The climate crisis is a serious concern for most of us. According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics) three in four adults (74 percent) report feeling very or somewhat concerned about climate change.
Earlier this year Pura Aventura commissioned a survey which found this concern was being translated into action with 55 percent of respondents (sample size 2,017) taking sustainable action in various areas of their life. 50 percent are reducing their plastic consumption. 44 percent are thinking about sustainability when it comes to food shopping. 42 percent are mindful of their use of gas and electricity. And 34 percent of people are buying sustainable clothes.
This is pleasing and more should be done to encourage the trend of individual responsibility – but it does not let business off the hook. Indeed, 63 percent of respondents in our survey felt that it falls to tour operators to ensure sustainable trips, for example.
In order to solve the climate crisis, we are all obliged to make changes. Consumers are starting to do their bit, it’s time that businesses caught up and stopped trying to push all responsibility onto their customers. Let’s explore what businesses can do to grow sustainably.
The ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions has grown from an emerging trend to a mainstream requirement for companies across the world.
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass legislation to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. To do so, companies of all shapes and sizes will require a radical transformation in every aspect of their value chains, starting with their procurement and IT operations, covering their policies and ultimately redefining many of their business models.
While 2050 might seem a long way away, the longer the business world waits to meaningfully work towards net zero, the harder it will be to meet the timeline. We need to cut our emissions by half by the end of this decade to achieve carbon balance by 2050.
On the plus side, the first half is the easier half!
I believe there is one simple question to ask yourself – do you believe that Net Zero 2050 is going to be an obligation?
I don’t think it even matters if you think it’s all nonsense, or that we’re all doomed. The only question is this – do you think the political, cultural and regulatory environment will oblige your business to comply with net zero targets for 2050?
Spoiler alert – most people answer yes. If you are one of them then stage two of the exercise is to imagine 2050 as a solid, high, intimidating sheer-sided wall. You need to get yourself over that wall.
If you start to make the necessary changes today then you’re building a ramp, a gradual incline which gets you over the line. It’s not without its challenges but it’s walkable.
Wait a year and that ramp gets steeper and therefore harder to walk. Now picture the incline if you push the problem five or 10 years down the road.
I believe that the future business landscape will be littered with organisations which have failed to adapt fast enough and have ended up smacking into that wall.
There will be some short-term pain in implementing a plan for net zero but it’s the job of business leaders to look ahead and read the horizon. I believe that those who do so will reap substantial long-term benefits.
Build a resilient business
Getting ahead of the 2050 deadline will help your businesses to build resilience. It is inevitable that the ‘polluter pays’ principle is applied across all verticals. On this basis, the cost of carbon will become an embedded cost of sale for us all. Carbon markets today are essentially ungoverned which allows aviation ‘offsets’ to trade at just over $2 per tonne. Where there is some semblance of market governance the price is very different – in the EU it is over $95 per tonne and rising. Direct Air Capture of carbon is currently somewhere over $300 per tonne.
Where DAC costs will fall as technology scales, it’s likely that carbon will ultimately trade in the range of $150 per tonne Is your business getting ready to build in this operating cost? It should be.
At Pura Aventura, we have chosen to prepare for a world of carbon pricing by effectively creating our own tax. We choose to carbon balance all of the travel that our customers experience and then go beyond. For every kilometre travelled, we carbon balance by a mile. That’s an extra 60 percent.
To give you an idea of the numbers involved, from July to December 2019, our customers and staff travelled 8,653,015 kilometres by road and air. This was independently audited to 1,334 tonnes of carbon dioxide generated. We mitigated 2,135 tonnes.
When tougher legislation arrives, it’s my job to make sure we don’t have to adjust our step because we’ve futureproofed our operations. That’s good business.
We choose to divert our ‘tax’ to a best in class carbon project because those are our values. That’s business as a force for good.
Get real with measuring carbon
It all starts with measuring. Businesses must not shy away from accurately measuring their carbon impact. This includes taking into account scope three emissions – encompassing emissions that are not produced by a company itself, and not the result of activities from assets owned or controlled by a company, but by those a company is indirectly responsible for, up and down its supply chain.
There are any number of great resources out there to get you started, for instance the UK government has produced a guide to help businesses measure and report their environmental impacts. Once you are measuring, you know your impact. If you then apply the carbon tax model above, this does a couple of things. Firstly, it creates an incentive to measure more accurately. Secondly, most importantly, it creates a direct financial incentive to decarbonise your operations. That’s where things start to shift towards real change.
To be clear, these can be really quite simple changes, large or small – move to renewable energy tariff, look to buy computer hardware which is TCS, shift to an electric fleet or even switch company events to be vegetarian or vegan.
Tell people what you’re doing, with humility
Once businesses are confident that they are taking the right steps to get ahead of net zero, there is no harm in publicising such efforts. This can inspire other businesses to step up to the plate. And showcasing meaningful green practices will also present businesses with commercial and reputational advantages. There is lots of talk about greenhushing right now – but if businesses are confident in what they are doing in the sustainability space, it is right to be proud and share the news.
That said, it is vital to acknowledge that we are working with imperfect science. Our knowledge, the tools available to us and the science are rapidly changing so we must run adaptable businesses and communicate not perfection but best endeavour, humility and continual learning.
Join industry peers to act collectively
There are huge benefits to be delivered for the environmental cause when companies, even direct competitors, come together to collaborate and share best practice. No one business is likely to have either the answers or the resources to fix the climate crisis nor to generate impetus for material change, but collectively we just might.
In 2021 Pura Aventura co-founded a collective within the travel and tourism space of the UK’s rapidly growing B Corp community: Travel by B Corp. This group of certified B Corps works together to promote B Corp as a trust mark in travel, to present a collective voice for sustainable travel and to share best practice with industry peers. We estimate that our combined revenues surpass £250m per annum. That’s a voice with some force.
A final word
Time is of the essence, but if organisations build resilience, get real with measuring their emissions and join forces with industry peers to better the chances of delivering solutions to achieve net zero, then the business world can lead the way in the journey to net zero.