In an era where climate change is no longer an abstract concept but a stark reality, businesses are being called upon to take action. For professional services companies, embracing this imperative is not just an ethical choice; it's a strategic necessity. Some are already leading the way, reaping significant benefits, while others lag.
In a recent webinar co-hosted by Climate Club and Green Project Technologies, “Decoding Climate Reporting and Reduction for Professional Services Companies,” we shared the collective lessons learned from working with more than 200 professional services organizations that have turned their carbon management and sustainability programs into a competitive advantage.
This blog post highlights the key takeaways from the webinar. The webinar’s recording can be watched on-demand for those hungry for more in-depth insights.
Carbon management is a dynamic duo consisting of carbon accounting and decarbonization. These two components serve different but complementary goals.
Carbon Accounting focuses on accurate data collection, emissions calculations, and auditable processes for reporting. It involves collecting historical data and using rigorous, auditable processes to account for emissions. It’s all about knowing your carbon footprint inside out.
Decarbonization is about making progress towards emissions targets. It usually requires enriching carbon accounting data with business context, analyzing it to find opportunities, and creating a plan to hit your targets. Decarbonization is about reducing emissions, not just offsetting them.
While carbon accounting and decarbonization goals differ, implementing them in a coordinated fashion yields significant efficiencies.
A 2022 Accenture study shows that 93% of companies must catch up to meet their decarbonization targets. Recognizing what the remaining 7% are doing right can help guide efforts toward sustainability goals.
Here are the four best practices we’ve seen best-in-class companies adopt:
In professional services, commuting and business travel are critical drivers of business value and company emissions. Client requests and senior leader expectations typically set expectations around travel. We’ve found that the definition of ‘necessary’ and ‘good travel’ varies based on client type, project type, and region. Business travel, work-from-home, and commuting are often vital categories to focus your decarbonization efforts on, with much of the necessary data and insights already existing but living in silos. Beginning with achieving visible, quick wins in these areas helps surface a more granular footprint and allows you to provide clients with the level of specificity they desire.
Policies are a poor indicator of success in achieving decarbonization goals for two primary reasons:
Conversely, targets are more effective at driving sustainability success because they enable companies to build bespoke, customized understandings of where employees, teams, and functions are in their journey and then meet them with a specific set of relevant targets. By defining targets for a group of individuals to work towards and tracking the progress in real-time, you gain tremendous data that can inform custom policies rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Driving sustainability success and business outcomes comes down to collecting actionable, real-time data rather than annually or quarterly. To get results through data, consider the following:
We’ve discovered leading companies achieve excellence in their decarbonization journey through a three-step process.
Tackling carbon accounting and decarbonization may seem daunting, but when executed strategically, the results are a force multiplier to all elements of a business. By prioritizing client impact, starting with high-impact initiatives, focusing on targets before policies, and measuring everything in real-time, professional service companies can turn the challenge of decarbonization into a competitive advantage, benefiting all parties involved…climate included.