Debbie Klein on why it’s time for business to show, not just tell, on climate reduction

Thursday 13 May 2021

Climate change is reshaping how we do business. It’s changing the industry that you operate in and the world we live in. It’s no longer theoretical. For those of us leading change within a business, it’s part of our decision-making, risk management and our organisation’s operational health.

We know the positives that flow for business from a well-planned climate strategy. We know the financial incentives of setting your organisation up more sustainably; we know that renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels; that customers expect us to be doing more to reduce our impact on the environment; and that without immediate action from business to reduce carbon emissions we all run the risk of not having a healthy world to operate in.

Carbon reduction strategies aren’t just a pat on the back to say we’re taking the planet seriously, they are a framework to ensure we accelerate the reduction of our carbon emissions in real terms - as the science demands.

But how do you turn a corporate climate pledge into a transformational reality? It’s a complex task, with no written rule book and without previous strategy to work from. As leaders, it is our responsibility to seek out information, learn and discuss with experts what our climate goals should and can be. The strategies we set now are truly pioneering a different future for our planet, but to have the impact required to slow our planet’s warming, we must set credible and verifiable targets that reduce our carbon emissions in real terms.

Justification

This week COP26 President Alok Sharma shared the positive news that there has been a 47% increase in number of major companies committing to net zero under the UN’s Race to Zero since January. This global alliance binds organisations on clear pathway to decarbonisation and all responsible businesses should value being part of its membership.

Being part of Race to Zero is your first step, your pledge. It’s then critical you validate your targets. Sky has recently had our 2030 net zero goals approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. Our SBTi approved plan is across all three scopes and in line with the 1.5°C target to limit global temperature rise set by the Paris agreement.

In business we measure performance against metrics and our carbon reduction strategies should be no different. Science has made it clear that to avoid the irreversible effects of climate change we must reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Though the math might be difficult, this temperature pathway must be the metric we use to measure against.

Staying on the 1.5°C pathway is a huge challenge and needs substantial adaption and reduction. To get there the scope of our strategy needs to be ambitious. Sky’s 2030 net zero target covers our entire value chain. Scopes 1 & 2 are emissions from our own operations, but crucially also Scope 3, which fulfils the majority of our emissions from the use of our products in customer’s homes and our supply chain. Our commitment to reduce these by 50% in the next decade has been praised by the SBTi for its ambition, but in reality this should be a baseline for all responsible businesses

Transparency

To genuinely prove the integrity of your strategy you need to be willing to share your data and learnings. As innovators and pioneers, it’s our successes and failures that the future will be built on.

If done well, net zero strategies from business have the ability to transform the environment but if done badly they will be a catalogue of missed opportunities that future generations will regret. That’s why accurate corporate reporting with transparent emissions reduction targets is crucial. We need to inform and accelerate others to go on the journey with us and that can only be achieved through annual reporting that tracks against scopes and degree pathways.

Accountability

It’s also vital that this reporting is held to account and measured against the ever-developing world. As a media and technology company, we know at Sky that innovation can come quickly and the targets we set 12 months ago need to be consistently reassessed to ensure they are still viable and valid.

That’s why having our emissions targets approved by the SBTi is so important. This independent verification will review and analyse them annually ensuring they are in-line with what we are trying to achieve.

It’s time to embrace a transformational and credible approach to climate strategy. At Sky we are sharing as we go, building coalitions with other partners to tackle problems together and at pace. As a business leader, it’s no longer possible to sit out the climate debate. We must be willing to share our knowledge and expertise to ensure that we are helping as many of our peers go on the net zero journey with us. Because the world can’t wait. 

Debbie Klein, Group Chief Marketing, Corporate Affairs and People Officer

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