Net zero roadmaps in detail

Posted on 6 Mar 2023 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

In this article, Verco’s Athanasios Patsos discusses net zero roadmaps, what they should look like and how to overcome common pitfalls that manufacturers often come across.

Net zero commitments on the rise

In the avalanche of climate change commitments, many businesses would have by now reviewed their ESG governance and drafted a vision of what their carbon future would look like. Engagement with the net zero agenda has been increasing; as recently reported 63% of chief executives felt very engaged with sustainability, a whopping 46% have science-based targets (SBTs) in place while nearly a third (31%) saw net zero as a business critical priority.

Further to the increasing regulatory pressures (e.g. TCFD reporting now mandated in the UK) businesses are exploring the competitive advantage offered by the net zero economy.

Your own business journey

Depending on where you are on your carbon reduction journey, you are likely to be asking yourself one or more of the following questions:

  1. Where am I now? Understanding your footprint/baseline and identifying a high-level reduction pathway
  2. Where do I want to be? Setting credible targets and gaining accreditation
  3. How do I get there? Planning the solutions and then delivering and implementing the plan
  4. How do I track and measure? Realizing the tools and systems needed for ongoing tracking and reporting.

Integrating these activity areas will help ensure a credible and thought-through process to support your net zero journey.

Figure 1: Verco’s Net zero compass

Crossroads and common mistakes

There is now increasing pressure to develop a detailed and credible implementation plan i.e. what was previously a high-level trajectory needs to be translated into a detailed action plan for each site/business unit. This will inform the operational strategy for the next 5-10 years. For many businesses this is a significant shift from the previous, commonly practiced, 1-3 year plans and can therefore lead into traps:

  1. Short-term plans developed in isolation of the over-arching strategy e.g. improving systems on attractive paybacks only to find these incompatible with net zero later.
  2. It is tempting to focus on the “big-hitters”; these projects can turn misleading and expensive if optimisations and demand reduction are not prioritised
  3. Treating net zero as a capital project challenge is likely to result in pending more capex and being left with higher levels of OPEX.

Success through detailed planning

Here are some tips for how these traps can be avoided:

  1. For most manufacturing companies the final elimination of carbon relating to heating will be the final step. The approach used by a given company is likely to vary based on the users of the heat, the existing technologies and availability of low carbon alternatives.  However, these solutions tend to be expensive (in terms of capex or opex or both) and may well have an element of risk attached.  So focus heavily on reducing the need to develop such solutions as far as possible.
  2. All abatement measures need to be considered – for an optimal implementation plan to be developed this needs to be a bottom-up process, linked with
  3. Resourcing: ensure all departments / business units are aware of their roles (Figure 2). Not all need be involved in every step and intervention; Group Sustainability are likely to oversee and coordinate the process.
Figure 2: Operational Net zero pathway considering all abatement measures and resources
  1. A strategy should be developed for the hard-to-abate areas and a plan initially developed based on “no-regret” or “in any case” measures. Now is time to assess alignment of interventions against future technology solutions.
  2. The need for more data and information is certain. We have several examples of net zero plans based on point-in-time information whilst data integration is often a lot more cost-effective than perceived. Detailed data can also incentivise key stakeholders and decision makers though early project successes.
  3. Timescales: although no-regret actions can be implemented at the earliest opportunity, work for transformational projects need also start now and be phased appropriately. This ensures feasibility studies are developed, business innovation is translated into net zero plan and business growth is aligned with the net zero strategy.

Register for the webinar: Putting your site net zero plan into action

To learn more about putting your net zero plan into action, register to join Verco’s webinar on 28th March.  Thanos will discuss how you can approach delivery of your net zero goals.  He will focus on three key areas: Resources, Methods and Phasing.  Find out more and register here.

About the author

Athanasios Patsos, Head of Deliver for Zero Corporates, Verco

Thanos specialises in improving the operational performance of industrial processes, including a range of technical, management and behavioural initiatives.