Q&A: ENGIE Impact’s Exec MD for EMEA & APAC Mark Chadwick

Companies must look forward and devise strategies to decarbonise their operations. ENGIE Impact’s 2024 Net Zero report shares their ambitions vs. actions

With the dust having settled following the historic agreement at the COP28 summit in Dubai last year, there’s no doubt that companies must look forward and devise strategies to decarbonise their operations.

But here’s where a critical point crops up — it’s not just about talking the talk, but also walking the walk. ENGIE Impact’s 2024 Net Zero report gives insights into companies’ decarbonisation ambitions versus their actions. 

ENGIE Impact — the management consulting subsidiary of French multinational utility ENGIE — is dedicated to delivering sustainability solutions and services to corporations, cities and governments.

Key findings of the report include how 77% of organisations believe decarbonisation is a moral issue, however, only 29% have publicly committed to reduce emissions. Only shy of a quarter say they have been extremely successful at meeting or exceeding their carbon emissions goals.

With a sustainability career spanning back to 2005, Mark Chadwick, Executive Managing Director at ENGIE Impact for EMEA & APAC, works with his 2,200 global colleagues with a focus on helping companies understand, plan for and deliver on decarbonisation, providing guidance and partnership to global organisations as they work toward their decarbonisation goals.

Here, he talks through findings of the 2024 Net Zero report and showcases how companies can unite their decarbonisation ambitions and actions.

Before we dive into the report, let’s talk about COP. What impact has that had on the findings as a whole? Do you think it has been a wake-up call for businesses to take decarbonisation more seriously? 

COP28 marked a pivotal moment as it concluded the inaugural 'global stocktake' of efforts worldwide to combat climate change under the Paris Agreement. The assessment revealed slow progress across many fronts — from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to strengthening resilience, to a changing climate to getting financial and technological support to vulnerable nations. 

There was alignment toward transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies — as well as some nations committing to expanding their nuclear capacity by 2050 and tripling deployment of renewable energy by 2030.

During the conference, ENGIE hosted its own roundtable discussion with key stakeholders from various regions and sectors with participants from Europe and from the Middle-East. It was clear that the challenges in both regions differ, with European firms focused on ‘how’ to deliver their goals, and the Middle-Eastern organisations working to build the ‘why’ case for action. 

All said, organisations must focus on accelerating scalable implementation solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change effectively. 

What, for you, were the stand-out findings of the Net Zero Report? Why?

The ENGIE Impact 2024 Net Zero report reveals widespread barriers to decarbonisation, noting many organisations' tendency to view it as a limited effort rather than a whole-business transformation. This leads to these programmes being systematically under-resourced, and only 20% of companies saying they’re on track to meet or exceed their targets. 

About half of companies state they’re already working toward making fundamental changes to their business model for long-term decarbonisation, but see five key barriers preventing substantive action:

  1. Multiple business priorities and a lack of executive focus
  2. Internal governance bottlenecks that slow decision-making and execution.
  3. Budget constraints that limit the speed of execution
  4. Limited data and technology to measure and report progress
  5. Lack of internal skillsets to execute change at pace and scale

These roadblocks are cross-functional and cannot be solved by one group or team alone. Companies that approach decarbonisation from a business transformation perspective will be able to address all those main barriers — providing clarity of focus, effective governance, smart financing, alignment on data and measurement and the right implementation delivery models.

How can companies unite their decarbonisation ambitions and actions? What can they do to ensure their pledges are not just empty promises and there is substance to their work?

Decarbonisation is, and will continue to be, disruptive. Corporate decarbonisation is not a self-contained initiative companies just need to get through in order to get back to business as usual. It is the cornerstone of what will be new ways of working — and organisations acknowledging that reality will be the ones best positioned to lead in the future.

They need to adopt a holistic approach. They need to accept and integrate the appropriate level of urgency. They need to set short-term milestones that align with broader decarbonisation objectives. They must enhance their data collection and analysis mechanisms in order to make informed decisions and continually improve their strategic approach.

This will likely mean revisiting the organisational business model. Aligning business strategies with decarbonisation goals unlocks opportunities for sustainable growth and resilience, and leaders at the highest level of each organisation need to focus on prioritising decarbonisation throughout the entire business. Engagement from all levels — factories, teams, and individuals — is essential for driving progress. 

Organisations must recognise the transformative impact of climate action and decarbonisation, and then adapt their practices accordingly to succeed.

Do you envision positive change in this area off the back of the report? How? And why?

To maintain credibility with investors, employees, customers and other stakeholders, organisations face mounting pressure to swiftly deliver progress.

As mentioned, about half of companies state they’re already working toward making fundamental changes to their business model for long-term decarbonisation. An additional 45% say they are willing to make those fundamental changes, but are still assessing implications around profitability, data analysis, market trends or other external factors. And 76% of organisations — an increase from 70% recorded last year — recognise that possessing a strong sustainability strategy and execution capabilities can significantly enhance their competitive advantage.

Companies who have made public commitments — for 2030 and 2050 — are willing to make changes, know the benefit of making changes and have even identified the key aspects of their business that need to be changed — technology and data, sourcing, supply chain, employee skill sets and even the products and services they sell. Yet, we are all undeniably still behind schedule in addressing climate change. 

This Net Zero Report, and all of our work at ENGIE Impact, acknowledge the needs and gaps, but focuses on proven ways to see positive change — regularly revisiting decarbonisation strategies, exploring innovative financing options, building a solid foundation of carbon and emissions data, partnering with the right experts, and so much more. To-date progress globally has not yet been where it needs to be, but we’re equipped to help accelerate decarbonisation together.

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