Research: 37% of companies committed to achieving net zero emissions, 18% on track

Research: 37% of companies committed to achieving net zero emissions, 18% on track
By Marwa Nassar - -

A new research of Accenture found that about 18% of companies are currently on track to reach net zero emissions in their operations by 2050, and over a third (38%) say they cannot make further investments in decarbonization in the current economic environment.

The research analyzes net zero commitments, decarbonization activities and emissions data for the 2,000 largest companies globally. Additional primary research includes a survey of more than 1,000 executives across 14 industries and 16 countries to understand the near-term challenges and priorities of industrial decarbonization.

Accenture’s analysis in Destination net zero found the number of companies that have set targets for net zero has risen to 37%, up from 34% last year. Despite reason for tempered optimism, half (49.6%) of the companies that disclose emissions data have presided over increasing emissions since 2016. One-third (32.5%) are cutting emissions, but on current observable trends are not on track to reach net-zero in their operations by 2050. To address the issue at an enterprise level, the report identifies a broad set of decarbonization levers that enable and accelerate progress. These range from well-established actions, such as improving energy efficiency and switching to renewables, to more complex measures, such as the implementation of green IT, the reinvention of business models and carbon removal.

“It’s promising to see an increase in public commitments to net zero targets again this year, but the adoption of key decarbonization measures is not uniform, with some companies still unable to master the basics,” said Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO of Accenture for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Reaching net zero is a unique opportunity for every organization to reinvent themselves and their value chains by aligning business growth with the net zero imperative, despite the many obstacles they must overcome. However, it is not just an enterprise challenge but also an ecosystem one, as there is a need to address the disconnect between supply and demand.”

When surveying leaders for the Powered for change report, Accenture found that heavy industry reinvention is critical to achieving all global net zero targets—both as the world’s biggest emitters and due to their interdependence with manufacturing, or “light” industry, which includes pulp and paper, aerospace and defense, automotive, industrial equipment, life sciences and consumer goods.

The research found out that improved access and availability to affordable and low-carbon energy is required. Four out of five (81%) leaders from heavy industry expect to need more than 20 years to have sufficient zero-carbon electricity to decarbonize their industry, with energy providers primarily focused on decarbonizing their own operations.

There is a need to bolster confidence in the commercial viability of low-carbon products. About 95% of heavy industry leaders expect to need at least 20 years to deliver net zero products or services at or close to price parity with high-carbon alternatives, and just over half (54%) say that manufacturers’ future purchasing intentions give them enough confidence to invest in decarbonization, added the research.

The research called for addressing concerns about managing the costs. Two in five (40%) leaders in heavy sectors said they can’t afford further investment in decarbonization in the current economic climate, with 63% suggesting their priority decarbonization measures won’t be economically attractive before 2030.

“The rapid, affordable decarbonization of heavy industry requires collective action across the value chain and urgently compressed transformation. We believe this can break the economic stalemate by inspiring new levels of growth and help accelerate net zero in just three years of focus,” said Stephanie Jamison, global resources industry practice lead and global sustainability services lead at Accenture. “If heavy industry is burdened with the full cost of decarbonization and fails to meet net zero targets, all industries will fail.”

Jamison added: “To provide the business growth that is necessary to put net zero back within reach, these imperatives must be executed in parallel and scaled to meet the moment, starting right now. Stakeholders around the world—across industries and governments—must come together to create a new frontier for the economics of decarbonization, giving heavy industry a firm foundation for reinvention.”

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