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Act first and act fast if you want to hit your carbon goals

John Hartley, Director of Product Management for Centrica Business Solutions, outlines why early action can reap benefits on the road to net zero

As we emerge from lockdown, there is a real opportunity for business to grow back green. Businesses have been able to shift their business models very quickly and it is those behavioural shifts which offer us an opportunity to decarbonise in an accelerated way.

A simple example is that many businesses are finding that as they start to open again they’re seeing very lumpy demand, they’re busy one day and quiet the next. We’re supporting dozens of businesses with simple energy monitoring, that is highlighting where lighting and air-conditioning are being used unnecessarily when facilities are empty.

Hospitality and leisure are struggling more than most, and the inclination will be to focus solely on cash management, but my view is that it’s possible to keep a close eye on cash and lower carbon at the same time by either using less or generating your own energy.

Delivering significant cash savings in the short term can help businesses recover more quickly from the COVID-19 shutdown. Such savings can then be used to fund additional carbon saving measures - which typically take longer to make a return on investment.

In my experience there are two very obvious drivers for building back green


The first is those short term gains. Onsite energy generation and energy efficiency measures will save you both cash and carbon now. Other technology will be more marginal. A good example is electric vehicles - we are at a tipping point where we are starting to see properly managed EV programmes as a viable way to reduce costs within a business. Centrica has committed to electrifying its ~12,000 strong fleet of vehicles by 2030.

The second driver is being part of a supply chain that values sustainability. if you work with a supermarket, for instance, it’s likely that they’ll be incredibly hot on embedded carbon. So, having a method of measuring and reducing your carbon is no longer a nice to have, but a must have. In many cases, it’s a ‘right to operate’ with many other businesses.

Last month I spoke to a plastics manufacturer who provides packaging for food, the companies they work with were increasingly asking about the embedded carbon within the packaging. But the pressure wasn’t coming from the food manufacturers, it was from the supermarkets that they supply. So, for businesses two or three steps down the supply chain there is an opportunity for them to get ahead of the competition by monitoring and reducing their emissions.

My advice would be to act quickly and gain competitive advantage, a common mistake is waiting for future silver bullets or for nascent technologies to develop. The next big thing always takes longer than you think to reach maturity, in the meantime you are spending more money and emitting more carbon than you otherwise would, if you’d acted quickly.
John Hartley, Director of Product Management

Net zero is not going to be easy for any businesses to reach. My advice is to define a pathway that breaks how you’ll get to net zero in to chunks, and allows you to take step one quickly. Declare victory when you reach step one and celebrate along the way because people want to see that the efforts are worthwhile and are having a meaningful impact.

Finally, find a partner who you can jointly own the carbon reduction target with. Meeting net zero is a complicated process and you’re bound to go off track along the way, so bringing in external expertise and spreading the risk will help you make fewer mistakes and meet your targets faster and more cost effectively.

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