How to keep sustainability at the forefront of your 2017 business strategy
To say 2016 was a milestone year for climate action might be an understatement. While history was made in the ratification of international climate agreements, momentum also took force in the business community. Increasingly, we saw companies across all sectors make significant commitments and take strides to lower their environmental impacts. Additionally, we saw the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bring experts across all industries together to share knowledge, strategies and best practices.
With 2017 on the horizon, here are three ways business leaders can keep sustainability at the forefront of their plans, foster internal and external collaboration, and use sustainability to drive business value in new ways:
Take collective action
The common theme running through many of the 2016 climate action milestones is the need to take collective action. The SDGs, for example, were formed with the intent to spur involvement from all sectors (public, private and municipal), and today we’re seeing these actions come to fruition. Businesses are aligning corporate goals to broader SDGs, resulting in collaborative, cross-sector initiatives.
With SDGs as an international platform, businesses may question how they can move this effort forward at the local level. However, organizations probably have some of these efforts already in place and can simply enhance them by using the SDG framework to develop industry partnerships and begin new dialogues. A great starting point is aligning a corporate partnership with a non-profit organization that shares a common SDG. By working together, both parties can help realize their potential impact on these global goals.
Report progress on goals
The Paris Agreement put forth voluntary, country-level goals for emissions reductions and climate action. While these international deals bring awareness to environmental issues, they also push businesses, governments and non-profit organizations to band together to reach country-level targets. Reaching these targets requires measurement and can be viewed similar to how a company approaches its business goals. Comparable to corporate goals setting, countries will meet to discuss progress and report out on what’s working – and what’s not. The focus, however, will remain on measuring broader, global impacts, especially given that each country has a different type and level of contribution.
While companies are more aware of their environmental footprint, they still struggle with how to benchmark progress. Based on my experience, before you make changes to improve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a critical first step is to create a GHG reduction goal and have the support of your leadership, and all key stakeholders in this effort. Once this goal is in place, all the supporting business functions can be addressed, and you can report your contribution in meeting local, country and international goals.
Similar to the Paris Agreement, the HFC Amendment set forth target dates for achievements of reductions and progress – in this case for the phasing out of HFCs. Having these end dates in mind can help your organization set a plan into motion and give you an advantage if you are able to transition early in the game. For example, these deadlines can help speed up the development of much needed innovations and alternative methods for supporting a low-carbon economy. Internally, the placement of a deadline can set the timer for all actions needed to bring products to market. Having these end dates in mind can help your organization set aside enough time for an early and smooth transition, which may also help create operating efficiencies as well as lowering emissions.
Cumulative climate impact
Seeing the momentum of aggregate actions to curb the impacts of climate change is exciting and inspiring. With international goals in place, we’ll continue to see new climate initiatives resulting in larger, positive impacts from all types of organizations. The SDGs have already begun to spur collaborative action and this type of cumulative impact will continue to grow as the SDGs mature.
At Ingersoll Rand, our Climate Commitment is driving our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower our carbon footprint and we’re using SDGs to help create partnerships to address these often complicated and critical global issues. With sustainability as a lens and driver for your 2017 business plans, you’ll position yourself as a sector leader, uncover new ways to deliver value, and most importantly unlock opportunities to take part in solving the impacts of climate change beyond your own organization.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere