What can Cop27 teach us about ESG?

Our Chief Executive Officer, Natalie Bellis, outlines the importance of ESG following the recent COP27 climate conference and discusses how she is constantly implementing practices to ensure the Seventy Ninth Group is making ethical business decisions in our operations throughout the world.

With Cop27 having just finished, the pressing need for sustainable development has, once again, moved front and centre in the media and our minds. With the future of the planet at stake, it’s critical that action is taken now to preserve the environment and our way of life.

However, with the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in today — the soaring cost of living, a global energy crisis, and rising inflation — ethical business decisions get swept to the side all too often. Yet, this is precisely when they matter the most.

Rather than taking it day by day in the face of hostile conditions, we are reaffirming commitments to long-term ESG goals. In my mind, it’s an investment in our future, and it cannot be dismissed when times get tough. The only way out is through.

What ESG means to me

Throughout my career, I’ve always played an active role in my company’s ESG ambitions. I personally oversee the rollout of the Seventy Ninth Group’s ESG programme, which drives us towards our sustainable vision for the future of our company.

To me, a big component of ESG is transparency in what we do. We know we’re doing everything we can to move our business forward, so we are comfortable in sharing our efforts. With specific targets in place and a clear, achievable timeframe underpinning our work, we’re confident in our strategy and open-minded about the efforts and commitment it will take to reach our goals.

Crucially, our commitment to accountability means that our clients can have confidence in us too.

The long road to sustainability

I’m proud of the phenomenal progress we’ve made so far, which has earnt us internationally recognised accreditations and awards.

We support the UN Global Compact and regularly report back on the efforts we’re making towards sustainable business practices. By adopting the initiative’s ten principles, we have cemented our commitment to protecting human rights, enforcing high labour standards, and conserving the environment.[i]

The groundwork we’ve laid has the Seventy Ninth Group undeniably moving in the right direction. However, I am under no illusion that there is still a lot of work for us to do.

There are significant, unique challenges for a rapidly expanding global company like ours in developing and implementing ESG practices. Being honest and open about where we have room to improve enables us to hold ourselves accountable and, I believe, encourages unambiguous business both in our industry and beyond.

What has Cop27 taught us?

Looking forward, it’s clear we need to take big strides in a very short amount of time to meet the Paris Agreement goals set back in 2015, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

With recent reports finding we’re on track for over 2.5°C of warming, it’s essential that both governments and private businesses put the work in to move quickly towards a sustainable future.[ii]

The latest instalment of the United Nations Conference of the Parties has just finished in Egypt. With 197 parties involved, all working together to uncover solutions to the crisis we find ourselves in, I’m hopeful that viable solutions will have emerged from the talks.

Cop27 is focused on matching ambition with action — through innovative solutions, science-based planning, and strong market signals.

To stop global temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C of warming, global emissions need to fall by 45%. While this does appear to be an overwhelming undertaking, the leaders at Cop27 are working hard to establish the steps we can all take to enter a brand-new world.

The task at hand is great, but I do not doubt that the Seventy Ninth Group can rise to the challenge. As a leader in our industry, it’s crucial that our ESG strategies pave the way for us to unlock a sustainable future for our business. It is all our responsibility to help achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals — and corporate governance has the potential to be a big driver towards success.

Ultimately, it isn’t just up to us how we act and the road we take towards a greener future. It’s essential that we hold our stakeholders at the front of our minds while making decisions. What do they believe will be most helpful in the long term to support the community and the environment?

Our work in the Republic of Guinea

Another major area of focus at this year’s climate conference is adaptation — preparing nations likely to experience the worst effects of climate change to endure and survive extreme weather events and rising temperatures.[iii]

More often than not, it’s developing nations that face the brunt of the consequences caused by climate change. The Republic of Guinea is no exception and is set to experience sea level rise, soaring temperatures, and shrinking water supplies.

Our natural resource division, Seventy Ninth Resources, manages one of the largest portfolios of natural resource concessions in West Africa, specifically in the Republic of Guinea. It’s extremely important to me, and the company, that we give back to the communities we work in. However, it’s not up to us to decide what needs developing — we must work closely with those people affected to decide where the investment goes.

Working in the Republic of Guinea reinforces the need for ESG strategies to include concrete techniques that can be put into practice. By working on a model of community-led development we can effectively attend to the needs of individuals and the wider population.

Part of how we make this happen is through extensive fact-finding missions, which enable us to develop a deeper understanding of the unique challenges in the area. The greater our body of knowledge, the more specific and impactful our ESG strategies can become.

We learnt that access to water, electricity, education, healthcare, and safe working conditions were major barriers local people faced. Therefore, our future initiatives will zone in on these areas.

Unfortunately, there is already a certain degree of warming locked in, which will bring with it dangerous conditions. By listening to people on the ground who have already witnessed an escalation in weather and climatic conditions, we can provide funds and assistance in areas where it will make a difference, enabling communities to plan and prepare for the future.

The insight we gained from our investigation lets us develop a framework for action in the area. While we are aware there is much work to be done, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far. By opting for a collaborative and respectful approach, we have taken big strides, and I have absolute confidence that we are on the right path.

Developing an ESG ecosystem

Stepping forward into an ever-unpredictable business landscape, we’re excited to carry on developing an ESG culture, both within our organisation and beyond.

We always take the time to celebrate important milestones with our team; keeping them informed and invested in the action we’re taking. This helps us to keep up momentum and reminds us of how far we’ve come.

To help us with this, we’ve set up an ESG working group that includes members of our team from across all divisions. By holding one another accountable, we ensure that we’re relentlessly moving forward towards our goals. Our successes and setbacks are reported back to the board, which helps keep everyone aligned and moving in the same direction.

By being honest with our actions, we hope to promote other private companies to do the same. Whether we’re working alongside them, or in competition, we can all learn from one another. As time is of the essence, we must put our pride aside and do what’s best for our business, the environment, and society at large.

Ultimately, we are all moving towards the same goal. A business cannot thrive without a healthy planet.

[i] https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/mission/principles
[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/26/current-emissions-pledges-will-lead-to-catastrophic-climate-breakdown-says-un
[iii] https://cop27.eg/#/vision#adaptation