News and Insights

On the ground at Innovation Zero

June 18, 2024

With an impressive 10,000 attendees through the door across just two days, the Innovation Zero sustainability conference was clearly not one to miss this year. Over 600 speakers and 250 exhibitors populated the army of stands and stages throughout the scaffold-clad Olympia London, all primed and ready to discuss how they can set about achieving their shared ambition: to accelerate meaningful action towards a low carbon economy and society.  

Having struggled to find the correct entrance, I eventually stumbled into the exhibition centre and was met by a wall of noise. With exhibition stands stretching as far as the eye could see, it was hard to know where to start. The stands themselves housed an incredible range of businesses, from NatWest and the Humber Freeport all the way to sustainability start-ups – each overflowing with experts, promotional leaflets, and, most enticingly, freebies.  

But I had a plan, and I was going to stick to it. So, with my shiny new lanyard proudly on display, I set off down the hall towards the Main Stage just in time to catch the day’s headline event: a keynote speech from Ed Miliband, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, followed by a Q&A with David Shukman, former Science Editor at the BBC.  

Miliband takes aim 

“As a self-proclaimed energy nerd, I am delighted to be here,” chuckled the ex-Labour leader, arranging and rearranging his notes. “And I should think this must be the Pyramid stage – and you, David, are in the legends slot!”  

Wisecracks out the way, it was time to get down to business.  

“We face a burning platform – not just on the climate crisis, but also on energy security in our country. I think there is a tendency in politics to almost push away the past couple of years and what has happened,” said Miliband, referring to the fuel poverty that has resulted from the high cost of living in the UK. “Now the truth about the cost-of-living crisis and the climate crisis, as people in this room know, is that it is caused by our dependence on fossil fuels and our exposure to fossil fuel markets controlled by Petrostates and dictators. For us, clean energy is the way to end the cost-of-living crisis once and for all.” 

So, how will this transition to clean energy take shape? After a few quick jibes at the current government – he blames Labour’s reversal of its £28bn climate proposal on the debt it would inherit should the party triumph at the general election – Miliband turned his attention to how Labour would invest.  

Addressing the corporate sustainability world directly, Miliband offered, “Labour will be a government with a clear plan that works to unleash the private investment that is essential for the country. Your ingenuity, dynamism and investment is what will deliver clean power to the country – and this simply won’t happen unless the government does its job.” 

While direct Government investment will be essential to facilitating the transition to clean energy, it is evident that it has a bigger role to play. Whether through incentivisation or policy and regulation, governments alone have the power to enable the necessary conditions for private investment into the energy transition; investment that will come from banks, as well as corporate players more generally. According to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, since 2010, the UK has seen £300bn of public and private low carbon investment. A further £100bn of private investment is expected for the UK’s energy transition by 20301, with the financial services industry playing a leading role.  

Snowball effect: disclosure and reporting 

Ready for a change of scene, I made way up the stairs to the Finance Forum for my next event of the afternoon: a panel discussion on sustainability reporting, disclosure, and climate transition planning. 

Sustainability reporting – which considers how non-financial issues such as climate change can impact value creation2 – has been front-and-centre in the financial services industry in recent years. However, a lack of universally accepted metrics, reliance on unverified third-party data providers, and considerable technology costs are among the many hurdles that the financial services sector must overcome before full transparency into corporate non-financial operations can be realised.  

Despite these challenges, panellist NLN Swaroop, Global Product Head for Sustainable Trade, Innovation, Financial Institutions and Asset Distribution at HSBC, sees disclosure as a key enabler for climate action. Somewhat poetically, he stressed that we are now at an inflection point, highlighting three key streams of change converging to spark action: politics, policy, and practice. 

  • Politics: The UK has committed to emissions reductions by 2030 and 2050 and has committed to make the country the financial centre for net zero. These commitments make adopting transition plans for corporates easier.  
  • Policy: Among others, the Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT), International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), and Financial Standards have helped to set a baseline for transition planning for corporates. These help to provide guidance in a confused market.  
  • Practice: Large corporates have now started to adopt climate transition plans, including some of the biggest companies in the world.  

Sustainability reporting and disclosure is a journey that all corporates are on, not just those in the financial services industry. And once big players decide to act, the rest will be sure to follow.  

Get in touch with the FINN Partners Team 

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss how our Sustainability and ESG practice teams can support your business. 


TAGS: Sustainability & ESG

POSTED BY: Freddie Howard

Freddie Howard