Business needs new form of Leadership to move climate action pledges to plans

Eoin Gavin, president, Shannon Chamber, pictured at Dromoland Castle Hotel with Helen Downes, chief executive, Shannon Chamber and Peter Mannion, partner, sustainability practice, McKinsey & Company. Photo by Eamon Ward.

As the business sector increases its focus on sustainability, companies attending Shannon Chamber’s President’s lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel were advised to assess if their leadership has the required climate literacy to prepare their teams to move from climate action pledges to plans.

Keynote speaker at the luncheon, Peter Mannion, partner, sustainability practice, McKinsey & Company, recently returned from COP 27, stated that while the momentum towards net zero is undeniable, the transition is exposed to a multitude of short-term risks but equally to a multitude of short-term opportunities.

Listing supply constraints and price volatility, stranding of high-emission assets, higher cost of capital for emissive assets, and an increasing impact of emissions-related costs as potential risks, he cited the many opportunities that lie ahead, such as, significant financial savings from green operations, the ability to attract end-customer premia across sectors and that companies that shift their portfolio towards green business will benefit from a ratings uplift.

“The opportunities of this transition are under-discussed and under-utilised,” he said.

“There are huge opportunities to invest in the transition, to build new businesses and take advantage of new trends. This will be achieved through proactively shaping and building connections with the wider ecosystem and customers. Play offensive on opportunities; capture value by reallocating capital and investing in green growth and remember, every job in the future will be a climate job. Climate literacy will be a requirement,” he added.

The luncheon, which drew a large attendance, including students from two Shannon schools, St Patrick’s Comprehensive School, and St Caimin’s Community School, also generated robust commentary among attendees, many of whom have already launched their sustainability plans. The consensus from the floor was that sustainability progress will be driven by collaboration among stakeholders and through companies partnering with suppliers to attain real change.

Shannon Chamber president Eoin Gavin confirmed that sustainability will be a key pillar of the Chamber’s Strategic Plan 2023 – 2026, which will be launched in January.

“We have pledged our commitment to upholding, communicating, and implementing the five Strategic Development Goals adopted by Chambers Ireland throughout our work and in our interactions with members. These include Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities; and Goal 13: Climate Action.

“To this end, we have recently established a Sustainability Task Force, which is chaired by sustainability professional, Barry Gavin. This Task Force is industry led and its aim is similar to the rationale for other Forums we have set up – the CEO Forum, the HR Forum, and the Mid-West Lean Network – to share best practice and thinking and create a network among executives in the Shannon region in each particular field.

“In the case of sustainability, it will be to support our members in their sustainability journeys and in the delivery of their sustainability goals,” he added.

Chamber CEO Helen Downes pointed to the many opportunities available to companies in Shannon and the wider region to enhance their sustainability skills.

“We have successfully secured funding from Skillnet Ireland to deliver a new suite of training for the next three years. Prior to making the submission, we initiated discussion with our members on the types of skills they would need to enable them to attain their sustainability goals. The feedback included a need for an introduction to sustainability to increase in-company awareness on what sustainability looks like, and training that would enable them to design sustainability strategies in a business setting to make simple and practical environmental changes. We look forward to meeting these needs in 2023.

“Everyone can play a part in driving the sustainability agenda both personally and professionally,” Ms Downes added.

Shannon Chamber’s President’s lunch, which was held in Dromoland Castle Hotel, was co-sponsored by Fine Grain Property, Shannon Chamber Skillnet, AIB, Clare County Council and Engine Lease Finance Corporation.

Shannon Chamber president Eoin Gavin (centre) pictured with keynote speaker Peter Mannion and (from left): Alan Kelly, manager, Shannon Chamber Skillnet; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; Anne Griffin, acting senior executive officer, Shannon Municipal District – Economic Development; and Deirdre Frawley, branch manager, AIB Shannon. Photo by Eamon Ward.



John Drysdale, The Shannon Airport Group (second left) is joined by Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber to present the winners of flight vouchers sponsored by The Shannon Airport Group (from left): Denise Gavin (Shannon/Paris); John McInerney, PAFS Ireland (Shannon/Naples); and Paul Gadie, Gift Innovations (Shannon/Porto). Photo by Eamon Ward.