We created the concept of the Carbon Journey during the course of a project for BT in 2004. Since then we have helped many organisations to clarify objectives, develop carbon strategies, benchmark corporate performance and set their sights not just on ‘managing’ carbon but on becoming Carbon Positive.
Carbon Positive ambitions such as zero carbon, net positive and ecological restoration that were considered imaginative but unrealistic a decade ago can now be seen as far-sighted, serious and necessary.
At the same time many businesses and other organisations continue to struggle to get beyond the early ‘low-hanging fruit’ stages of decarbonisation such as exhortations to employees to switch things off, policy statements, offsetting and drafting Travel Plans.
Based on an organisational development framework for sustainability distilled from research we conducted a decade earlier, the Carbon Journey continues to provide context, yield insights and gain boardroom buy-in for progressive action in the face of the challenge of climate change. This can take various forms:
Have you established a competitor analysis framework that provides genuine insights rather than just a register of accreditations?
We used Carbon Journey tools as an analytical and benchmarking framework to assist the directors of a hotel and leisure group with a sanguine assessment of sustainability claims in the sector and to support planning and positioning in the high-end market.
Developing Carbon Strategies
Have you established a coherent carbon strategy commensurate with the challenges of climate change?
BT asked us to develop a 'think piece' in response to the question: 'What would a genuinely carbon neutral BT look like?' with the aim of stimulating innovative thinking about how the Group should develop carbon management in the face of the challenges of climate change.
We concluded that ‘carbon neutrality’ would in itself be too limited a goal and one that could divert attention away from the challenges that true carbon leadership would entail. We considered how BT might develop decarbonising products and services and become a proactive agent in a wide-ranging social shift towards a low carbon future. This led BT towards developing a full climate change strategy and creating the first post of Head of Climate Change to drive this work forward.
Are you working with stakeholders to achieve genuine decarbonisation throughout the value chain?
In innovative Carbon Journey projects with companies such as TNT, Honda Racing F1 and Willmott Dixon we have helped boards recognise the potential value of Carbon Positive aspirations, assess the carbon impacts of key stakeholder groups and develop their engagement.
For example, we helped TNT senior management define a pathway or ‘carbon journey’ to bring climate change awareness to the heart of corporate strategy and employee actions, set a visionary carbon reduction target, institute a wide range of practical plans and initiate Planet Me to engage employees worldwide in a radical reduction of CO2 emissions.
With very little introduction, the Carbon Journey has proved to be a powerful framework for the critical analysis and evaluation of corporate carbon and sustainability actions, reports and pronouncements, enabling the development of critical facilities by management school undergraduates and many others and publication by, for example, Oxford University Press.
Antony Turner was a judge for the South West Carbon Positive Awards at HRH The Prince of Wales’ Mayday Business Summit at the Met Office, Exeter. Antony commented: “To demonstrate leadership in the face of the climate challenge, it will be critical for businesses and other organisations to become more sustainable. There were almost a hundred entries for the Carbon Positive Awards, with many exciting and inspiring stories. They illustrate the way forward for the South West and also for organisations throughout the UK and beyond.”
These awards demonstrate not only that large companies can aim for sustainability but that small companies and micro-businesses can also make a difference; and that a positive approach by public bodies can facilitate progress.