiatives, like never before. To do this, they must set targets based on “science”, rather than just focusing on meeting just regulatory requirements.

“There needs to be intent,” he said.

The erosion of trust

Addressing global challenges requires international cooperation. But today, in an increasingly unstable environment with the rise of geopolitical conflicts, “international cooperation has reduced,” according to Jayaram.

“An analysis of geopolitics shows us that there is not just a trust deficit between the East and West, but also between the North and South on issues of sustainability. It is pervasive in all directions. In the recently concluded COP28, the references to the Global North and Global South themselves were indicative of this divide,” wrote Jayaram in a recent blog.

In addition, the increase in greenwashing — the practice of presenting a false image of environmental responsibility — is driving the erosion of trust in sustainability.

To reverse this trend, organizations need to rebuild trust, which is the core theme of the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos.

Rebuilding trust and driving sustainable change

Rebuilding trust in sustainability requires clear policy direction from governing bodies and a common goal that organizations can work toward. “It’s not about applying a uniform standard to the world, rather recognizing that everybody has to be part of the solution,” said Jayaram.

To address greenwashing and improve trust, impending regulations will demand organizations validate their sustainability claims.

Technology also has a role to play in helping organizations become transparent or ‘hyper-transparent’ in their sustainability claims. Jayaram points to blockchain and AI as tools that can be used to trace the sustainability of a product or service across the supply chain, while sustainability-by-design should be baked into business processes.

“It depends on organizational readiness, but these tech practices are already established and it’s critical to adopt them,” he continued.

While technology can help organizations meet sustainability goals, people decide what's possible and achievable.

“The intent behind applying the technology [rather than the technology itself] is more important in achieving beneficial and meaningful outcomes,” said Jayaram.

Collective action

The World Economic Forum serves as an opportunity to rebuild trust when it comes to sustainability. The event is a convergence of almost every stakeholder discussing the world’s most pressing challenges and how to solve them.

As a closing thought on driving sustainable change through collective action, Jayaram said: “We need to realize the power of the people attending WEF and understand that collectively they can make the required changes. If it’s not done here, where is it going to be done?”

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