Scotland’s positive world message for COP26 - Andrew McCallum

There is no question that COP26 will go down as a turning point in human history. But there is a huge question over how future generations will view it: as a pivotal moment in saving the planet from global warming or as a massive, missed opportunity?

Andrew McCallum, founder and managing director of the Scottish strategic communication consultancy, Aspect

The answer will depend largely on whether Scotland can excite the world about our huge achievements and ambitions in the transition to a net zero future. As the representatives of the ‘home nation’ at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, we will be in an enviable position of leadership and influence. Can we rise to the challenge?

The significance, impact and legacy of major events turns on communication. Perception becomes reality. Narrative becomes truth. So, in the run-up to COP26, our companies, institutions and communities must be the change - actively embodying the transition to net zero in their journey to a sustainable future.

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For businesses, a genuine and meaningful commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) - a set of standards used to assess how a company’s operations perform in these key areas, and investors use to screen potential investments - must be front and centre in this strategy. Greenwashing will no longer wash.

Trade union GMB has criticised the decision to award the work to foreign firms.

Our energy companies in particular have a compelling and inspiring ESG story to tell the world. Scotland as a nation now generates almost 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. By 2030, it’s forecast that 65% of our offshore jobs will be in low-carbon energy such as offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture. The new Scottish Decarbonisation Cluster is actively engaged in removing 9 million tonnes of carbon from operations.

Business leaders must focus on strategic communication as they get ready to share their visions of ESG excellence at COP26. While corporate policies and pledges are important to set direction, the time for empty promises is over. Successful companies will back up ambition with action. They’ll bring to life their sustainability strategies through powerful stories, credible results, real engagement and transparent communication.

Polling at Aspect’s recent virtual Countdown to COP26 event – attended by 200 senior figures from industry, academia and government – revealed that leaders are overwhelmingly positive about taking part in COP26.

At what is effectively a huge festival of ideas on climate change, we should seek to maximise our contribution, our influence, and our positioning by focusing on one single compelling and unifying idea.

As proud pioneers and leaders in sustainable energy and ESG integration, our collective goal ahead of COP26 is embedding that message, powerfully and simply, at the core of all communications, across all channels and with all audiences between now and November.

The world is watching.

Andrew McCallum, founder and managing director of the Scottish strategic communication consultancy, Aspect

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