March 20, 2024

Carbon Reduction

Decarbonization: How to Set Goals and Sustainability Targets

Decarbonization: How to Set Goals and Sustainability Targets

While more companies than ever are joining the race to net-zero, it is misconceived as a tedious task for many because they are not aware of the decarbonization technologies available to them which will smoothly transition businesses into a decarbonized economy. With upcoming government regulations and the demand of decarbonization from stakeholders, setting decarbonization goals and hitting sustainability targets can't be put off any longer. In this article, we'll show you how to set decarbonization goals for successful decarbonization strategies that are realistic, robust, and profitable.

What is decarbonization?

Decarbonization is the process of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The goal is to achieve a low-carbon economy and attain carbon neutrality by eliminating fossil fuel combustion. This includes reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and capturing emissions and storing them in carbon sinks.

Shifting into a decarbonized economy

  • A third of the world's largest corporations have made a pledge to become net zero yet they will still have to create robust plans to get there.
  • To achieve 80% emissions cuts by 2030 which is necessary to stay under a 1.5C increase from pre-industrial temperatures, making rapid decarbonization plans isn't a question.
  • In 2022, more than 3000 companies and financial institutions have collaborated with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and approximately half of them have already incorporated approved science-based targets to reach their decarbonization goals.
  • As more of the world's publicly listed companies have issued their decarbonization targets these past few years, consumers are demanding that more companies become carbon neutral.
chart of decarbonization targets 2019-2020
Image Source: World Economic Forum

Why make decarbonization plans?

  • Decarbonization plans require radical change - only businesses progressing towards the decarbonized economy will be the ones that survive the transformation.
  • Agility in the value chain - as lean approaches are a necessary baseline for a successful supply chain, sustainable agility is changing the way businesses will integrate carbon neutrality from product creation to the end of the product life cycle.
  • Energy savings = cost savings - the less consumed, the less owed monetarily and back to the environment. Production and profit is achievable through less consumption.
  • Desirable candidacy for ESG investors - socially responsible investing has grown every year and is becoming so commonplace that businesses that aren't taking corporate sustainability measures aren't even being considered for investments.
  • Strategic supplier alignment - not only are conscious consumers demanding sustainability and carbon neutrality, but other players in the value chain want to see measurable results due to the actions taken from supplier collaborations.

Why set sustainability targets?

Developing a decarbonization plan encourages companies to take their progress seriously and that actions will be taken in good timing. Start by strategizing around the broadest priorities and then managing them with smaller tasks and targets. Benchmarking and target setting are what your carbon reduction roadmap is based on. When you make decarbonization plans and follow through with appropriate actions, stakeholders will notice.

What is the SBTi?

The Science Based Targets initiative provides businesses with a clearly-defined path to reduce GHG emissions in line with the standards of the Paris Agreement (limiting global warming to under 2C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, but aiming to stay under 1.5C). Science-based targets (SBTs) add value because they aid companies in evaluating scenarios and if they can realistically commit to them. Since Net0 is compliant with all science-based targets, your ESG reporting will stand out to stakeholders and show your environmental impact being reduced successfully with time.

The value of setting science-based targets

Other than the fact the planet is facing severe climate change at rapid speed, ambitious decarbonization plans show companies where opportunities are to innovate and collaborate. It's also a way to see the red flags of risks and to avoid those ways of doing business. This improves your carbon footprint as well as your reputation amongst stakeholders. You stay accountable, competitive, and productively providing environmentally friendly products and services.

Why should you follow the SBTi's guidelines?

The guidelines to adopting science-based targets are beneficial to tackle climate change and stay competitive in a decarbonized economy. It provides a just framework for businesses to use and prevents greenwashing so you can communicate your transparency with specific steps to take, terminologies, and requirements.

