What is the role of business in delivering a net-zero carbon future?

The evidence is in. The case is made. The Government has acted. The time for talking is over and we need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown. But how can business successfully transition to a net-zero future?

What is the role of business in delivering a net-zero carbon future?

The good news is, that many businesses are leading the way, making strong commitments and rapid progress towards a net zero carbon future. With the Government yesterday (11 June) confirming that a legally binding net-zero emissions goal will be set for 2050, the onus will soon be on the business community to shape their own net-zero future. After discussing with many of our members, here is what we have learned from businesses turning talk into action:

1.    Be ambitious

In recent months ‘net zero’ has started to replace ‘science-based targets’ as the goal to aim for. Whilst it might seem that the two are the same, there is a significant difference. Science-based targets ask the question ‘what’s my share?’, whereas net zero focuses on ‘how do we get as close to zero as possible, as quickly as possible?’ More and more businesses are committing to net zero carbon targets. The Water Industry recently committed to net zero by 2030 as a sector, whilst John Lewis Partnership, Centrica and Tesco have committed to achieving net zero by 2050. Initiatives include greening the fleet (JLP), increasing renewable production (Centrica) and working across the supply chain (Tesco).

 2.    Remember that many small actions add up to a whole lot of impact

I remember one sustainability leader commenting that many of the actions that can have the most impact are often not as appealing as other more tech-based options. But the basics, such as fixing lighting, heating, implementing flexible working, tweaking operations can all make a contribution. BITC’s Circular Office Guide contains many great examples every business could implement. PwC has done a great job of summarising their learnings from their journey to cut carbon to help others along the way. NATS, the Air Traffic Control body have made 450 adjustments to their operations, saving 1.2m tonnes of CO2 to date. 

 3.    Go renewable

Switching to renewable energy can play a part in increasing demand. Nestle entered into a Power Purchase Agreement that enabled the creation of a new windfarm in Scotland, whilst Bentley implemented a solar carport of 10,000 panels, which, added to the 21,000 panels on their factory roof means that all of their energy is now produced onsite or purchased renewables. 

 4.    Collaborate to innovate

Solving shared challenges such as climate breakdown will require collaboration for innovation at a scale not seen before. Drax and National Grid Ventures have teamed up with other companies in the Humber to create a net zero carbon cluster that aims to enable the region to lead the way in delivering net zero carbon and develop hydrogen as a fuel. Capgemini has committed to helping their clients save 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. 

 5.    Start today!

The next 10 years will determine the world that we hand over. So, to loop back to the start of this blog, the time for talking is over. We need to act now. The opportunities to save money, build your reputation and develop new products, services and business models to get ahead of market opportunities are immense.

Gudrun Cartwright, environment director, Business in the Community

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