In the coming weeks, heads of state, politicians, business leaders and campaigners will meet in Glasgow to debate the future of the planet and to demand action to prevent climate change moving from imminent danger to catastrophe.
COP26 is a critical moment, and regardless of the outcomes, what is clear is that the private sector must also ramp up action now. Every individual, institution, government, and corporation has an essential role to play, and the time for bold action is now. Business cannot wait to be regulated into embracing net zero for a 1.5°C future. Rather, we have to implement our own pathways to decarbonisation.
This is our goal at Salesforce. We can both reduce our own carbon footprint in terms of energy consumption and resource usages, and we can introduce cloud-services to enable our customers to track and reduce their own carbon footprints.
This year, we expanded net zero to our entire value chain by reducing emissions, achieving 100% renewable energy for our operations, and investing in high-quality carbon credits to help offset our remaining emissions. But carbon reduction is just one part of the puzzle. We also must support ecosystem restoration such as protecting carbon sinks, like forests, while promoting better environmental education, innovation, regulations and policies. We think about our sustainability strategy as being fundamental to our business strategy and this approach has informed our Sustainability Cloud 2.0 goal to help businesses accelerate to net zero.
Under this program, we will work with suppliers to connect with the companies that they support to introduce carbon-reduction targets through our Slack Connect system. We will also provide business users with climate action planning systems to better forecast and plan for how they decarbonise their operations. And we are investing in building an open exchange ecosystem in which our customers will be able to purchase and manage carbon credits, to exchange ideas with environmentally-minded entrepreneurs and collaborate on new science-based climate policies.
These initiatives are no longer a ‘nice to have’, they are critical to a strong, lasting business strategy.
Here is what we, at Salesforce, learned through creating our own decarbonisation programmes and helping other businesses along their decarbonisation journey:
- When done right, digitisation truly comes with an emissions benefit. Our business customers are now using next generation-technologies to help manage energy usage more effectively, reduce carbon in the supply chain, and engage customers in low-emissions ways.
- Finding ways to apply science based targets has been essential in terms of meeting the ESG expectations of policymakers, regulators and shareholders, and improving customer loyalty overall.
- On the whole, the path to decarbonisation, and scaling climate solutions more broadly, is not easy. Innovations that connect ecopreneurs to resources, professional expertise and investment capital are fundamental in accelerating the journey.
Net zero should be a shared goal to reduce emissions at scale in ways that deliver a business return in more measurable ways.
There was a sense, pre-pandemic, that business was part of the problem, not the solution. The upheavals caused by lockdowns and remote working have now forced businesses to both digitise faster and to do so in ways that reduce their environmental footprints.
In a post-pandemic environment, one of the unintended consequences of the ‘new normal’ is that the mutual benefit of being more connected and being more environmentally efficient is now unarguable.
But the pace at which this shifts from being theoretically beneficial to clearly positive in terms of business outcomes will vary from sector to sector. It will be easier to achieve in discretionary purchases or fast-moving consumer goods than in heavy industry or manufacturing.
But companies need to be ready for a demand-shift that can accelerate quite quickly as consumers buy into a product’s environmental benefits. The relative demand curve for electric cars versus diesel models is one example of that in the UK. The government’s commitment to more efficient household heating is another.
And unexpected shocks to the system such as the recent spike in wholesale gas prices and the implications for near term energy security clearly have the potential to eclipse the delivery of net zero commitments.
But as COP26 will no doubt show, we do not have the luxury of time to plan for the long term. Business has to act now. Business with technologies that enable other businesses to become environmentally efficient must make these capabilities available at speed, at a viable economic cost and with returns that make sense to everyone.
We believe that business can be a great platform for change. Our Climate Action Plan sets out a blueprint to accelerate to net zero in ways that benefits all stakeholders.
As 2021 draws to a close and we prepare for a new calendar year, good business and sustainability are now fully entwined.