Related content

For more information about setting targets and reduction planning, check out our following resources:

How Are Carbon Emissions Measured?
How to Measure Your Business' Carbon Footprint
How to Reduce Upstream Emissions With the Gold Standard Framework for Supplier Engagement

The framework for setting decarbonization goals and sustainability targets

1. Start with understanding your baseline emissions

The most time- and cost-efficient way to start measuring carbon emissions is to begin with a baseline and make realistic and timely targets from there. Start collecting scope 3 emissions data from others in the supply chain in addition to uploading your own bills and invoices from scope 1 and 2 emissions. When you begin doing it, others in the value chain will be influenced to collaborate on decarbonization goals.

After measuring emissions, create decarbonization goals based on the data. Companies can then proceed with identifying what initiatives to take and evaluating what works for them. Prioritizing where they can make the most impact from the beginning is what they can go off of to start long-term planning with suppliers.

carbon emissions management dashboard with charts and graphs

2. Establish an initial plan and build effective communication channels

Net0 emissions management platform empowers anyone in the supply chain to get involved as long as the reporting company chooses to onboard them. When various players see the carbon footprint they are leaving behind and where the emissions are coming from, it's easier to collaborate and strategize towards how to achieve the common goal of net zero in a way that everyone in the supply chain wins. Focusing on internal and external communication is key.

Internally, communicate plans to employees so they are familiar with the new processes. Onboarding is simple with Net0 because any employees and vendors you choose to add will have a personal dashboard to input the emissions data they are responsible for entering into the system. These personal dashboards will automatically contribute to the whole company's profile.

emissions management onboarding dashboard

Externally, collaborate with suppliers about decarbonization goals that come with measuring your emissions and establishing set goals to achieve net zero. Strategic supplier alignment can be achieved when you have green vendors in your value chain who share the same vision. For some companies that want to dig deeper into their scope 3 emissions, Net0 knows what questions to ask your vendors to get an accurate picture. That is why we have the vendor outreach program to give those customers peace of mind that they are asking the right questions to the right vendor. This helps save time going back and forth trying to understand what is required.

3. Conduct a life cycle assessment

Thinking about the life cycle of your products and services in advance is the most proactive way to reduce carbon emissions in your value chain. When companies design a new product, knowing beforehand the processes, materials, and solutions that are most eco-friendly will save you time and energy from having to react later on. As few products are without their flaws, many can be modified after they have been designed. If companies see one area works and one area doesn't, they can reevaluate the design the next time.

When you know your carbon footprint it's possible to set benchmarks and make targets in the long term. This is how Net0 helps businesses increase revenue by uncovering your carbon footprint so it doesn't have to be unknown, causing clients to spend time, energy, and money on developing products that are polluters in the long run. Reaching these objectives is simpler than before because technology is now your guide. Finding the sources of emissions and spotting the red flags sooner than later, and acting against them, builds an eco-friendly reputation amongst competitors in your market, prevents blemishes to your rapport with green consumers, and leaves a reduced carbon footprint on the environment.

life cycle assessment flow chart
Image source: Sala, Joint Research Centre, European Union

4. Develop a roadmap to net zero

Developing a roadmap with viable decarbonization goals is an important part of long-term success. Scenario-based thinking paired with technology is the perfect way to measure and track performance to highlight progress made toward your climate goals.

Scenario-based thinking will guide you in fulfilling your targets. For sustainable stability and social responsibility to be able to work, scenario-based thinking when preparing profitable decarbonization plans will save you time, energy and money in the long-term. What is scenario-based thinking? It's setting a target with an end date in mind such as 2035 or 2050, and it considers the various measures that need to be taken by that time to achieve carbon neutrality.

Net0 offers a simulation feature as a solution to guide you with scenario-based thinking that gives insightful predictions about the impacts of possible business changes on your carbon footprint. The simulator tool shows companies what would happen quantifiably if they eliminated carbon from different aspects of their business. When you evaluate green initiatives before committing, it enables you to get a realistic picture of what steps really need to be taken. Your actions must follow the steps of your planning so stakeholders take you seriously when you deliver on your climate action promises. Planning carbon reductions and taking actions to reduce your environmental impact are two different things but both are necessary to succeed.

