Can decarbonisation boost the bottom line of businesses while saving the planet?

Just as as innovation has historically driven business growth and evolution, our collective efforts towards decarbonisation will undoubtedly shape the coming decades.

By Vishal Agrawal

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Published: Mon 25 Dec 2023, 9:54 PM

If you pick up any forward-thinking business publication today, there is a pressing narrative beyond the well-established discourse on innovation - decarbonization. Businesses, both large and small, find themselves at the forefront of a monumental shift transitioning towards a green economy. As we know, business evolution is as much about strategic foresight as it is about financial acumen. The trend in the educational sector, reflecting this shift, is increasingly towards integrating environmental science with business management, preparing future leaders to understand and leverage the business case for sustainability.

Decarbonisation stands as both a challenge and an opportunity, offering companies a pathway to boost their bottom lines while taking meaningful strides for our planet. In the wake of COP28, the spotlight on decarbonization in the Mena region has notably intensified. The recent UN Climate Change Conference held in the UAE further emphasized the region’s dedication to critical global dialogues, reinforcing the urgency of energy transitioning to sustainable energy practices and environmental preservation. This event has served as a catalyst, renewing commitments and spurring strategic planning in the face of climate change, propelling a transition towards a green economy.

The primary contributors to carbon emissions in the region are energy and its related sectors. Consequently, this has sparked an increased focus within the business community on understanding the intricate relationship between environmental impacts and corporate strategies. There is a growing importance of sustainability’s pivotal role in maintaining competitive advantages and operational resilience.

According to an article by the World Economic Forum, the power and industrial sectors alone account for over 50% of total emissions in Mena. Fugitive emissions from upstream oil and gas wells surpass combined emissions from agriculture and buildings, which signals an urgent need for energy transition and decarbonization.

Decarbonisation and the bottom line

Traditionally, businesses centred their attention on efficiency and product innovation. Today, the narrative includes sustainability as a fundamental pillar, acknowledging that sustainable practices can yield diverse benefits such as cost savings, risk management, new market opportunities, and revenue streams. This comprehensive perspective is reshaping how companies design their business models, integrating environmental considerations.

Furthermore, as consumer environmental consciousness grows, green companies witness increased brand value and customer loyalty. This trend is evident in the Mena region, where decarbonization signifies not only emissions reduction, but also a potential to generate substantial value.

Standardizing climate-related disclosures

Investing in green businesses is no longer solely a moral decision but a financial imperative. Major regulatory bodies, such as the European Union and the International Sustainability Standards Board, concentrate on standardizing climate-related disclosures. Their objective? To offer investors transparency and coherence. Just as transparent innovation processes benefited firms previously, clear green credentials are poised to become the new benchmark for investor trust.

Establishing a baseline for green auditing

Developing a standardized baseline audit for green initiatives holds immense importance. It transcends the realm of Fortune 500 giants, acknowledging the pivotal role even small businesses play in this transition. The industry is moving towards creating uniform metrics and methods to evaluate environmental impacts, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to sustainability that is actionable and measurable.

A baseline audit involves mapping out the carbon footprint across operations, evaluating energy consumption, comprehending waste patterns, and measuring transport emissions. It aims to create a tangible, traceable metric system universally adoptable and understandable. This foundation enables businesses can set quantifiable targets, innovate towards greener solutions, and monitor their progress over time.

The shift towards a decarbonised economy presents a multifaceted challenge necessitating collaborative efforts across industries. It is not solely an environmental imperative but also a business necessity. Embracing sustainable strategies can yield both ethical and economic rewards.

In an increasingly ecologically conscious world, sustainable business practices not only benefit the planet but also bolster business success. Just as as innovation has historically driven business growth and evolution, our collective efforts towards decarbonisation will undoubtedly shape the coming decades.

Vishal Agrawal is Henry J. Blommer Family Endowed Chair in Sustainable Business and Academic Director of the Business of Sustainability Initiative at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business

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