Targeting Net Zero: A strategic framework for business action

A net zero emission economy will be essential to maintain a stable global climate. The private sector has a critical role in delivering this and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate that it makes good business sense to act. This briefing and accompanying strategic framework, prepared by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, seek to provide practical, strategic guidance for how organisations can overcome some of the challenges that are preventing action and how they can find ways to implement a net zero strategy.


Targeting Net Zero: A strategic framework for business action
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Business action on climate change can inform innovation, mitigate risk, unlock better connections with stakeholders, and build brand and reputation. A growing number of companies are realising that setting a course to net zero can provide a powerful guiding light in turbulent times as well as delivering commercial benefits, as those leading the change are already experiencing. Yet, there is no blueprint for change.

This briefing and accompanying strategic framework, prepared by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, seek to provide practical, strategic guidance for how organisations can overcome some of the challenges that are preventing action and how they can find ways to implement a net zero strategy.

Business Briefing


This briefing is aimed at leading companies at the forefront of the net zero debate. It explores:

The changing landscape of risk and opportunity for business as a result of climate change and the transition to net zero.

the net zero imperative to change our emissions trajectory and avoid a catastrophic level of ‘runaway’ climate change.

the transition to net zero and why it is critical for decision-makers need to find innovations, business models and policies that deliver a different future.

an introduction to CISL’s net zero framework for business and the four tasks we believe are essential for any company looking to be fully aligned with net zero by 2050.

recurring areas of uncertainty and debate we have identified through our work with businesses on this agenda


CISL’s Net Zero Framework for Business


This framework is designed for those companies tasked with delivering net zero in a business context and/or influencing the societal transition towards this ambition.

By drawing on CISL's Rewiring the Economy, a range of other leading frameworks and CISL’s insights, it provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the key tasks that we believe need to be set in place to align with net zero.

The framework is motivated by the need for holistic guidance. It sets out practical advice for all types of companies, regardless of sector or size, covering everything from strategy and governance to setting evidence-based targets and engaging external stakeholders.

Business Case Studies


For all the progress that has been made, business action on climate change requires a major shift in gear. While the challenges are considerable, the imperative to act is even greater.

Businesses will have different contributions to make on the journey towards net zero. Each company’s specific course of action will depend on its respective size, sector, location, governance structure and strategic focus. What is universal for all businesses is a commitment to ensure that neither their activities nor those that occur in their value chain result in negative impacts on the climate from carbon emissions.

Transitioning to net zero will be a fundamental pillar of business leadership in future. Here are insights from some of the companies we work with that are taking leadership on this agenda:


Learn to build a business model that is resilient and profitable in the low carbon, resource-efficient economy of the 21st century. Register for our Business and Climate Change online short course, or learn more about our Executive Education and Advisory services.



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