Speaking at Environment and Energy Leader’s Annual Solutions Summit, leaders from a range of companies and industries, including Mastercard, Kellogg, and Jackson Family Wines came together to discuss and share experiences, best practices and challenges related to going net zero and carbon neutral.
Importantly, while many companies have established net zero goals, some like Francisco Cordero, Manager of Global Sustainability at The Kellogg Company, have opted instead to develop ‘climate goals’, stating that net zero still does not yet have globally accepted standards. The panel indicated eagerness to see what the forthcoming net zero standard from SBTi will look like when it is released later this year. While the comment period is over for the new standard, comments are available to read online. Similarly, USGBC has recently launched a net zero standard for buildings to continue advancing green building design and innovation. Sia Zeros, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Mastercard, also pointed out that new requirements for renewable portfolio standards are on the way.
Scope 3 emissions, or supply chain sustainability, was highlighted as a particularly important area of focus for net zero, though also very challenging due to constraints with data collection and supplier participation, among other issues. But experts advised ‘you don’t have to go it alone’ when working on value chain emissions targets and calculations. There are likely to be coalitions or working groups in every sector. For instance, Aaron Schreiber-Stainthorp, Sustainability Manager at Jackson Family Wines, referenced International Wineries for Climate Action, which is pioneering work on climate solutions and is the first company from the wine or agriculture sector to become an official partner in the UN Race to Zero campaign. Similarly, CDP has a supply chain working group to discuss challenges and best practices, and the utility sustainability supply chain alliance was also mentioned. Additionally, the longstanding GHG Reporting Protocol has updated its guidelines and training for accounting for value chain emissions.
Most panel experts felt that making the business case for going net zero is not really that difficult, especially with the increased frequency of catastrophic events along with mounting pressure from a broad spectrum of stakeholders to adopt net zero goals or climate-related targets. Additionally, there has been an opportunity to utilize innovation and growth opportunities to support the rationale for going net zero. However, the biggest challenge facing implementation of net zero goals is that they are long-term and aspirational, meaning some of the policies, technologies and new business models needed to achieve net zero goals may still be in development. Addressing culture change in the face of transformation was also cited as a key challenge.
Governance for going net zero requires an enterprise-wide approach, panel experts said. But the approach tends to differ by sector and size of the organization. For instance, at Mastercard, there is a multi-layered approach, with separate committees and working groups at different levels of the company. By comparison, at Jackson Family Wines, while there are fewer such constructs in place, everybody in the company is expected to be involved in working towards net zero targets. Tying net zero goals to executive compensation was also mentioned as a valuable approach to governance.
With the heightened expectations, and increased government attention surrounding climate action, panelists generally expect new laws, regulations and standards to be initiated within the next one to two years.
Ending the session on a positive note, Kyle Gumpta, Energy and Sustainability Consultant, said: “We can do this! We can be successful.”