The environmental industry’s net-zero progress

20th July 2023

David Symons FIEMA provides an update on the environmental industry’s progress towards achieving net-zero emissions.

Pledge To Net Zero members have cut carbon emissions by nearly 600,000 tonnes from their baseline years to the end of 2022. It’s a really great achievement – but what have we learnt along the way? What is the environmental industry saying about its own greenhouse gas impact? And what are the priorities for the coming years?

Pledge To Net Zero was set up by WSP, SocEnv, IEMA, AECOM and others in 2019 to show how the environmental industry is taking fast action to cut its own carbon emissions. Today we’ve around 150 members from large consultancies to the smallest, and from global consultancies to firms especially based in the UK and Ireland. Members commit to science-based targets for their work and each year tell us how they’re getting on. These are our key takeaways and lessons from this year’s report back.

  1. Most members have made good progress on Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Nearly every PTNZ member has cut their direct carbon emissions. This is great news as our sector’s organic growth could also impact on the natural progress we expect to see through electricity grid decarbonisation.
  2. Scope 3 emissions continue to be hard for many to measure. Practical support on this is probably the most frequent request we get in the Pledge To Net Zero team. Use the tools available, but also focus on action rather than spending huge time on the data. Because no carbon is saved just measuring.
  3. Embedding scope 3 into buying is a key strategy. Buying from companies who themselves have a science-based target is one of the best quick wins to help everyone make progress.
  4. Work with landlords Most in the environmental industry rent our own buildings. Working with landlords on clear, action oriented green memoranda is a good way to align their actions with yours. Many organisations, like Aldersgate, use environmental performance and landlords’ environmental ambitions as a key part of their office selection.
  5. Transport emissions are bouncing back. We all need to see clients and travel is a key part of our sector. Embedding a new normal of train first has been an important action for many members, plus also avoiding the junk miles by hosting less important meetings on Teams or Zoom.
  6. Getting better data is all part of the net zero journey. Use this better data in your baseline year as well.
  7. Case studies are gold. We’re all trying to take similar action so learning from others is a great opportunity for faster action. There are lots of practical case studies on Pledge To Net Zero’s website and we’ll keep promoting these.
  8. Pace is key. Setting a science-based target requires companies to halve carbon emissions by 2030. That’s a big change when organic growth is included. While celebrating success so far, we’re still a long way off net-zero success. So fast action continues to be really important.

Pledge To Net Zero members’ greenhouse gas reductions from their baseline year:

Membership of Pledge to Net Zero is free and we welcome all in the environmental industry keen to take fast action on net zero. Members commit to three things 1) to setting a 1.5oC aligned science-based target ii) to publicly reporting their emissions iii) to producing one piece of net zero thought leadership each year. Progress is tracked through a simple annual report back and overseen by a volunteer leadership team established by Pledge’s founding partners. See the Pledge to Net Zero website to learn more, and get involved.

IEMA recently hosted a webinar to showcase a selection of inspiring case studies. Slides and link here

Image credit: Shutterstock


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