Transition from discourse to action

Transition from discourse to action

Creating a Net Zero World by Adam Savitz, Sustainable Infrastructure Director at Johnson Controls, EMEALA 

This year's World Economic Forum in Davos placed a strong emphasis on fostering resilience, moving towards a net-zero future, rethinking globalisation, and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of society. As Davos 2023 confirmed what had been predicted, CEOs are now faced with new challenges as a result of the slow progress being made on climate change.

The UN general secretary stated at COP27 in November of last year that we are on the verge of irreversible tipping points in "climate hell" and that we should pay attention to what he said. The conference covered a wide range of topics, including agriculture, nature, and offsets—basically, everything that is affected by or contributes to climate change.

Engagement, conversation, and debate are encouraged at events like Davos and COP. It's a forum for leaders to exchange knowledge and talk about innovative methods, strategies, and projects. Industry leaders can discuss their sustainability goals, pressures, and obstacles. What can we infer from these significant occurrences this year about sustainability and the path to net zero?

Cementing credibility

At Davos, the UN chief urged business to make 'credible' net-zero pledges, or countries will risk greenwashing. Yet across the UK and Europe, organisations in the industrial and manufacturing space have scrambled to be compliant with short-term “sticking plaster fixes”. What’s really needed is investments into long-term solutions. The crippling effects of surging energy prices and gas shortages is forcing companies to identify and implement energy efficiency measures, move away from gas through electrification and reduce dependency on the grid through onsite renewables.  

Buildings: a silent polluter

Buildings consume 36% of all the energy in Europe and produce 40% of emissions – so transforming our buildings is imperative in the race to net zero. The built environment is often ignored from sustainability conversations, but the evidence is clear.  

While discussion is essential, we need to talk less and act more. Only then, can we make a true impact with measurable change. Businesses must holistically review their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable business practices into the buildings they use every day. £95 trillion of private capital will be invested in transforming the economy for net zero with a drive towards environmental initiatives. Reviewing technology investments is one place to start for large UK firms as they gain a complete view on their environmental impact.  

To truly understand how our buildings are working and improve efficiencies, we must first understand where inefficiencies lie. The only way to accurately measure energy usage at scale is to utilise an energy management platform. Users and owners alike need to gather the data and analytics on every major piece of building equipment. Organisations can then set a baseline to constantly review so they can improve the energy performance of a building. From there, they can then start to introduce smarter energy-saving technologies. Luckily, solutions already exist that are relatively quick to implement. 

The importance of the workforce

Technology is essential, but who will deliver it? According to new research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Microsoft, there is a systemic sustainability skills gap that must be closed, and 2023 needs to be the year of change. If we are going to decarbonise half of Europe in the next seven years, the reality is that we need to reduce emissions in every data centre, hospital, airport, factory and every building to be successful. And with that, we’re going to need the people who truly understand energy efficiency, electrification and renewable energy. The skills shortage is a major barrier to our success and it needs to be fixed if we’re going to be able to see the fruits of that labour by 2030. 

Upskilling must extend far beyond the core team charged with making this improvement in order to achieve corporate-wide sustainability goals. To perform their jobs in new, sustainable ways, businesses must promote general sustainability competency and help employees combine their current functional skills with the necessary sustainability skills for their role. 

Upskilling must come from the top down, and businesses need to understand the importance and need for sustainability measures. Teams need to have a clear understanding of how sustainability fits into the larger strategic picture, as well as the financial risks, market opportunities, and macrotrends they can exploit. 

Businesses in this phase are aided by a core team of sustainability experts established in the mobilise stage, but they must step up their enablement efforts as they start to change the way the business operates. 

Foundations for the future

Even though other top economies are growing, the IMF predicts a UK recession, forcing businesses to reassess their priorities. Will the rising costs and anticipated decline in profits have an effect on sustainability investments, and will the momentum be lessened? Fundamentally, preventing environmental collapse becomes more challenging the longer we wait to take action. We also cannot ignore the needs of the planet in the long run, despite the current economic crisis. There is a huge opportunity to get out of the recession and have a green recovery.

Businesses have a strong incentive to move quickly for both their own success and the sustainability of the planet. A "sustainability premium" due to their improved Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) credentials can be expected from the early adopters. The planet, however, stands to gain the most because today's meaningful decarbonization efforts can prevent the coming climate catastrophe. We can all work together to achieve the net-zero goals, but only if we start now.

Collaboration is key to this success, with leaders in building design and energy efficiency working together to support changes that occur at the required speed and scale. We can all make a significant contribution to the built environment's efforts to lower emissions, use less energy, and use more renewable energy. Events like COP27 and Davos serve as a reminder that since we all share a single objective, it is important for us to collaborate, share our knowledge, and learn from one another in order to achieve a net zero future.

Contact Us

MEB Media Publishing (UK) Ltd

13 Princess Street,


ME14 1UR

United Kingdom

Our sister publications

Campus Estate Management Magazine


In Security Magazine