Many companies have devised strategies to reduce their environmental impact and achieve net-zero emissions. Eighty-five percent of companies have strategies to reach net zero, according to Sphera’s survey of 300 operations managers working in industrial sectors in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.
However, despite the growing prevalence and importance of net-zero strategies, our survey found that only 41% of operations managers have seen sustainability strategies produce significant changes in daily practices.
Some companies treat net-zero strategies as a way to bolster their reputation or ensure regulatory compliance. This means that companies aren’t reaping the operational benefits that net-zero strategies can bring and are at risk of missing critical climate targets.
To learn more about the role operations managers and technology could play in driving progress on net-zero strategies, read on for four takeaways from our report, “Operational Landscape: The Inside View of Industrial Decarbonization from Operations Managers.”
1. Accountability for net zero is siloed within the C-suite.
The gap between net-zero strategies and practices is caused, in part, by accountability being too concentrated within the C-suite. Ninety-five percent of operations managers say that C-suite executives and the board of directors are solely accountable for net-zero strategies within their companies. Additionally, only 40% of operations managers rate employee engagement with their companies’ sustainability strategies very highly.
This lack of engagement and inclusion of mid-level employees is a missed opportunity for companies to make the critical progress needed to reach net zero. Simply put, in order for net-zero strategies to be successful, companies must support them with meaningful action and share responsibility for their success equally across the organization.
2. Operations managers are underutilized advocates for climate action within their companies.
As our survey shows, operations managers are uniquely positioned to spearhead net-zero strategies due to their passion for climate action in their workplaces and personal lives, as well as their influence within their companies. Yet, 42% of operations managers report that they receive little or no encouragement to share ideas on how to improve the sustainability of business practices.
Given that 42% of companies have dedicated over 20% more budget to supporting their net-zero and sustainability strategies, transparent tracking of companies’ sustainability efforts will be critical to making sure such investments drive results, which is exactly what operations managers want.
Our survey found that 40% of operations managers are asking for climate goals to be included in their performance evaluations, and many are already working to improve the sustainability of their organizations.
For example, 43% of them report that they’re currently discussing sustainability issues with suppliers and partners, which is a key step to reducing indirect Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—one of the most difficult sustainability challenges for companies to solve.
3. Data transparency is key to improving sustainability performance and meeting net-zero targets.
Including net-zero targets in operational metrics would provide greater visibility into operational emissions, thereby driving greater transparency in carbon accounting and auditing. This sentiment is echoed by the operations managers most dedicated to climate advocacy, with 67% of them citing a transparent baseline measurement of emissions as a critical driver of confidence in their employer’s ability to meet sustainability or net-zero targets.
Digitalizing sustainability performance and making that data widely available in real time will be key to improving the transparency of net-zero targets and getting more employees engaged and invested in achieving them.
4. Technology can enable greater innovation and progress toward achieving net zero.
Our survey shows that operations managers see innovation as the top benefit of sustainability strategies, rating it higher than growing revenue or achieving greater efficiencies. Taking a digital approach to measuring and managing sustainability performance can help companies drive greater improvements and innovation within their operations.
By taking advantage of available technologies and content, such as data analytics and AI, companies can accelerate decarbonization and drive much-needed progress on net-zero strategies. With the future of our planet on the line, it’s never been more important to ensure that net-zero strategies lead to meaningful change and don’t just amount to empty promises.
Operationalizing Net-Zero Strategies with Content, Software and Expertise
To truly make progress on net-zero strategies, companies must involve mid-level employees and not just concentrate accountability within the C-suite. With over 50% of operations managers believing that sustainability is a good business practice, it’s clear that employees understand that doing what’s good for the planet can also benefit a company’s bottom line.
With the help of technology and a dedicated workforce, companies can turn sustainability commitments into action. Leveraging the right software, content and expertise will be key to operationalizing net-zero strategies and creating a more sustainable future.