(Bloomberg) -- The Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit was held Wednesday, focusing on topics including the pressures on companies to address climate change and build diverse and inclusive workforces.

Speakers included executives from Blackstone Inc., Paramount, Impossible Foods Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Johnson Controls International Plc.

The Sustainable Business Summit is being organized by Bloomberg Live, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. More information about the event can be found online and on the Bloomberg Terminal.

Companies Need to ‘Stop Doing What’s Not Working’ (3:15 p.m. NY Time)

The racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020 sparked an initial wave of promises by hundreds of companies to show their commitment to change. 

And now, companies need to move beyond initiatives that feel good and focus more on putting resources where they have the biggest impact, said Devin Glenn, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Blackstone Inc.

Sometimes that means taking funding away from one organization and giving it to another that has shown more reliable results, such as providing job candidates that are a plus for the long-term and thus improve retention, she said.

“We have a reluctance in this space to stop doing things, but you have to stop doing what’s not working,” Glenn said. “We need to be willing to evaluate our actions with the same rigor.”

In a similar way, the entertainment industry is moving from data that was potentially only tracked on a static spreadsheet to more dynamic measurements to ensure that both the talent helping to produce shows, as well as the people who are writing and conceiving of new shows are actually becoming more diverse, said Crystal Barnes, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and ESG at Paramount.

Measurement and good data are important, not only as a way to show the impact of efforts companies are taking and the payoff, but also to answer critics and counter constituents that remain hostile to change, said Ellen Holloman, a partner in the global litigation group at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. The rise of an anti-ESG movement has raised the stakes and the risks of action, she said.

“For all of us who are excited, and see the values and the benefits of ESG investing, there are people who are very hostile and opposed to it,” she said.

Impossible Foods’ CEO Says Food Choices Critical to Climate Success (10:45 a.m. NY time)

A change in diet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of taking climate action, but it’s among the most-effective tools available to address greenhouse-gas emissions, said Peter McGuinness, chief executive officer of Impossible Foods.

“There is no other alternative to reversing climate change other than food,” he said. “Most people equate climate change with electric cars, recycling, less electricity, less water use. Those are all good things, but they won’t reverse climate change.”

Food choice is often “at the bottom of people’s understanding” in terms of levers to reduce emissions, but the climate impact of plant-based meats speaks for itself, he said.

McGuinness said producing 50 million pounds of plant-based meat would require 4.5 billion less gallons of water for the same amount of animal meat, and it would also save 76 million trees and avoid 1.5 billion pounds of CO2.

“If you believe in climate change and don’t eat plant-based meat, it’s because you don’t understand it, or heard bad things about it or you don’t equate your eating habits with helping solve the climate challenge,” he said.

This misunderstanding may explain why the plant-based food industry has slowed after the “Covid bump” and “novelty bump” that kick-started the industry, McGuinness said. Still, there’s plenty of room to to grow: He estimates the addressable market at $1.4 trillion.

Good Data Hold Key to Corporate Sustainability (10:30 a.m. NY time)

What’s the key ingredient needed to run a sustainable company? Good data.

“For sustainability, you can’t get there unless you have a good understanding of data,” said Vijay Sankaran, vice president and chief technology officer at Johnson Controls.

Sankaran cited the example of Scope 1 and Scope 2 measurements, which must be properly collected and standardized before efforts are made to tackle emissions.|

The data flow can work the other way, too, by making a company’s sustainability efforts more widely known.

“Marketing gets the story out,” said Cait Lamberton, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania. “You’re telling a story but if you can’t connect the data, you have a problem.”

For example, studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for a product that’s made with a more sustainable processes over one made with greener materials.

“Consumers know it’s more costly” to make an entirely process more sustainable, Lamberton said. Differentiating the product — by explaining the more expensive green techniques used in its manufacturing — can help win over customers, rather than turning them away, she added.

Greenwashing Concerns Are ‘Absolutely Massive,’ BMO’s Hackett Says (10 a.m. NY time)

Growing concerns about being labeled a greenwasher are encouraging companies to focus on token gestures that create a sustainability veneer, rather than taking meaningful action, said Jonathan Hackett, Bank of Montreal’s head of sustainable finance.

Speaking at the conference, Hackett gave this example: “If you don’t have glass bottles at your event, do you look out of touch?” he said. “That’s not the most impactful question.”

Instead, the more appropriate focus should be: “How we got here today? What fuels were used,” and whether people “bought sustainable-aviation fuel credits.”

“All of that might be more impactful than boxed water versus bottled water versus canned water,” he said. Still “the fear of being called out as wrong is absolutely massive.”

UN’s Hart Says COP27 Marked Breakthrough for Renewable Energy (9:30 a.m. NY time)

While COP27 didn’t result in an agreement to phase out fossil fuels, explicit references to the critical role of renewable energy in driving the climate transition in the final Sharm El Sheikh agreement was one of the key accomplishments of the event, said Selwin Hart, assistant secretary-general for the climate action team at the United Nations.

It’s “absurd” that clean energy wasn’t given this profile before and “now is the moment to accelerate the renewables revolution,” he said.

Another breakthrough at COP27 was the creation of a loss and damage fund. The announcement was “a historic first step toward climate justice,” though there is much more to do, Hart said.

A group of 24 countries are currently designing the structure for the funds and looking at existing finance sources for loss and damage, and seeing where the gaps are, he said.

--With assistance from Gautam Naik.

(Updates to add Paramount in second paragraph.)

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