Engagement and collaboration: The key to achieving net-zero

The number of businesses committing to net-zero emissions has increased dramatically in recent years. EcoAct’s latest Climate Reporting Performance Report revealed a 40% increase in the number of companies committed to net-zero as compared to 2020. Across all three stock indices analyzed, 66% of companies in the FTSE 100, 64% in the Euro STOXX 50 and 63% in the DOW 30 now have net-zero commitments.

However, the same report saw a lack of clear strategies or an understanding of the implications of a net-zero transition. Most companies need to take more drastic measures to meet the 1.5° C target urged by climate scientists.

In EcoAct’s Net Zero Heroes series, one common theme has been the need for engagement and collaboration to drive the kind of ambitious change needed to realize our climate goals.

EcoAct’s latest Climate Reporting Performance Report revealed a 40% increase in the number of companies committed to net-zero as compared to 2020.

The search for home-grown climate champions

To meet their climate targets, business leaders must take employees on the journey — finding ways to ensure they understand the overall mission and engage them personally in day-to-day corporate climate action. Trainline, an international rail travel booking platform, believes that having a passionate team behind its company objectives has been key in increasing the momentum of their climate activities.

Trainline’s internal communications team walks staff through the importance of environmental sustainability, and the products team focuses on how they can give customers the tools and services to make greener travel choices. The investor relations team is responsible for informing investors about the company’s work around climate. This sense of ownership and collaboration around sustainability enables Trainline to be a purpose-led business that is passionate about climate change and making a difference.

“The collective passion and the sense of ownership across the business has been really important and has enabled us to increase the momentum of our climate strategy,” said Victoria Biggs, Chief Communications Officer at Trainline.

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British retail and commercial bank, NatWest, has appointed internal climate change champions to get access to information that they can then share in their own teams. NatWest has made climate training available to everyone in the company through its Learning Academy, and all employees must complete a mandatory climate module as part of the annual group learning policy.

“All of our colleagues need to have an understanding of the climate challenge and to be kept up to date with what we’re doing in our own operations programme, and the actions that they can take to help support our targets,” said Allan Wickham, Head of Property Specialist Services at NatWest.

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Both NatWest and the Lloyds Banking Group engaged the Cambridge University Institute of Sustainable Leadership to deliver training to their employees. More specifically, Lloyds trained the staff responsible for operating its buildings, which led to engagement with their property supply chain and ensured they were clear on what they intended to achieve and seeking collaboration to reach their targets.

According to Lloyds Senior Sustainability Manager Olivia Cropper, this strategy is very challenging and involves an accelerated level of investment.

“The travel elements of our strategy really need all of our colleagues to get on board with different ways of working and traveling,” said Cropper. “To be successful, we needed to get support right across the organization and really take the conversation out of the Property Team, and into the group as a whole.”

“We spent quite a lot of time building out our full 10-year plan. We worked with stakeholders in our property teams, our finance teams, our risk teams, and got some of our senior team on board.”

“They really embraced that challenge and really wanted to drive that change and that engagement across the leadership team of the whole organization,” Cropper concluded.

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Why deep engagement with supply chains is critical

To drive real change, businesses must understand and work with their supply chains — especially in consumer-facing sectors. Supply chain emissions are an average of five times higher than a company’s direct emissions from their own operations, like company vehicles or purchased electricity. Investors, consumers and other stakeholders want companies to take responsibility for their value chain and purchasing decisions.

Companies can take many steps by to successfully tackle their supply chain emissions, but one factor is crucial: engagement.

Some suppliers may lack the knowledge to reduce emissions. By providing training and technical advice, all parts of the supply chain can gradually work towards building a value chain emissions baseline. It should start with the materials and manufacturing processes that account for the most CO2 emissions, or by jointly defining procurement standards — one of the most powerful tools to address upstream emissions.

The Compass Group, a British multinational foodservice company responsible for catering COP26 in Glasgow, announced a ban on air-freighted produce across its UK venues. Compass will adapt recipes and menu choices to better showcase local and seasonal products, working on procurement alternatives such as finding producers closer to home or using eco-friendly transport options like boat, road or rail. Like most companies, the majority of its footprint is in the supply chain and Scope 3, which requires close collaboration with suppliers.

“It’s about providing a platform that answers the questions and helps them do their job and work with clients more readily. We do this through webinars, resources, having systems and tools that can calculate and analyze data,” said Laura McMullen, Global Head of Sustainability at the Compass Group.

“We want to show best practice and provide answers when we’re speaking to clients on this area because it’s a new topic overall. We want to help educate those individuals to understand what the answers are and work with clients to help them achieve their goals. Increasingly, data provision can help inform further decisions to be able to track something that’s quite important,” she concluded.

Accelerating climate performance through collaboration and innovation

Most of the technology needed for a low-carbon transition is at our fingertips. However, we still need innovators to help drive transformative change.

Launched in July 2020, Scaler, the Atos start-up accelerator program collaborates with start-ups to contribute to a decarbonized digital world. Start-ups have a lot to offer for any company’s decarbonization strategy, developing new solutions that can make decarbonization a competitive advantage. Today, 50% of the startups participating in Scaler provide solutions which advance the decarbonization agenda.

Founded in 2015 in the UK, Circular ComputingTM is the world’s first premium re-manufacturer of carbon-neutral laptop products. Their re-manufactured HP, Dell and Lenovo laptops deliver 97% of the performance and up to 40% cost savings compared to the latest models. For each laptop purchased, 316 kg of CO2 are avoided, which companies can include in their annual emissions reporting.

ESG ratings are becoming more strategic for any major corporation. DreamQuark, an AI company founded in Paris in 2014, jointly developed a tool called Brain with Atos. Among other features, Brain can help wealth managers recommend sustainable investments to their clients, promoting transparency and helping companies grow in line with their decarbonization strategies.

The small French software company Greenspector, which focuses on digital eco-design services, enables digital teams to measure and analyze the energy and resource consumption of mobile and web applications. Greenspector has contributed to Atos’s Green App - a mobile app with resources to raise employee awareness on digital sustainability and educate on best practices for responsible use of digital services within the workplace.

“At Atos, we believe that entrepreneurs must also be game-changers of the climate emergency and that our role is to support startups’ growth and accelerate their go-to-market,” said Nourdine Bihmane, Atos Group Chief Delivery Officer. “It is the heart of our Scaler Program. Today, half of our Scaler startups are about decarbonization. Together, we can make the most of this ecosystem for the benefit of all.”

Ultimately, engagement and collaboration is about making people feel accountable and responsible for embedding climate targets into every aspect of their companies and organizations — as well as establishing the right governance and management structures to increase awareness across teams.

Responsible climate governance generates trust among employees, investors and other key stakeholders. It creates a culture of support and collaboration that can achieve the transformation required to deliver emission cuts across the full scope of company activities and demonstrate collective success in our journey to net-zero.

By Cristina Raventós, Director, EcoAct Spain

Posted: November 16, 2021

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About Cristina Raventós
Director, EcoAct Spain

Cristina leads EcoAct's operations in Spain and works with leading IBEX 35 organizations to develop their sustainability strategies, reporting and management tools. She has ten years of experience in sustainability consulting working with various international organizations to help define, manage and implement business solutions. Cristina has experience in a wide range of sectors, including utilities, financial and consumer services. She is a qualified Industrial Engineer from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and holds a first-class MSc Environmental Management for Business from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. She is GRI certified and speaks Spanish, Catalan and English.