An impressive 85% of companies have set net-zero strategies to shrink their carbon emissions, but the majority are failing to incorporate them into daily business operations, according to a survey from the environment, social, and governance (ESG) software, data, and consulting firm Sphera.
One major reason is that responsibility for net zero is too heavily concentrated at the top, Sphera found in its survey of 300 operations managers in industrial sectors across the U.K., U.S., and Germany. Fully 95% or respondents said that accountability for net zero lies solely with C-suite executives and the board of directors, and 42% of operations managers receive little or no encouragement to contribute suggestions on improving the environmental sustainability of business operations.
As a result of those implementation hurdles, only 41% of operations managers have seen sustainability strategies produce significant changes in daily practices, and 32% say their firms do not align with science-based emissions targets, Chicago-based Sphera said.
Despite those stumbles, the survey showed mid-level employees have a growing desire to share responsibility for climate change goals, with 40% of operations managers calling for carbon targets to be included in their performance reviews. Those operations managers also strive to act more sustainably in their personal lives, with 35% describing themselves as highly supportive of the need for radical climate action and 32% driving an electric car.
“With high levels of personal and professional commitment to sustainability, operations managers have emerged as the secret weapon for businesses in the fight for more sustainable operations,” Paul Marushka, Sphera’s CEO and president, said in a release. “Yet many companies are experiencing a gap between carbon pledges and operational practices because of limited involvement by operations managers. Our report finds that operations managers have the influence and desire to help drive decarbonization across business operations, supplier, and partner networks. Now, what they need are the data, software, and best practices to do so.”
According to Marushka, the missing link between business pledges and practices is more transparent tracking of decarbonization results. Sphera’s report found that operations managers are consistently calling for more frequent measurement of progress towards decarbonization at every level. “The key is to treat emissions reduction targets like financial targets, which are included in everything from quarterly reviews to employee KPIs. Existing technologies and content, such as data analytics and AI, already enable companies to rapidly record and reduce their carbon footprint,” he said.