How can tech companies achieve net zero?

Achieving net zero is a global goal, and Tech Nation has provided direct recommendations to the tech sector to reach this benchmark.

The tech industry currently accounts for 4% of global emissions, but this figure is expected to rise. Decarbonisation therefore has to be a goal to tackle the climate crisis.

In 2021, 70% of companies committed to net zero emission by 2050.

Advice on reaching this goal, however, is often confusing and conflicting, especially for the tech sector – on average, 80-100% of tech company’s emissions are within the supply chain and outside their direct control.

Unclear guidance for removing carbon is also an issue – the IPCC has estimated that 10 billion tonnes per year of removals is required to reach net zero by 2050. Only 40 million tonnes were captured globally in 2021, staggeringly short of the necessary threshold.

COP26 set the aim to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but COP27 admitted that it was likely too late to stay below this temperature.

In the UK, only 11% of companies measure their carbon emissions, and 7% have a net zero strategy.

Small businesses struggle even more due to a combined lack of knowledge, skills, and funding to take on a net zero strategy.

Tech Nation highlighted the general misconception among CEOs that tech companies’ carbon emissions are not significant – 74% of tech CEOs said their carbon emissions were insignificant in order to defend their lack of a net zero strategy.

This could be changing, however, as research found that 26% of employees want to discuss their company’s climate change plan, and 75% of C-suite executives are pressured by board members and customers to implement sustainability initiatives.

Decarbonisation

Ambitious net zero goals are essentially impossible to achieve without carbon removal. Producing no carbon emissions will likely take decades to achieve, so carbon removal is therefore essential to achieve net zero emissions to make up for the carbon still going out into the atmosphere.

Achieving this would require companies to account for their carbon emissions, but only 35% of UK-based companies with net zero targets have collected this baseline data which would be essential in offsetting their carbon footprint.

Tech Emissions

According to Tech Nation, most carbon emissions from tech companies fall into ‘scope 3’ are indirect emissions from purchased goods and services rather than directly from owned assets or company cars.

While these emissions are ‘indirect,’ tackling them may be less complex.

Making climate-driven decisions on services like food, offices, and travel can make all the difference.

Call to Action

1. Make and Commit to a Plan

Tech Nation calls for companies to formulate an action plan to reach net zero.

To do this, companies should: measure their emissions to understand their baseline, set science-based targets, as well as interim short term targets to keep on track.

2. Sustainable Offices

Although hybrid working is still popular, using a low emission office space is vital to net zero strategies for companies.

Sustainable offices should use all renewable energy, maintain their AC/heating systems, be as energy efficient as possible and continuously measure their emissions.

Other requirements include having a comprehensive waste management system, and using sustainable construction materials.

3. Green Pensions

On average, pensions finance 23 tons of CO2 emissions every year. To fight climate change, companies should ensure their pension funds target net zero emissions across their portfolio, invest in climate solutions, and – importantly – divest from companies that are not reducing their emissions.

Companies can speak directly to their pension provider and change their default fund to be covered by a net zero target.

4. Switch to Plant Based Food

Meat consumption contributes to some of the worst environmental practices and carbon emissions – switching to more plant-based food sources would dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

This could be a small step in some offices, like switching to plant based milks, and or could be a larger transition to offering exclusively vegan food at cafeterias and catered events.

5. Business Travel

Tech Nation recommends a ‘train-first’ policy for companies to tackle their carbon emissions when they travel.

Promoting virtual meetings, optimizing unavoidable travel, and only sending ‘essential’ team members on longer flights are some of the specific actions companies can take.

6. Engaging Suppliers

80-100% of tech companies’ emissions come from their suppliers. In order to achieve net zero, companies will have to collaborate with their suppliers in order to set sustainability standards.


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7. Digital Emissions

Digital emissions account for over 4% of global emissions, more than the global aviation industry.

Decluttering digital spaces can make a major impact on carbon emissions – actions companies can take include cleaning out unused cloud storage devices and websites, and selecting a cloud storage provider that is committed to renewable energy.

8. Hardware emissions

Companies can aim to reduce their hardware carbon emissions by extending the use-life of their devices and buying refurbished models.

9. Carbon Removals

Investment in carbon removals is essential – 10 billion tonnes of CO2 needs to be removed from the atmosphere if the world is to reach net zero by 2050.

A rounded approach to carbon removals is required as no one method will achieve this mass removal requirement. Companies can invest in both natural and technological solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Investing in high-quality, long-term carbon removals, rather than avoidance offsets, is therefore essential.

Using trusted sustainability services and increasing the amount of removals invested in is also recommended to reach net zero.


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