Additionally, Net0's simulator is also paired up with the financial data that empowers businesses to evaluate the financial cost of making certain changes.

simulations chart carbon emissions

In addition to Net0's AI-driven simulator tool, Net0's marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) tool enables businesses to view what decarbonization actions they could take now or in the long run to be able to set goals for the future. This empowers companies to achieve profitable decarbonization plans based on various parameters in the organization.

marginal abatement cost curve (macc) tool based on emissions and country

The targets and benchmarking tool empowers companies to set smart reduction targets and track their performance over time.

benchmarking chart carbon emissions

Viewing progress and being able to see how far you've come with quantifiable proof will encourage others in your value chain, foster customer loyalty, and grab and keep investors' attention as you build a carbon neutral reputation.

Invest in technology that streamlines the whole process. There are useful tools for businesses now that are time and cost-efficient without having to go through outside agencies.

5. Train and empower employees to obtain and record data

Collecting data from employees with the activity-based approach carbon methodology or collecting available data internally by working with heads of departments and accountants works well for a spend-based approach. Net0 clarifies factors that drive your emission profile through clear and granular data representation aiding every employee in seeing the details and opportunities to make positive changes.

Getting the data is the most important part to calculating, measuring, and tracking your activities towards net zero. This will be the foundation on which the company can benchmark and make decarbonization goals in the long term. It's important to include team members so everyone understands the carbon footprint their department is leaving and in the supply chain to be able to implement improvements over time. When teams are motivated and informed, they are better aware of the company's impact and how to strategize for better products, procedures, and services moving forward.

Net0 even enables businesses to create action cards that show the progress of their intentions vs. actions so they see how far they have come.

action cards for decarbonization plans in the company

6. Stay accountable to stakeholders

Decarbonization is not to be conquered all at once. The decarbonization process is consistent, continuous, and ongoing; but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Setting smaller, smart reductions on your way to your bigger objective is the way to do it. When you measure emissions, make simulations, and are active in your reduction plans, you can continue an agile strategy throughout the value chain that will be successful. It also ensures that businesses are providing the most up-to-date, high-quality goods and services they can to the end consumer, because they were designed with a low carbon emissions being considered from the beginning.

This is important for stakeholders to see your performance over time and for ESG reporting to be transparent to investors. It's also in compliance with regulations such as the EU's CSRD, the US SEC Climate Disclosure, and the SECR in the UK.

Net0 helps companies get this done with less effort because quantifiable data is not only a more convincing way to get the team into action but clarifies raw data into emissions tonnage so sources of emissions can be pinpointed accurately without mysterious calculations from spreadsheets and outside consultancies. Moreover, we are dedicated to constant upgrades and flexibility with changing regulations worldwide.

Responsible sourcing is the most proactive way to achieve your targets and fulfill supplier engagement goals. Supply chain mapping aligned with Net0's climate action platform empowers the GHG reporting company and those of its upstream suppliers and downstream companies to make good on their net zero promises. When companies see the sources of their emissions and other entities in the value chain contribute to recording and measuring their emissions as well, it becomes clear where companies need to make modifications and how to implement those.

In conclusion

Shifting to a decarbonized economy is now possible with Net0 as your guide. Scenario-based thinking and science-based targets will ensure that your company stays compliant, ESG-investment worthy, and is reducing its carbon footprint on the earth. This minimizes risk for investors and future-proofs the business as well. Setting benchmarks and targets with Net0 will transform the way that you do business in the long-term and set a clear path for the future.

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Written by:

Kristin Irish

As a content writer for Net0, Kristin harnesses her expertise and enthusiasm for carbon emissions reduction, merging it with her other passion: the B2B SaaS industry. Her global outlook and dedication enrich the sustainability sector with insightful perspectives.
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