Crowdsourcing inquiry gives strategic steer on Net Positive

Businesses looking to embark on Net Positive strategies need to gain a thorough understanding of how they can generate value through their operations before attempting to set targets.

This was a key message to come out of a crowdsourcing exercise undertaken by Green Mondays into how companies can embrace this latest ideology, which could potentially reframe the sustainability debate.

Net Positive works on the premise of organisations generating and ‘giving back’ more resource than they use, whether in energy, materials or natural capital.

Benefits created across the value chain need to far exceed the managed impacts from a corporate operations perspective, with disruptive innovation embraced and utilised to build business model and supply chain resilience.

It’s an ambitious approach with much of the methodology and metrics still evolving – so far, only a handful of corporations have committed to the philosophy. These include Kingfisher, which claims to be Net Positive across four areas of its business, and BT with its ‘Net Good’ carbon emissions.

The report, which crystallises thinking from nearly 200 sustainability experts, sets out an informative steer in this area. It argues that the adoption of targets will be crucial, both to map the Net Positive journey and to set the goal.

However, businesses need to decide what areas to concentrate their Net Positive strategies on, whether this is within their own supply chains and externalities or further afield, across communities or geographical areas.

“In the crowd’s view, selecting a company’s Net Positive focus area and setting targets should go hand in hand with an analysis of materiality – it all depends on the company, the sector it operates in, and its stakeholders,” the study states.

Ambition is also considered a must. “If a target is considered too attainable, it risks lacking the inspiration to drive true innovation,” the report notes.

A clear roadmap with milestones was viewed by the crowd as being a good buy-in tool in terms of staff and stakeholder engagement.

One crowd member commented: “Net Positive is characterised by ambition, scale, impact … target-setting should keep these qualities in mind to guard against falling into the trap of easy incrementalism.”

Companies are also advised to develop a strong narrative around the approach as this will help generate investor confidence in both the short-term and long-term benefits, and potential return on investment.

The full report will be available from Green Mondays on April 3.

Maxine Perella

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