Going beyond science-based targets

Dr. James Robey, global head of environmental sustainability at Capgemini, explores the importance of setting bold targets and how Capgemini UK is going beyond science-based targets to become carbon positive.

Going beyond science-based targets

Boldness is one of the seven core values which have guided Capgemini for the past 50 years; it is also a value which has been integral to the success of our sustainability programme and a character trait which I believe is essential for making a material impact as a sustainability professional at this critical moment in history.

The recent IPCC report highlights the ever-growing urgency for rapid decarbonisation to take place in order to avert a catastrophic 3C warming scenario (compared to pre-industrial levels). Now more than ever, we need businesses to commit to bold sustainability targets, which go past doing “incrementally less bad” and instead aim for doing “exponentially more good” for our environment.

As Capgemini UK’s sustainability programme turns 10 this year, we have been reflecting on the lessons we’ve learnt on our journey.  One core lesson has been the importance of setting bold targets. This has not only helped us almost halve our carbon footprint in 10 years, but, more importantly, has helped change the mindset of the business, leading us on a journey towards a carbon positive future. So, what are my key takeaways?

We need to maintain a sense of urgency

Since the beginning of our programme, we have always approached sustainability with a sense of urgency. This has been driven by our understanding of the risks posed by climate change, as well as recognising the potential we have to help our clients address their sustainability challenges through technology.

In 2008, we signed a landmark seven-year IT services contract with the Environment Agency, dubbed the ‘greenest in government’, with our own corporate sustainability targets and KPIs embedded into the contract and service level agreements. This first bold step mobilised the business and marked a pivotal moment in our transformation towards a greener future. Failure was not an option, and a robust plan was developed to set about decarbonising our operations and delivering sustainable IT services to our clients.

We need to do what is required, not just what we think is possible

When we were setting our most recent sustainability targets, we didn’t start by asking what we thought was possible within the context of our organisation, instead we asked what is required within the global climate context we find ourselves in? I posed this question to our Sustainability Board and it was this outside-in approach which led Capgemini UK to become the first company in the IT services and consulting sector to announce a carbon target verified by the Science-Based Target initiative, ensuring our targets are in line with the level of decarbonisation required to meet the aspirations set out in the Paris agreement.

We need to go beyond science-based targets

Announcing a science-based target acted as a springboard that got us asking what else we could do; and specifically, what is the most material impact Capgemini can make on climate change? Would it be removing another 40% from our own carbon footprint, or would it be helping our clients (many who have much larger footprints than Capgemini) leverage technology to reduce their emissions?

If the latest IPCC report teaches us anything, it’s that doing ‘incrementally less bad to the environment’ will no longer cut it. In this sense, we all need to go beyond science-based targets, and to move towards doing ‘exponentially more good’ for the climate.  ‘Carbon neutral,’ ‘carbon positive’ and ‘regenerative’ need to be the new levels of aspiration we’re setting to curb climate change.

In recognition of this fundamental shift in thinking, earlier this year, we set a new global target to help our clients save 10 million tonnes of carbon by 2030. Our new client target is our boldest target to date, being both global and once-again sector leading. It will see the Capgemini Group become effectively carbon positive, helping our clients to reduce their carbon emissions by 20 times Capgemini’s annual global greenhouse gas emissions (approximately 500,000 tCO2e) by levering our technology and transformation service offerings.

Meeting this target will require innovation and collaboration across the Capgemini Group at an unprecedented pace and scale. It is a bold step, but one that is already revealing that across Capgemini, our people are working on many innovative projects helping clients to increase their efficiency, cut energy and embrace circularity. What is even more exciting is that this programme is starting to ignite the passion and creativity of many of our 200,000 people. After all, who doesn’t want to be working with some of the biggest companies developing cutting-edge technology solutions to address the biggest challenges of our time?

To find out what else we have learnt from 10 years of sustainability at Capgemini UK, see part 1 and Part 2 of our “TenFromTen” thought leadership series.

edie’s Science-Based Targets webinar 

Capgemini’s global head of environmental sustainability Dr. James Robey will be appearing on this week’s science-based targets webinar.

Individuals looking to adopt and implement science-based targets for their business are encouraged to tune into a free webinar on Thursday (18 October), featuring expert insight from the likes of BT, Capgemini and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.

Brought to you as part of the UK Government’s Green Great Britain Week, this webinar is being hosted live at 2pm on Thursday 18 October 2018 (BST) – a day dedicated to Business Action as part of the Week.


Dr. James Robey, global head of environmental sustainability, Capgemini

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