Time to turn ambition into reality

This year the Climate Group and RE-Source have been hosting the Communicators of Change Taskforce. The taskforce is a new group for highly respected senior communications professionals committed to promoting the benefits of renewables.

It is an opportunity for peer-learning and provides a safe space for leaders to share challenges and ideas for continuous improvement. Members of the taskforce include Asahi Europe and International, Bosch, Chanel, Decathlon, Nestlé, Nissan and Sanofi.

In this blog series, we will be sharing insights and learnings from the taskforce. This week, we’re diving into balancing climate ambitions with practical realities. For more information on the taskforce, please contact Aleksandra Klassen at [email protected].

In 2021, talk of climate action is all around us. And for that we’re grateful. Vast swaths of the economy, business, and the public have woken up to climate change. Each day, more and more businesses are making ambitious commitments to reduce their emissions through renewable energy investments and other actions.

More than 340 companies have now made the RE100 commitment to source 100% renewable electricity. Many are setting science-based targets to achieve net zero. Others are starting to set renewable energy targets of hourly matching of supply and demand. Their ambition and courage in setting targets – which they may not yet know how they will achieve – is inspiring.

And we mustn’t forget the most important part of this is actually making the changes we need to achieve deep decarbonisation. And therein lies the crux of the issue. If we are to be successful in tackling the climate crisis, we need to engage business in the changes that need to happen this decade.

Balancing ambition with reality

The level of ambition that business is showing is incredibly inspiring, but it needs to be carefully balanced with reality. If not, pledges risk being a flash in the pan, or quickly dismissed when they are just too tricky to reach in the real world right now.

Having a level of a pragmatism when setting targets is important to keep team and staff morale high. Establishing a robust plan for managing the journey to switching to renewables, identifying immediate changes, and reporting progress regularly creates momentum and sustains engagement.

Global companies must factor in varying local realities too, which will require compromise. Put simply, some markets will be able to move more quickly than others. For example, Bosch’s German sites were all carbon neutral in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2020 that Bosch was able to achieve carbon neutrality across all its 400 sites globally. By backing up ambition with action and demonstrating how roadmaps will guide their actions in future, businesses can explain compromises externally and communicate with more authority.

Getting the job done

As we know from the COP process, climate change is not a problem that can be solved in isolation or silos. Working together is critical to tackling climate change and the same applies to business. Companies that are advancing the most quickly towards their targets are those who are working together, sharing experiences, and accessing the latest resources.

Joining a collective action initiative like RE100 and engaging with platforms such as RE-Source and WBCSD’s Corporate Renewable PPA Forum helps companies to share experiences, be inspired and ultimately go further, faster. Working with industry peers on sector specific initiatives, like the UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, for example, with trade associations that support science-based climate policy and supporting clean energy advocacy efforts are all good ways to build capacity and speed up the transition to renewable energy.

Together = faster

By sharing experiences across sectors and industries, companies don’t have to problem solve on their own, but they can save time and resources by borrowing solutions from others.

For example, Asahi Europe and International, a member of RE100, has found that joining RE100 has enabled them to learn from others about how to communicate on renewable energy to different audiences. Likewise, Asahi shared with the group about how they had used blockchain to enable traceability, so beer consumers could scan a QR code on a Peroni bottle and find out where the grain was grown and where the beer was brewed, thus engaging customers in the sustainability journey.

Sanofi united with nine other global pharmaceutical companies to help their shared supply chains adopt 100% renewable electricity and reduce emissions. The program, called ENERGIZE, supports suppliers to learn about adopting renewable energy and contracting its procurement. Suppliers get the opportunity to participate in the market for PPAs where they might not have had the resources or expertise to do so, and companies help to reduce their own emissions by reducing those of their supply chain.

If you’re out there, working on climate or energy issues in business, we’d love you to join our network. Visit the RE-Source Renewable Energy Buyers Toolkit and follow RE100 to learn about how the initiative is opening up difficult markets and to see whether a commitment to 100% renewable electricity is right for your business.

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