Roadmapping the net zero transition
Stuart Lemmon – Chief Executive Officer UK&I, EcoAct
As global momentum towards net zero grows, businesses have a key role to play in helping society to achieve the transition. Those that don’t take action could soon find themselves at risk of non-compliance, of losing investment and being left behind in their market. There are also the challenges associated with extreme weather events and consequent threats to supply chain stability.
Business-as-usual may mean no business at all; and future-proofing any organisation today means adopting a net zero strategy. With legally binding targets pushing decarbonization up the leadership agenda, a number of themes have emerged for roadmapping organisations’ journeys to net zero.
Identifying achievable targets
For businesses to be credible around decarbonization, targets must be aligned with climate science. And those science-based targets must be a focus, not just for a business’ own operations, but also for their full value chains. Meeting government targets requires organisations to reduce their carbon emissions every year by at least 4-5%. Rather than just incremental change, this demands significant transformation across business strategy and operations.
Navigating that transformation requires businesses to unpick their activities and work out exactly how they generate emissions. They need to test scenarios to improve environmental performance and appraise and prioritise the necessary short- to long-term strategy and investments. Our experience is that for many, the first few years are relatively clear: businesses know what to do and where to act. Further down the line, more is unknown and pinpointing how and where to make change requires careful consideration.
Digital technologies are at the heart of decarbonization strategies in two key ways. Firstly, through the ability to replace or transform physical processes with digital operations and move the physical location of data into net zero cloud solutions. And secondly, with the huge power of digital and data to provide detailed analysis and new insights to drive transformation.
Understanding and measuring
Critical for any roadmap is to understand, baseline and regularly measure all carbon emissions. While that might sound straightforward, it’s a huge and ongoing challenge. Organisations need to establish and integrate the right dataflows to get a complete real-time picture of climate impacts. From here, they can use those to drive performance, using machine learning and artificial intelligence to model scenarios and inform decision-making and planning.
Culturally, the critical shift is away from a core focus on financial returns, to one that includes businesses’ responsibilities for protecting the planet. On top of that, a comprehensive, data-driven and evolving decarbonization strategy is essential for directing businesses’ efforts to reach net zero endpoints while remaining profitable and sustainable in the long term.