Event organizers, One Podium spoke to EcoAct North America CEO, William Theisen during their Visionary200 event in September on the growing momentum toward net-zero and how companies are approaching their sustainability goals. Here is the full interview.
How is EcoAct driving impact?
EcoAct is an international climate consultancy and carbon offset project developer so we’re working on two sides of the coin of the net-zero journey. On our business advisory side, we have a very high bar where we’re measuring carbon footprints, creating reduction strategies, setting up roadmaps to achieve science-based targets and also doing climate risk assessments, so all the way through to carbon neutrality or net-zero. On our nature-based solutions side, we develop projects to issue carbon offsets that support companies’ comprehensive net-zero strategies.
How are companies leveraging innovation and technology to deliver on sustainability goals?
Innovation and technology can open the door to more data. At EcoAct we support companies on measuring their carbon footprint from direct emissions all the way through to their supply chain. It takes a lot of work throughout the company gaining all the granular data but that’s where you can actually find the hot spots and levers to reduce and achieve the targets that you’ve set.
Innovation comes in when we do the carbon footprint, we’ve understood the baseline and the data that’s available and then it’s all about trying to mine that data in a more efficient manner. Investors are now asking companies to start setting more interim targets, to determine their progress on achieving those [longer term] targets. Anything that technology can bring to the table in terms of centralizing that data and improving how often that data can be reported, makes this process easier and more efficient.
How are sustainability goals being approached by the private sector?
The private sector has until now defined their climate targets or reduction goals themselves. For example, a company could claim that they were going net-zero, carbon neutral or carbon positive/negative. There was a lot of terminology out there.
Nowadays though, companies and stakeholders are looking for third-party verification or validation for those targets. One of the most well-known is the science-based target initiative (SBTi), which launched its Net-Zero Standard in 2021 and can validate both short-term and more long-term targets.
Investors really want to understand whether a company’s targets are ambitious enough to be in line with the Paris Agreement and also with the 1.5°C scenario because if they’re not, then there is a risk in terms of resiliency and viability as the climate changes.
What steps are companies taking towards advancing a more sustainable global operation?
Companies are taking a more comprehensive approach to setting more ambitious targets that encompasses both their operations and supply chain. They are reaching out to their suppliers, through their downstream and upstream operations within their supply chain to gather more data and understand what is possible.
The key in terms of achieving that net-zero target globally is collaboration, particularly with major publicly traded companies. What we’re seeing more of now is collaborations between companies and their supply chains, as well as global and sectoral initiatives creating an exchange of knowledge scalable impact.
What short-term and long-term decisions can companies make to provide a lasting, positive environmental impact?
Short-term decisions that companies can make that actually lead to long term impacts is to not just look at the different departments, different business units etc. within the companies as data owners, but data actioners.
Often, when we first start working with a company on their carbon footprint, there’s a lot of data that’s being asked of companies and their different departments and line managers. But the people supplying this data also have ideas of how the data can become actionable as well as ideas in terms of reductions. Our key recommendation is to look at the different departments, different geographies, different business units within a company to not just see them as supplying data, but also as the people who are responsible and accountable and empowering them to see what is possible in terms of reducing.
Setting a science-based target, whether it’s short-term or long term is going to be transformational for business. When we’re looking to achieve net-zero, it requires reducing upwards of 90% of emissions from direct all the way through to your supply chain. Achieving this requires massive changes that will impact everybody in the company. For this reason, it needs to be collaborative and empowering because there’s going to be a lot of ideas from various business units in the company on where innovation can take place to achieve that target.
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