How to use the assessment

The benchmarking is aimed at companies, especially start-ups, who want to explore their role as solution providers and climate solution innovators, not climate risk innovators.The benchmarking is based on the IPCC’s science behind the P1 pathway that have strongest synergies with other sustainability goals and focus on innovation. For more details see the two reports:

Sustainability/Innovation approaches for benchmarking

In order to help companies see their role in the new landscape of companies as solution and innovation providers six approaches are provided. Note that the focus of this benchmarking is on companies as solution providers that deliver on human needs, a dynamic climate opportunity innovation approach, not just reducing their negative impact, a static climate risk innovation approach. The later is still dominating the mainstream discussion where concepts like climate footprint, ESG, CSR, Net-Zero, Science-Based [reduction] targets, dominate. In this benchmarking the static problem approach is the starting point, 1.0. While the focus is on how companies can take steps towards a dynamic solution approach where concepts like green revenues, climate opportunity innovations, handprints, net-positive, purpose-driven, and net-positive approaches can be found.
Often sustainability is presented in different generations as if there are evolutionarily stages for a company. In reality the paths are much more complex and it is hard to find companies that move from reduction targets and offsetting to becoming solution providers.  The reason is that the logic behind a climate risk innovation agenda, where the goal is zero and the approach is built on guilt/ cost savings (that allow the idea of offsetting to be viewed as acceptable), is very different from a solution agenda. For a climate solution innovation agenda the stakeholders in the company tend to be different, but also the goals and reason for taking action. How to expand the work towards a climate innovation agenda is not included in most frameworks, such as CDP reporting or science based [reduction] targets, but some reports do exist.

For this benchmarking the focus is on solution providers, but where relevant it includes those that have no sustainability work today and those with only a traditional ESG/CSR climate risk agenda.

Companies can be in many different positions in the matrix, and within a company different parts of the company can be in different positions. The benchmarkings are just to provide some general guidance.
1. No Sustainability or Human need driven Innovation

This group of companies does not have any explicit sustainability goals, or any specific role defined. Among large transnational companies this often mean they are part of the problem. Among start-ups there are many exciting solution providers in this group, especially in deep tech where they provide significant solutions but without being driven by sustainability or human needs.

2. ESG/Climate Risk Innovation (Scope 1-3)

These are the companies that only have a reduction agenda. While a few have goals and specific sales strategy based on avoided emissions, many companies have a role as solution providers even if they officially are only in the climate risk/reduction category.

3. Climate Opportunity Innovation 1.0

Climate Opportunity Innovation 1.0 include solution driven companies with a focus on product substitution with more sustainable materials that help avoid emissions, but without a strategy to support a 1.5 C strategy. Most companies in this category provide materials such as low-carbon forest products, protein, and steel. However, in an unsustainable and resource intensive society product substitution agenda is not enough for global sustainability. The challenge with product substitution approach is that it does not support a fast enough transition to ensure a 1.5C development path. In addition, it does not address the need for much more resource efficient and non-polluting solutions that can provide a future with 11 billion living flourishing lives.

Without a system and societal perspective, the low-carbon materials often end up as part of the problem, such as fossil free steel building oil platforms.

4. Climate Opportunity 2.0

Climate Opportunity Innovation 2.0 include companies that deliver enabling services and system solutions, such as a provider that supports a system with solar panels, batteries, and vehicles/utilities using the electricity captured by solar panels and stored in the batteries. Such solutions can be an important part of globally sustainable solutions, but only if business models also change, e.g. moving away from personal car ownership to access to mobility.

Climate Opportunity 2.0 also include business models consultants, digital consultants, law firms, PR-agencies, and other enabling stakeholders that focus on enabling sustainable solutions in society. Such solutions can be an important part of globally sustainable solutions, but often they are also accelerating unsustainable solutions as well.

5. Climate Solution Opportunity 3.0

Climate Opportunity Innovation 3.0 companies are usually companies that move beyond simple product substitution and enabling to add a 1.5C strategy. Instead of single solutions with materials an enabling these companies have a 1.5 C strategy where system transformation is an integrated part of the work.

6. Climate Solution Opportunity 4.0

Climate Opportunity Innovation 4.0 companies are at the forefront of global sustainability. These companies, often operating in clusters, have a full global sustainability strategy with the goal to ensure a future where 11 billion people can live flourishing lives. Instead of a narrow focus on climate change these companies/ clusters also include other sustainability concerns and move beyond the SDGs, and support concepts such as half-earth.

7. Climate Solution Opportunity 5.0

There is also a new approach emerging that is outside the matrix. This focus is on exploring on how improving flourishing lives beyond just providing for what is needed for physical survival and pleasure. New frontiers in science and art are explored. This approach also focuses on the long-term survival of civilisation by addressing existential risks.

Benchmarking reference data

Benchmarking can be done for many reasons and every company and every process in a company have unique characteristics. The set of reference data below is based on what many companies have found helpful. The different parts can be combined depending on the circumstances.
A reference that most companies use is the information that is available on the webpage. The about page and/or the pages that describes the vision, mission, goals, etc. tend to give an overview of how the company communicate how it views itself.
Annual report
The annual report, or other relevant reports where the company describes in detail its role in society, can also be good to include as these reports tend to give more detail, and for some add important information that might not be on the “about page”. In addition to the annual report the impact or sustainability report can also be used for benchmarking depending on their importance.
The current strategy, or one under development, allows the company to explore how the current direction of company relates to the needs in society and how it plans to approach the need for climate action in society. Here the strategic approach, climate risk innovation or climate opportunity innovation are often easy to identify.
Cutting edge
Many companies, and especially large companies, often have cutting edge work where solution-oriented staff explore new opportunities. Including such work and seeing how it relate to the mainstream work can help guide strategies as many companies are further ahead with a solution agenda than many people in the company know. If this forward thinking is shared well within the company it provides staff the with confidence that the company can change fast.
The vision
The vision of the company provides an opportunity to discuss were the company, or a group within the company, would like the company to be in a few years. Such a benchmarking often helps the company to establish a path and speed of transition, where the current communication, the new strategy, cutting edge work, and finally the vision for the future tend to provide an overview of the trajectory and possible opportunities/tensions ahead. The vision can be an official vision, or a vision developed by a group in the company, such as those leading the cutting edge work.
An external assessment can be done in different ways, but one way is to include key stakeholders and include both those that might be the most critical, and those that are the most strategic partners and have worked with the company before on innovative projects.
Other data
Other data such as patent portfolio, internal education material, and marketing material. There are many different sets of data that can be used in a benchmarking process depending on what kind of company it is and the situation it is in.