As world leaders update their net zero commitments at COP26, our sustainability consultant and resident climate scientist, Laura Millar, explains how businesses can turn their own climate strategies from ambition into reality.
Who is responsible for stopping climate change? For decades, our collective failure to answer this question has led us to the brink of disaster while pointing the finger at someone else – be it governments, businesses, consumers or friends and neighbours.
Thankfully, there is now a growing realisation that we all need to change our behaviours – and soon – if we want to minimise our impact on the environment. Because if we don’t, there will be more floods, more wildfires, more famine, more extreme weather, and with it more death and destruction.
As the business community shoulders more responsibility, we have worked with clients at every stage of the journey to net zero – from sustainability pioneers to high-emissions companies who want to change. And we’ve been delivering the digital products, strategies and campaigns they need to make net zero a reality. Likewise, we are also on the journey to zero ourselves – and experiencing many of the same hurdles and victories as our clients.
What this shared experience has taught us is simple. We need to focus on the positives of the journey, not just the destination. Because while the road to net zero may not be paved with gold, there is much to be excited about along the way. It presents endless opportunities for innovation and partnerships. It motivates internal teams and engages customers. And it creates a sense of fulfilment in the workplace unlike anything else. What’s more, while some businesses doubt their ability to reach destination, the journey is something every company can approach with purpose. It’s just about knowing which pathways to take. And that’s where we can help.
As a business leader, here are 5 steps you can take today to accelerate the transformation of your business to net-zero:
1. Educate your leadership teams about climate science and sustainable business strategies.
As with every business transformation strategy, senior leadership buy-in is crucial. I recommend a half-day workshop where you can explore the science, future predictions, current transformational strategies (such a Doughnut Economics by Kate Bayer) and describe the next steps in detail.
2. Educate your employees about climate science.
If you hadn’t realised by now, I am a huge advocate for climate literacy in the population. I think half the problem lies in the confusion surrounding climate change and how to live a sustainable lifestyle. I recommend creating an education programme that communicates the science and discusses how your employees can reduce their own carbon footprints. And, in the long term, you can integrate this sustainable mindset into the everyday culture of your business.
3. Track your business emissions.
This is called greenhouse gas accounting and there are lots of tools to help you calculate your emissions. Depending on the structure of your business, it can get a bit complex, so you may want to employ a greenhouse gas accounting company to support. Check out this great guide from the UK department of energy and climate change for more guidance.
4. Make a plan to get your business to net-zero by 2050.
All transformation strategies need to ladder back to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. My advice to business leaders is familiarise yourself with the goals, set your intentions, and then co-create with your fellow leaders, managers, change agents and employees.
5. Action your plans, communicate your ambitions, and get to work.
Greta Thunberg recently rinsed global leaders over their promises to address the climate emergency: ‘Build back better. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah' . It was brutal. But true. My advice to you: 1. don’t piss off Greta, 2. communicate your net-zero commitments but use them to hold yourself accountable and drive real, meaningful change in your business. You could even look into B-Corp certification or The Climate Pledge. The world will thank you, your employees will thank you, and your profits will ultimately thank you.
Recently we’ve been supporting lots of businesses with their transformation strategies. To chat about any of these steps, our transformation experience, or even just a tete-a-tete about climate change and sustainable business strategies – get in touch!