Firms face ‘evolving set of expectations’ around net zero – expert
3rd November 2023
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But, according to a respected civil engineer and environmental social governance (EG) expert, firms can keep up with the pace of change by better understanding their own impact.

Rachel Skinner, WSP’s executive director for responsible business and government relations, was addressing Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s annual Sustainable Business Series conference.

Speaking at Conference Aston yesterday, Ms Skinner urged businesses to “understand where your context is” in order to play a part in wider national and global climate change targets. 

She said: “Net zero, in terms of action, is not a zero sum game. Doing nothing doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing. Doing nothing means you’re doing harm.

“There is tonnes of easy stuff that everyone can get across. Just that logical thinking process – where is my carbon? ‘What can I influence?’ – seems to be the best strategy to get across that one piece of a very complicated picture.

“We’ve got evolving regulatory requirements out there. All this context is out there but the granularity and the detail attached to it is changing and being added to all the time.

“That in itself is really difficult because, as a business, if you’ve set your goals and ambitions with the best of intentions, that context will keep on shifting.

“As the world learns more about the scale of the challenge and as we learn more about the data sets, as we fill the data gaps, the reality of the problem becomes ever more challenging. It doesn’t seem to get easier. 

“So, in terms of a business there is an evolving set of expectations and reality checks – there is a need to shift and pivot and to support each other as these changes come through.”

Ms Skinner was joined by fellow keynote speaker Anne Shaw, executive director for Transport for West Midlands, who discussed the “roadmap” to decarbonising the region’s transport system.

She set out some of the ‘big moves’ in the authority’s transport plan, which include influencing a behavioural shift in the way people travel and making public transport more accessible, inclusive, safe and reliable.

She said: “Those big moves we are making as part of our framework, our statutory responsibility as a transport authority – we plan the things that we do, we invest in the infrastructure that we have and we make sure the services we are providing, whether it be buses, trains or the way in which you pay for those services, is being done in the most effective way to ensure it’s easy for people to use and access.

“Ultimately, as Transport for West Midlands, we want to make sure we’re providing journeys for everyone. Inclusion is a key factor to that. People who don’t have access to a car rely on access to a good, functioning transport system and it is our job to make sure that is as decarbonised as possible.

“So, it’s going to take a long journey but we’ve got a roadmap of how to get there.”

The conference also featured two panel discussions. The first saw University College Birmingham’s sustainability manager Ashlea Mallet, Schumacher Packaging managing director Mike Owens and Lloyds Bank’s head of ESG Glenn Bemment share insights on what their organisations are doing to encourage sustainable practices among employees and customers.

The second focused on the future of energy, with contributions from Matt Redding, associate at Gensler, Darren McNulty, head of net zero and renewables at Enzen UK and Jonny Mobbs, head of sustainability at Midland Heart.



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