Turning ambition into action

Embedding net zero targets at Capgemini UK

After Capgemini made its ‘net zero’ pledges last year, it fell to Chris Hodgson, UK Head of Sustainability to embed those targets across the UK business. Here, he explains how he’s managing this complex process

“What do you want to be famous for?”

That’s the question Chris Hodgson asked when he addressed some of Capgemini’s top business leaders in the UK. As Head of Environmental Sustainability in the region, he was also on a recruitment drive. His aim was to bring together a network of enthusiastic and influential colleagues that could turn carbon ‘net zero’ ambitions into action.

“I wanted to fire them up,” he says. “I wanted them to become advocates, to become believers and to take this torch forward.”

The job is hugely significant: to lead, develop and implement Capgemini’s global emissions strategy across the UK business. But when all our futures are at stake, it’s also a mission that needs to be completed. Here, he explains his strategy for making change happen.

  1. Lead from the top

First and foremost, you need buy-in from the top level. In July last year, Aiman Ezzat, our CEO, announced a commitment for Capgemini to become a carbon neutral business by 2025, and be a ‘net-zero’ business by 2030.

Once the vision is in place, you can start to make it happen. Capgemini has a strong track record in this regard; we delivered on our science-based target of a 30% reduction in carbon emissions per employee in January 2020 – a decade ahead of schedule.

In the UK, we identified that to make this dream a reality we would need to engage, inspire and listen to senior business leaders right across the company, because they will be responsible for actually embedding the required changes.

  1. Make it a shared endeavor

We created a network of senior managers from all business lines, called the Net Zero Business Leaders Network. They effectively became advocates for implementing the changes necessary to hit Capgemini’s climate-related targets, and have taken on specific responsibilities for making that happen.

We then engaged this group with a concrete plan they could all sign up to. We had to be clear about the scale of the challenge: the targets are ambitious for a reason and achieving them will stretch our capabilities.

By crystallizing the problem, we forged a sense of shared endeavor – a collective passion for making the business changes needed to minimize the impacts of global climate change.

  1. Create specific targets as milestones

While the ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’ targets are our headline commitments, Capgemini has also set specific targets, which have been validated by the Science-based target initiative that will help to achieve them. These include a commitment to reduce business travel by 50% and commuting by 50% by 2030, and increase our estates energy efficiency by 35% by 2030.

To focus our efforts in the UK, these have been translated to annual milestones. For example, we have to hit a 40% absolute emissions reduction in 2021 against 2019 To ensure we meet our commitment to transition to an electric vehicle fleet by 2030, we will have a milestone for what that means for ordering new vehicles this year.

In the UK, we’ve created a roadmap to drive these changes, for example by engaging our colleagues on alternative delivery models to reduce travel-related carbon emissions in the post lockdown new normal.

  1. Make carbon a business performance metric

A crucial step in embedding the changes through the business has been to integrate ‘carbon cost’ into existing internal performance processes – creating a Carbon Travel dashboard that enables the project delivery team to track the actual travel emissions. This involves producing data for each business sector on carbon emissions for their accounts. It allows business leaders to see how they’re delivering for their clients in a low-carbon way.

The Carbon Travel Dashboard enables project delivery team to track their travel emissions

We’ve also created a carbon calculator, developed in house, that allows us to calculate the carbon impacts of client services across a broad range of sectors and projects, quantifying the carbon savings for our client. This, with our ability to quantify the carbon costs of our project delivery teams, will create an authentic estimate of the overall impact.

  1. Ensure behavioral change

When people ask what the single-most important aspect of our entire strategy is, I always reply: behavior change. As human beings, we’re resistant to change and there are a huge number of institutional habits and practices we fall into unless prompted to do otherwise.

The fact is, meeting these targets involves everyone. We’re actually trying to change how Capgemini does business. This is far more challenging than executing a one-off project or initiative. Ultimately, however, it’s much more meaningful – for us and the planet.

If you can encourage people to reimagine business value beyond just revenue they will approach situations differently and set expectations differently. This is how we change our culture in the long term, how we meet our climate targets and, ultimately, create a better future for everyone.

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