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In October, I attended the Net Zero Festival in London, hosted by Business Green. There were over 100 speakers including corporate leaders, scientists, celebrities, politicians and campaigners exploring a multitude of topics related to the tricky business of reaching net zero (which means no longer adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere).

Multi-sector panels and speaker sessions made the point time and again that this is about so much more than carbon, cautioning a “tunnel vision” focus on carbon reduction in sustainability plans. Hannah Pathak of Forum for the Future said ‘the climate crisis is also a crisis of nature, health and equality. Tackling the climate crisis requires us to see the interconnection between these related crises and design solutions accordingly’. While Neil Jones, Head of ESG at Walgreens Boots Alliance emphasised that bringing this connected story into the centre of their business has been a breakthrough in terms of putting climate work at its strategic centre.

With a strong focus on the UK, Craig Bennet, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, and Becky Speight of RSPB articulately explained that we won’t deliver a stable climate without investing in nature now. And the brilliant Hugo Tagholm of Oceana appealed for more positive feedback from everyone working on net zero and to keep innovation alive so we don’t switch off.

While it’s unlikely that anyone in this audience needed a wakeup call, we certainly got one from Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government from 2000 to 2007. Stark reminders that we’re in a whole heap of trouble; Artic tipping points already tipping, 85% of Vietnam’s land mass predicted to be underwater by 2050. David’s advice is that we must say how it is, make clear exactly what the risks are, while not leaving people without hope.

The mix of perspectives were very much welcome, and it was good to attend an event which didn’t seem targeted at one audience. Happily, the Plastic Rebellion activist who stormed the stage during a panel with Coca-Cola (and poured the drink over his head) had the opportunity to share his views, which was a good move by Business Green host James Murray. This isn’t a fight we can afford to have amongst ourselves. And while, this certainly was not a ‘one view fits all’ kind of event, one thing almost everyone agreed on is that net zero is not the destination, it is just a milestone, but one we must reach with urgency while doing a whole host of other important things.

Zoe Greenwood
Zoe Greenwood
Head of Environment, Climate, Conservation & Sustainability

Zoe joined Oxford HR in 2018 after 16 years working in the charity/NGO sector. She has worked with a wide variety of organisations in the sector including UNAIDS, Plan International, Practical Action, Global Canopy, Ethical Tea Partnership and WWF to name just a few, placing Executive Directors, Directors, Trustees and Senior Managers.

She is especially interested in leadership for a sustainable future and passionate about discovering and developing for-purpose leaders. Through her work at Earthwatch, the international environmental NGO, Zoe completed assignments in India, Ghana, Kenya, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Costa Rica and Malaysian Borneo where she has collaborated with local organisations, global NGOs and climate scientists and to design and deliver nature-based behaviour change programmes alongside conservation and research projects. She has spent many years engaging with the corporate sector to embed sustainability thinking into their operations and culture and has worked across fundraising, field management, emergency response, communications, HR and L&D throughout her career.

Zoe has a postgraduate degree from the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (University of Cumbria), she is a trained coach and facilitator and has significant experience of bringing groups together to consider the skills and competencies needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She is Co-Founder of Climate Change Coaches Ltd and a mother of two young children.