The word “strategy” is derived from ancient Greek. Although then a term for the battlefield as opposed to the boardroom, its essential meaning endures: a high-level plan to achieve a long-term goal.
Today, one of our greatest battles is against climate change and the long-term goal is limiting warming to less than 2 degrees. To align themselves with this goal, nations and organisations are focusing more and more on carbon neutrality. But to achieve it, we need a robust plan. This is our blueprint for how an organisation can create a winning carbon neutrality strategy.
Who is going to own this and makes sure it’s on track? Following the recommendations of the TCFD, expectation of board-level governance on climate-related matters is increasing. The higher up the organisation the owner, the more likely the strategy will get resource and backing. However, managing the day-to-day delivery is less realistic.
Therefore, it is important that the responsible person or committee has top down support with the capability to oversee operations across the business.
Who do you compare yourself against? This is easy if you have a small number of direct competitors, but if your products, services or operating model are unique, who do you choose?
It’s sometimes more useful to think in terms of peers rather than competitors. Your peers may be organisations of similar size, operate in similar markets or even share values or operating principles. Ultimately, they should be organisations you wish to be compared against and viewed alongside.
A successful carbon neutral strategy shouldn’t be siloed from the other aspects of the business. There are key benefits and opportunities in committing to carbon neutrality and these should be fully understood against any possible risks. The goal is longevity for the planet but also your business.
Ensure the needs and wants of all stakeholders are included. This is best done using a comprehensive carbon footprint and stakeholder workshops. Workshops, if done well, are great ways of building consensus, gaining buy in and forming a clear agenda and task list to work from. Done badly, they are unfocused talking shops that will turn people off to what you are trying to achieve. Have a clear view on what a good outcome looks like. As with many things in management, starting with the end in mind is key.
Targets and reporting
With the end in mind, ask yourself ‘what do we need/want to report and, therefore, what data must we collect?’ All too often we see sustainability teams spending months gathering data to produce annual reports, respond to investor-related questionnaires such as CDP and GRI and submit compliance data for schemes such as CRC. These exercises can be laborious. With a clear strategy, reporting framework and data collection plan up front, the pain can be considerably reduced.
The last must have – performance improvement. This will require stakeholders to develop tactical plans to invest in improvements and to track progress. This will need an ongoing and regular review process. Conditions, both external and internal, can change over time so your strategy must include processes for reviewing assumptions and adjusting direction.
Now you know how to formulate a winning strategy, find out how that fits into a practical plan for carbon neutrality. Our latest eBook explains how to implement a carbon neutral strategy with a practical approach to achieving it.
Your carbon neutral countdown begins here...