2020 is a big year for a lot of companies. Not only is it fun to look at because of the alliterative quality of the year, but it's also the date by which many companies have set ambitious climate targets. Many companies are tracking well towards meeting their goals, but if you're reading this blog, you might be unsure of your organization’s progress. It might be falling behind on its climate targets. Or maybe it hasn't set a goal and is working on new ones. Or maybe it’s revising or expanding the scope of its existing goals.
If your company is falling behind, reassessing, or even setting goals for the very first time, it’s never too early to take a critical look at the strategies in your toolbox that will take you across the finish line. Whether your organization’s goals are for 2020, or another year in the near future, these deadlines will creep up faster than you think.
And if you do feel that your company is falling behind in the quest to reach its goals, you may be surprised at the number of companies who are in the same boat.
To understand the potential gap between the strong ambition of companies and the reality, below is a chart from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which looks at companies who have committed to using 100% renewable energy via the RE100 initiative. If you focus on the year 2020, that white box (which represents 50 terawatt hours) is BNEF’s estimate for what the shortfall is going to be for companies who've committed to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. This means that many companies who set ambitious targets are probably already behind, and may have concerns about their ability to meet their goals on time. While not all companies with renewable energy goals are shooting for 100% by 2020, this shortfall is indicative of a trend in the market of companies falling short on ambitious goals.
If you’re biting your nails about your organization’s 2020 goals, even if your goal is not for 100%, what can you do to ensure you can achieve what you have set out to?
Step 1: Start with a footprint analysis
It is impossible to honestly and accurately make a plan and report progress against your goals without good data. And so, if you haven't invested the time and resources into a robust and proper resource footprint—maybe that's carbon, maybe that's something else depending on your goals—that is likely the first step you need to take to meet your goals.
For many companies, calculating and reporting out your footprint was a practical first step. But it’s possible, even if you have conducted a footprint analysis, to find yourself in a situation where you’re still falling short on a goal. The challenge for a company in this position may lie in truly understanding that data and adjusting for how changes to the business (such as top-line growth or an acquisition) may have changed the data you’re working with.
Step 2: Identify opportunities
Once you have a good sense of your data, the next step is likely to understand the options that are available to you at a high level. Rather than nearsightedly acting on a project that seems to get you closer to your goal, it can often be beneficial to raise your gaze to the horizon and conduct a strategic opportunity and feasibility assessment.
This task can feel difficult when you have an upcoming goal deadline and progress is needed now (or even yesterday). But taking the time to slow down and holistically approach climate action will not only help you reach your 2020 goals efficiently, but it will also prepare you for what’s beyond. As we’ve seen with client after client, a strategic opportunity and feasibility assessment can accelerate progress in the near-term and reveal potential roadblocks that may not be as easy to address a few years down the road.
Step 3: Prioritize markets and opportunities pragmatically
You’re probably not going to do all the things uncovered in your feasibility assessment. You may even narrow down the most viable options and markets and still have to choose because of the time frame you’re working with. Think about the goals that are relevant, how realistic each solution is under this time-bound goal and which can make the most significant impact.
There are likely to be trade-offs between achieving near-term goals and long-term strategic initiatives. For example, to meet a renewable energy goal, most companies could easily purchase environmental commodities, such as energy attribute certificates (EACs), to meet their goal in a completely legitimate way. But with the longer-term implications in mind, many companies choose to evaluate power purchase agreements (PPAs) because they value the opportunity to contribute to the development of new renewable energy in a tangible way.
After taking these three steps, your company should be well on its way to achieving its sustainability goals. However, whether your organization reaches its goals on time or not, there will always be the lingering question: “What do we do next?” Climate action certainly does not stop at 2020 goals; the latest climate science demands that sustainability programs become even more ambitious to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So, hand-in-hand with achieving 2020 goals comes the task of challenging your business to make an even greater impact in the years beyond.
To hear more real-life examples of the innovative strategies companies are using to reach 2020 goals and learn how to set and achieve loftier goals for the future, we invite you to watch the recording of our recent webinar, hosted by CDP, where Erin Decker and Nathan Shuler break down both the tactical and aspirational elements of corporate goal-setting and achievement.