• Net Zero Energy Consumption
  • Sustainability
  • Corporate Sustainability
  • sustainability initiatives

Destination Net Zero: Emissions Abatement a CFO Can Love

Peter Asmus
Jun 29, 2021

Sunset woods

The world is experiencing an epic increase in extreme weather events, from hurricanes and off-cycle wildfires to freak snowstorms and devastating droughts. Companies around the world are under pressure to respond to global climate change. Twenty years of pressure from stakeholders across the environmental community and corporate best-practice sharing has culminated in a turning point. Large institutional investors such as BlackRock and Vanguard—which control $12 trillion in assets combined—argue that avoiding climate-related damages helps the economy and improves investor financial returns. Millennial parents (a demographic of over 90 million people in the US) are demanding action as they worry about the world their children will inhabit if the impacts of climate change go unchecked. 

While many in the private sector have paid lip service or taken marginal actions to respond to climate change, the world seems to have turned a corner. Feet are being held to the fire for leaders to take real, tangible actions, as publications from the Power Forward report series indicate. 

The Road to Sustainability

In their article, “Sustainability a CFO Can Love,” Kurt Kuehn (the CEO of UPS) and Lynnette McIntire discuss how to develop regret-free internal sustainability programs:

  • Choose Your Battles: The road toward sustainability must start somewhere. Whether driven by internal managers or external stakeholders (ideally both), creating a matrix to showcase where shared values overlap is a good place to start. This matrix must account for the prospect of early wins, helping CFOs maintain corporate support for the broader initiatives to come. 
  • Maximum Efficiency, Minimum Effort: Any sustainability program revolving around energy use and consumption typically starts with energy efficiency; it’s an easy opportunity as being more efficient just makes good business sense. Increasing these savings from the start helps build early project wins, increasing confidence among the company leaders in these initiatives. 
  • Finding and Maintaining Momentum: Once companies successfully ramp-up early project wins, momentum is needed to reach the finish line. Where has the company already had some success, partners that it trusts, or fresh opportunities due to recently enacted federal, state, or local government programs? 
  • Building Strategic Partnerships: A marathon requires a measured pace, teamwork, and well-used energy or diversions. Find strategic partners that will join the journey for the long haul. These partners may be outside stakeholders initially, but to fully implement any long-term, viable program, the most productive partnerships will be with those entities that implement plans into bona fide upgrades, installations, and ongoing operations and maintenance expertise. 
Destination Net Zero

There will be challenges to meeting net-zero emissions by mid-century. Nevertheless, picking a credible strategic partnership early can help facilitate internal initiatives that respond to external pressures for change in a logical, tactical, and cost-effective way. 

A new Guidehouse Insights white paper sponsored by Ameresco outlines six steps to implement comprehensive climate change programs that curb emissions while providing a practical path to net zero (see figure below). The step-by-step framework can help demystify how organizations can set their destination to net zero. It speaks the language of CFOs, who are now in the driver’s seat as corporations large and small become key actors in implementing the aggressive, data-driven initiatives that can deliver real value to both company bottom lines and society at large. 

The Six Steps to Achieve Destination Net Zero

 

(Source: Guidehouse Insights, Ameresco)