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How Organisations can Progress Towards a more Sustainable World

Standards such as ISO 9001 and reputable schemes like Race to Zero provide credibility that will empower them and their networks to maximise these benefits.

Organisations of all sizes have had to navigate significant upheaval over the last few years – the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the war in Ukraine and the pressure on energy prices and increasing food supply challenges. The race to reach net zero – and the challenge and opportunity this represents – has been a constant throughout.

Though the context continues to be challenging, and the obstacles to reaching net zero are real, we are increasingly seeing that there are commercial benefits to be realised by organisations that prioritise their sustainability efforts. Ultimately, while setting and achieving targets might meet legal obligations and create a pleasing public image, the core potential benefit to it could actually be economic.

In order to achieve a net zero, there needs to be a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. Reaching net zero is not only the right thing to do – there are also tangible commercial gains that can be made on the way.

However, the net zero transition is complex, industry specific, and even organisation specific. For example, local manufacturers will have different markets and requirements to a multi-national organisation. Where evidence suggests there has been progress on the understanding of net zero, it is possible that for many organisations, an understanding of what they really need to do to make progress remains elusive. So, how can organisations take strides towards their net zero goals?

1. Climate change calls for culture change

Actively decarbonising can be seen as an opportunity to embed sustainability into the wider organisational culture and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world. Instigating a culture change needs more than just good intentions. Guidance, such as the ISO Net Zero Guidelines as well as best practice standards, can help organisations of all sizes set a strategy towards realistic net zero goals that is relevant to their particular needs and requirements.

2. Work together

Setting up a sustainable supply chain can sometimes be the biggest opportunity for organisations. By accelerating engagement with supply chains, and working collaboratively upstream and downstream, organisations can partner to achieve net zero goals together. Organisations are already taking action in-house on reducing waste and energy usage and wider collaboration has the potential to help us reach net zero sooner.

3. Best practice as the benchmark

In a competitive market, organisations of all sizes can benefit from a level playing field in order to work together to achieve a sustainable world. Being a first mover may seem like a risk, particularly for smaller organisations, so clear targets and a legal framework can play an important role. In addition, or in cases where regulation is yet to emerge, standards can provide a benchmark for organisations wanting to clearly demonstrate their net zero commitments.

4. Become a trusted partner
As net zero becomes increasingly central to winning public and private sector contracts, organisations have the opportunity to strengthen their long-term prospects by becoming trusted supply chain partners, ultimately benefiting individuals, organisations and the planet. As other organisations seek to fulfil their net zero targets, smaller organisations can position themselves as part of the journey. Standards such as ISO 9001 and reputable schemes like Race to Zero provide credibility that will empower them and their networks to maximise these benefits.

5. Plot a course and chart the journey

While the ambition is to reach net zero, setting interim targets that mark off progress can help organisations stay on track, and can help build consumer trust and brand credibility. The next step is to share progress, by publishing net zero policies, getting data verified by a third-party, such as The Carbon Disclosure Project, and being transparent about the actions that have been taken. Good management practices, energy management, water management, supply chain, and procurement can be essential first elements to get things under control.

There could be a view that the onus is on the Government to drive change through legislation. But collaboration across society will also help move the dial and ultimately achieve progress on Net Zero.

The impetus is no longer merely a moral one, or even a legislative one – research suggests consumers and clients expect meaningful action towards net zero goals, and we can expect this to have an increasing impact on the bottom line of organisations. Those that grasp the opportunity and start to turn their ambitions into tangible actions now have the opportunity to help everyone reap the rewards of a more sustainable world.

Article originated in The CSR Journal

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