Many large and medium-sized organisations around the world have been driving down their carbon emissions, reducing their impact on the environment while boosting efficiency and unlocking reputational benefits and reducing risk. Now, many are setting their sights on bringing their emissions down to net-zero.
Wherever your organisation is on its carbon reduction journey, having a strategic route-map is crucial. We have one to guide our own carbon reductions: in September 2020 we became the first in our industry to achieve carbon neutral accreditation and are on our way to become carbon net-zero by 2040. We have also developed net-zero route-maps for the water sector in the UK and are helping to plot net-zero pathways for Highways England.
Our approach is built around PAS 2060, the international standard for carbon neutrality, and PAS 2080, the international standard we authored for managing infrastructure carbon. Together they provide a clear approach for driving down emissions.
Click on the headings below to read more:
Establish your baseline
Any route-map must begin with a comprehensive understanding of where you are starting from. However, establishing your baseline is about more than just calculating your carbon footprint. You should also:
- Identify the carbon hotspots in your organisation and understand why emissions are particularly high in these areas – this may involve developing methods for measuring or calculating emissions for activities where little information currently exists.
- Analyse emissions in your supply chain, so that you can engage with the companies you rely on about playing their part.
- Understand your emissions relative to others in your sector, and of your sector relative to others.
- Estimate emissions over the coming decade if business-as-usual continues, responding only to current legislation and regulation.
This baseline information can be used to explain carbon reduction challenges and report progress, helping to engage and motivate internal and external stakeholders. Led by the executive board, the whole company and suppliers must be brought onboard to achieve success.
Develop a decarbonisation plan
What are all your feasible carbon reduction options? In our route-map for Water UK, we developed over 40.
The most immediate carbon savings can be achieved by buying energy from renewable or other zero carbon sources and cutting energy use. Some organisations will be able to generate their own renewable energy. Efficiency needs to be driven through all operational activities by using smart infrastructure to make energy-saving adjustments in real time and using maintenance and repairs as opportunities to upgrade assets – buildings, infrastructure, equipment, plant and vehicles.
If your business operates a fleet of vehicles then you should aim to reduce the distance they travel. And providing there is a national programme of electricity decarbonisation, replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with hybrid or preferably electric vehicles will bring down that component of your footprint.
Suppliers make a significant contribution to an organisation’s carbon footprint. You should work with your supply chain to reduce the embodied carbon in their products – that is, the carbon associated with manufacturing, transportation, construction or installation and end-of-life removal, reprocessing or disposal.
Options need to be prioritised, considering a host of criteria: social and environmental outcomes, technical feasibility, customer acceptability, regulations and incentives, technology, risks, timescale limitations, adjacent benefits/impacts and, of course, economic impacts. Multi-criteria analysis tools can help to rank different options according to these factors. Additionally, we use our social outcomes framework alongside a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) to match the amount of carbon eliminated over the lifetime of an asset against the cost of implementation. There is a well-established correlation between carbon and cost, and a surprising number of options will save money in the long term, providing a compelling business case when it comes to talking with stakeholders.
Once the cost and benefits of each option are understood, you can develop a decarbonisation strategy and an implementation pathway, against which you can check progress each year. Some companies take a flexible approach and develop multiple pathways which deploy different options at different times. This allows them to adapt and take advantage of external changes, such as new regulations or incentives.
Develop and implement an action plan
Many organisations can get to the point of developing decarbonisation pathways, but often encounter blockers to implementing them. It’s important to come back to PAS 2080, looking at five key success factors:
Vision: Describe what you want to achieve and provide the highest-level sponsorship and commitment
Values: Embed goals in your organisation’s DNA
Policy: Deliver clear and consistent policies to support those goals
2. Culture and communication
Behaviour: Be clear what behaviours are wanted and reward them
Communication: Share knowledge effectively within your organisation, your supply chain, the wider industry and citizens
Skills: Develop skills through training at all levels within your organisation and within key parts of your supply chain
3. Metrics and governance
Baseline: Establish your starting point and measure performance against it
Targets: Set stretching goals and strive to beat them
Tools: Give tools to those that need them
Visibility: Shine a light on performance, understanding and explaining successes and failures alike
Governance: Build control into the delivery process
4. Innovation and standards
Innovation: Demand, enable, incentivise and reward innovation across your supply chain
Standards: Enable existing standards and specifications to be challenged and set new standards for best practice
5. Commercial solutions
Procurement: Embed your goals in contractual solutions
Reward: Align supply chain objectives with your goals, provide long-term incentives, and share risks and rewards equitably
Integration: Remove blockers in your supply chain
Understand the carbon hierarchy
When delivering new projects, it helps to understand the carbon hierarchy, which shows how your ability to control and drive down carbon emissions diminishes as you move through the delivery process. This diagram illustrates this principle and demonstrates how important it is to consider carbon at the earliest stages of a project in order to make the most gains.