Delivering an effective decarbonisation strategy requires coordination across every department. Here’s how to make that happen.
As we explored in a recent conversation with Plan Zero Director at Mitie, Mike Sewell, the best net zero strategies have buy-in at all levels of the organisation.
This means building a credible business case backed up by economic benefits that even the most ardent opposition can’t afford to ignore. For example, a compelling net zero strategy may promise improved energy efficiency, affordability and resiliency through self-generating technologies like solar PV.
But how do you align those benefits with the wider organisation and drum up support from all departments?
To help answer this question, we caught up with Mitie’s Managing Director, Energy and Decarbonisation, Prad Pandit. Here’s what he had to say.
You need to demystify decarbonisation
To unify your organisation around net zero, you can’t assume that people understand why it matters and what needs to happen – if they’re thinking about it at all. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially if leadership has publicly committed to a milestone such as reaching net zero by 2050.
“You need to be prepared to demystify the topic,” says Prad. “It’s often seen as a highly technical subject, and many people either think it’s being taken care of behind the scenes, or they don’t know how to begin making positive changes.”
In response, you need to establish your organisation’s stance on decarbonisation and be clear about what action has been taken so far, as well as what must be done going forward.
This transparency can be the difference between having senior executives who want to be seen as trailblazers in this area, and those who are willing to simply follow the crowd. And it’s a vital first step towards getting everyone to cooperate and align around net zero to deliver an effective decarbonisation strategy.
But you’ll need help to do this, which is where your executive sponsor comes in.
Collaborate – and find an executive sponsor to fight your corner
Delivering an effective decarbonisation strategy alone can be overwhelming, so Prad believes there needs to be a leader – or coalition of leaders – to take accountability.
But what does that coalition look like? The head of sustainability ideally takes joint strategic ownership – perhaps with the head of engineering or the head of energy. This way, department leads can tap into each other’s expertise to bring initial decarbonisation projects to life.
“Working with a fellow head of department is a great way to cover more ground faster,” says Prad. “The head of engineering is a good candidate as they already understand how your built environment works and what you could realistically change to start improving your energy efficiency or reducing waste.”
With that said, you won’t get far in convincing senior executives or winning department support without a C-suite sponsor – ideally, somebody with financial influence.
“You need a cross-functional coalition because, let’s face it, you need all departments working together,” says Prad. “You can’t do that alone, so you need somebody with influence who can be seen pushing your agenda across the organisation – and that’s your sponsor.”
With a credible business case focused on saving energy costs and driving resilience, you’ll have an easier time convincing a finance leader to sponsor you. Finance will be aware of the cost of inaction – such as losing favour among customers and investors, plummeting share prices and even regulatory penalties.
Plus, they can help you identify an overarching goal that everyone – including their C-level peers – can get behind. But how do you determine what that goal might be?
Deliver a net zero project that benefits all
To help rally support, it’s smart to start with a headline project that will immediately impact the company and serve each department’s priorities.
Sustainability leaders want to decarbonise, finance wants to reduce costs, engineering wants to showcase their assets’ reliability and marketing wants a positive story. So, what kind of project will satisfy all these priorities? Prad believes reducing energy waste is an ideal place to start.
“Moving from gas-fired heating and cooling systems to a ground source heat pump that uses green electricity will speak to most, if not all, stakeholder priorities,” he says. “It reduces your carbon footprint, is more reliable and less demanding to maintain than a gas boiler, costs less to run and your occupants get a more resilient solution.”
Prad also believes that the more visible and tangible your initiatives are, the greater the opportunity to hit the headlines and rally stakeholder and external support. And the latter can help improve your public reputation, gain investor interest and attract the right talent.
“We helped a major UK bank install a ground source heat pump at one of its major properties,” says Prad. “It became a poster child for the company’s sustainability agenda, winning praise from local government officials, who were delighted to see a major brand decarbonising in their area. Plus, it gave the bank’s communications team a means to signal to customers and stakeholders that the company was moving in the right direction. Everybody wins.”
Keep people engaged with decarbonisation
Remember, your decarbonisation strategy isn’t a one-and-done affair. You must keep up the momentum to ensure people stay engaged and committed to your end-goals. In this context, even the smallest projects and quick wins can have a positive impact, inspiring trust in your strategy and encouraging everyone to celebrate your success.
You also need to be transparent about what’s working, what isn’t and what you can learn from those experiences to do better in the future. But you can take this one step further, and share your successes with other organisations – and invite them to do the same.
“A great way to build momentum is to bring in outside voices to talk about their net zero successes,” says Prad. “For example, if somebody called up Mitie and said, ‘You’ve just moved your fleet to 3,000 electric vehicles, how did you do it and what did you learn?’ we’d be more than happy to tell them. We’re all in this together, so the sooner we start helping each other, the sooner we meet our decarbonisation goals.”
Your proven decarbonisation experts
At Mitie, we have the energy management, engineering, and sustainability experience to help unify your organisation around its decarbonisation strategy. In fact, we were the first facilities management company to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2025 – 25 years ahead of the UK Government’s 2050 target.
But before you consider a decarbonisation partner, we recommend exploring our guide to overcoming the five biggest challenges to net zero, including calculating affordability and achieving strategic longevity.
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