Five steps a business can take when making a credible net zero commitment

clock • 5 min read
Five steps a business can take when making a credible net zero commitment

Industry Voice: There is no silver bullet for immediately reducing scope 3 emissions, but the priority must be putting sustainability at the centre of a business strategy, according to Mondi

In the last two years the number of governments and companies setting goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 has accelerated. Government figures, from November last year, reported that 60 of the FTSE 100 companies have committed to net zero by 2050. Globally, organisations are starting to take steps to reduce emissions across their operations in order to adapt to the effects of climate change, resource scarcity and ensure long-term commercial success.

Targets are a step in the right direction but with no clear plan in place to reach them, they become harder to make a reality and can lead to reputational damage. Any target must be aligned with clearly defined actions. With the effects of climate change clear (the recently published Sixth Assessment report by the IPCC highlights that the world has a "brief and rapidly closing" window to adapt to climate change), the imperative to take action collectively is even more urgent.

For some companies, implementing a net zero transition will seem challenging with no set pathway to follow, no universal guidelines on what to prioritise or an instruction manual on how to measure emissions accurately. That said, there is room for optimism as businesses worldwide will need to collaborate with others to forge ahead into the low-emission future.

Mondi recently announced its net-zero commitment and outlined its plan to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its operations and value chain. This builds on almost two decades of progress, including a 45 per cent reduction in specific GHG emissions against a 2004 baseline and science-based targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in 2019. Five key learnings from our experience which may benefit companies about to start their journey or smaller businesses, include:

1. Start with why it matters

Starting a net zero transformation presents an opportunity to respond to stakeholder and consumer demands and attract and retain the growing climate-conscious workforce. The net zero journey cultivates an environment where new solutions are created that insulate business operations from climate risks, regulatory shifts, and capture opportunities from changing stakeholder expectations.

The first step is to really understand why becoming net zero matters to your organisation. From our experience, it's helpful to break it down:

  • What does climate change mean to your business?
  • Why is it important to you?
  • How much does your leadership team understand about net zero?
  • What are the potential opportunities and the risks to the business?

2. Have a credible methodology

It's crucial a company sets targets that use science as the basis. The SBTi guides companies to set targets that are aligned with current climate science. At Mondi we recognised the need to be guided by credible facts and a stakeholder approved methodology. The science-based approach helped to ensure we achieve what we're trying to do and showed that we have a workable plan in place. The SBTi initiative has resources that can help smaller businesses with this process.

3. Engage ALL your people

Including employees in the journey shouldn't be ignored. For Mondi, the engagement strategy fell within our MAP2030 sustainability framework. We held an internal launch event to engage employees in a discussion about climate issues and the work we as a business had embarked on to date. A platform was initiated internally to raise sustainability capability across the business by sharing ideas that can be implemented in employees' own context or across the Mondi Group.

Teams need to have a good level of understanding of the relevance of net-zero to your business, along with an overview of the short and long-term ambitions, any changes that need to happen and the potential impact on your supply chain. Focus on the outcomes: using less energy, for example, has financial benefits whichever industry you operate in. It is important to highlight similar benefits to internal stakeholders to underline the opportunities that can be unlocked as part of the transition.

4. Look outside your organisation

For organisations to ensure they're reducing carbon emissions as rapidly as possible they must work collectively with all partners involved in the business' operations and value chain. We work with suppliers, customers and NGOs to think about how we can make sure that we implement sustainable practices in our forestry operations that ensure that our forests can be resilient. Aligning efforts continues to allow us to take advantage of shared goals and means that we are able to scale our impact.

The significance of cross value chain collaboration in reducing Scope 3 emissions will become increasingly important for businesses. Reporting these emissions will encourage companies to work with suppliers that share the same low-emission ambitions and support them on their own net-zero journey. Understanding the actions and carbon impact of all partners helps to ensure key learnings are shared beyond your organisation. Adopting a proactive and collaborative approach will demonstrate leadership qualities that can become a competitive advantage which in turn increases the credibility of your net-zero target and plan to get there.

5. Set a long-term strategy with short-term actions

Finally, it is critical to focus on short-term actions to drive your company's emissions down and set milestones to ensure that you stay on track at every stage. To demonstrate our ongoing commitment to emissions reduction, we increased our ambition in line with evolving climate science and the SBTi's new Net-Zero Standard, including a Scope 3 target. While we work with SBTi to validate our net zero commitment, we're taking action now - doing the long-term work to achieve this target while also acting in the short-term.

Pledging to reduce GHG emissions in line with a 1.5°C scenario and aiming for net-zero may seem like a daunting task, but as long as it is guided by a considered plan that includes short-term and long-term actions and covers all relevant stakeholders then your organisation will move in the right direction. There is no silver bullet to immediately reduce emissions, especially Scope 3, but the priority must be putting sustainability into the centre of the business strategy and start the journey towards net zero while we have the opportunity to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

This article was sponsored by Mondi.

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