How can business respond best to the IPCC’s latest report?

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With more than 3.6 Billion people already living in zones highly vulnerable to climate change and many ecosystems at the point of no return, IPCC scientists have determined that the impacts are irreversible, and UN Secretary General António Guterres declared on February 28, 2022, that unchecked carbon pollution was “forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction”.

Forceful, emotive words. And few would disagree with the Secretary General. But the recent assessment report from IPCC working group II – written by 270 science researchers from 67 countries and approved by 195 governments –argues that it is now time to adapt or die. This might be overstating things, but the report must be heard as a call to action for people and countries globally.

Guterres went on to say: “Now is the time to turn rage into action” and urged “every country to honor the Glasgow pledge to strengthen national climate plans every year until they are aligned with 1.5 .”

Too small, too slow

The rage that Mr. Guterres spoke about is understandable. The response to climate change is simply not extensive or fast enough. If the IPCC’s previous Assessment Report (AR5) published in 2014 was alarming, this latest one is even more so. Now, the AR6 Working Group ll (WG2) report points out “Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”

The challenge for business

What can – and should – business do? Our own group CEO Aiman Ezzat was a keynote speaker at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). After the summit, he called for “nothing short of a revolution” adding, “the private sector must spearhead the carbon revolution! Solutions to decarbonate will mostly come from businesses.”

So, putting politics aside, let’s first consider why currently businesses are struggling to address the core causes of climate change, such as the operations and supply chains that are the highest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and waste across industries today. Or IT landscapes, where user devices, data centers, and the networks that power business are big CO2 emitters. Or products and services that are still not designed with a circular mindset or from a planet-centric perspective.

These are clearly barriers to an accelerated response to climate change – but barriers can be torn down. At present, many businesses are struggling because they lack innovative tools and strategies to tackle the challenges, yet we believe these tools are available and must be brought into play, or we risk failing both our planet and humankind. For example, in its report FIT FOR NET ZERO: 55 Tech Quests to accelerate Europe’s recovery and pave the way to climate neutrality, Capgemini Invent offered in-depth analysis of some extraordinary tools (existing and future technologies) that have the potential to transform the global response to climate change. The report focuses on five core economic domains: buildings, energy, food and land use, industry, and transport. And it offers hope on several levels, not least the potential to reduce CO2 by 871 megatons by 2050.

Another reason to hope

Further, despite the many hurdles, the AR6 WG2 report also offers hope in the form of nature itself. It provides new insights into nature’s potential both to reduce climate risks and to improve people’s lives. For example, as the IPCC WG2 co-chair Hans-Otto Pörtner pointed out: “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater, and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress toward sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.” Co-Chair Debra Roberts added “that governments, the private sector, and civil society have to work together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice in decision-making and investment.”

Making tech part of the solution

As a global leader in consulting, technology services, and digital transformation, Capgemini puts technology at the heart of our own ambitious sustainability journey and those of our clients. We are following a 1.5 science-based carbon-reduction pathway and envision a world where sustainability features in every value proposition on the market, whatever the industry and business – just like digital does today.

Capgemini CEO Aiman Ezzat cites technology as one of the three core requirements for reducing carbon emissions, which he describes as “first, technology, which is key in many sectors to reshape business models toward sustainable models; second, data to measure footprints and to monitor progress; and third, concrete action plans that deliver measurable change.”

This reflects our approach to working with clients, with whom we are driving sustainable transformation and the journey to net zero. The use of the word ‘journey’ here is not arbitrary. Organizations must consider their response with long-term planning combined with a strategy that commits them to rapid action. And if you can’t measure what you are doing, how do you know whether you are on target to achieving your goals? That’s why monitoring the solutions implemented is so important. It enables you to compare where you are now, challenge those parts of your business that are not moving fast enough, and measure the impact of your carbon reduction efforts.

Commit, Act, Monitor

These three pillars form the basis of our approach to sustainability as we steer our clients’ journeys from initial commitment to sustainable developments. While many organizations have signed up to the ideal of sustainability, the IPCC report clearly shows that they now need to accelerate their transformations. So, let’s consider how these three pillars will help with speeding up this new transformation:

  • Commit: It is important to define your climate vision and engage your stakeholders to ensure the success of your low carbon transition. Clarify the purpose and trajectory path of your transformation so that you commit to getting there as fast as possible. This commit phase also requires you to identify the new organizational structures you might need and to consider whether you have the right talent to support your low carbon transformation. Discover how Capgemini client GASAG Group has embarked on a carbon neutral path with a CO2 savings roadmap that highlights and prioritizes concrete measures to reduce emissions.
  • Act: We have defined three core areas on which to focus to accelerate the transition:
    • Sustainable products and services – delivering a green consumer experience with planet-centric design and low carbon products, as well as circular products and services
    • Sustainable operations – implementing sustainable procurement strategies across manufacturing and supply chains, decarbonizing factories and the supply chain, and implementing circular supply concepts
    • Sustainable IT – assessing and reducing the environmental impact of IT across devices, applications, and infrastructure, and utilizing green equipment, apps, and infrastructure, such as by migrating to the cloud. But also leveraging IT and technologies to imagine new solutions for organizations to become more sustainable. Find out how Capgemini helped the UK tax authority HMRC reduce its overnight energy use by 90%.
  • Monitor and Report: Data and technology sit at the heart of how you measure the effectiveness of your response. For example, with data and artificial intelligence solutions, it becomes possible to power climate action innovation roadmaps. A data platform will support the modeling of environmental impacts (carbon footprint, product lifecycle, etc.) and provide access to ESG data to improve performance and reduce climate risk. Discover how we worked with Red Eléctrica de España to introduce a tool enabling the business to measure the impact of its circular economy roadmap initiatives.

Act – right now

The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (Working Group ll) pulls no punches in terms of the impacts and risks of climate change. At the same time, it points to “progress in adaptation planning and implementation across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits”. The AR6 WG2 report adds that “climate resilient development is facilitated by international cooperation…”

At Capgemini, we believe that businesses across all sectors must be part of that cooperation, utilizing technology and data to accelerate change.

To find out more, get in touch

Author

 

Benjamin Alleau

Group Sustainability Acceleration Services Lead

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