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Those looking to establish a position on sustainability would be wise to start by looking at the variables they can measure and influence.
That advice came from Mike Lyons, managing director and partner at BCG (Energy, Climate, Digital), who has seen plenty of movement by companies of all sizes to try to flesh out their green credentials.
“There are certainly easier or no-regrets types of moves that you can make, everything from simple stuff around travel, working remotely and how you source your power,” he said, adding that things can get a bit more complex when a firm settles on an offset strategy.
“That’s where you start to get into tricky territory; that’s very much not part of the core business and is around energy efficiency,” said Lyons.
He also advised the channel to look around the ecosystem to find those that have specialised in this area and lean on their expertise.
“There are folks within your ecosystem that have products that are focused on the decarbonisation space that I do think SMEs underutilise,” said Lyons. “You just have to ask and most of the vendors will have something in that space.”
“I would encourage people not to get too mystified by it. The accounting side can be complex, but generally, decarbonising is not as complex. The main thing is to get help from your upstream and downstream.”
Lack of agreed standards
One of the other challenges for those in the channel that want to establish their sustainability credentials is the lack of agreed standards. Some of the big players have set out their own systems and, although these are transparent, they are not always easy for others to follow and imitate.
“I think we’re on the cusp of a not-very-regulated, not-very-organised way of having a carbon number, like how you have a calorie count on a loaf of bread,” he said.
More companies were coming under pressure from customers to show they took sustainability seriously, and those that sold consumer-facing hardware had already taken steps to ensure they had a positive story to tell.
“It is becoming a selection criterion,” said Lyons. “It’s a differentiator. Now, I think it’s probably still cost and performance first, and then, as a tiebreaker, emissions, but I don’t think we’re that far from emissions having an equal spot at the table.”
His advice for those that choose to ignore the sustainability movement is that it will ultimately cost business.
“I think the momentum of the world is far beyond that,” said Lyons. “We have now scientifically proven that human activities have driven climate change. You are seeing governments and companies make commitments that I don’t think will be reversed.”
“There are folks who realise this is a public problem, are taking action and finding the smart angles to do so. To either create an edge in the market or do it in a way that doesn’t break the bank. Those who do that will be rewarded in the market and by their customers.”