Putting Australia’s net zero target at risk, more than a third of large businesses are tipped to fail on their carbon promises at the current pace of change.
Some 34 per cent of large Australian organisation are poised to miss their net zero emissions by 2050 targets and instead serve up a “delivery deficit”, according to research released on Tuesday.
“Australian organisations understand the urgency of the climate crisis – with floods and bushfires we’re on the front lines of it,” Brett Shoemaker, director of sustainability at Microsoft Australia, told AAP.
“The struggle is with the transition to more sustainable ways of operating.”
Commissioned by Microsoft and led by Chris Brauer at Goldsmiths, University of London, a research team questioned 686 senior decision makers and 1030 employees.
While large organisations have set strong targets and developed sound strategies, they are struggling because of a lack of skills in-house, the report found.
As well as widening their talent pools to find suitable candidates for operational roles, organisations are urged to spend more on training their existing employees in the skills they need.
More than three-quarters of workers (77 per cent) surveyed said businesses need to improve training programs to increase sustainability skills and environmental expertise.
Some 39 per cent of employees said their boss offered no incentives for sustainable practices such as changing to low-emissions vehicles or recycling.
Most businesses know what’s required but only half (51 per cent) are spending on necessary R&D and technology.
“We’re going to need both nature-based and engineered solutions,” Mr Shoemaker said.
And only 11 per cent of organisations are currently mapping their carbon emissions, making meaningful progress difficult.
He said carbon markets can also play a role in ensuring high integrity in the offsets purchased, assuming those offsets are for the final hard-to-abate emissions.
“The focus should always be on the reduction itself.”
Renewable energy adoption is strong overall, although it varies widely across industries.
Construction is a leader with 90 per cent of firms using renewable sources of energy.
More than half are working to improve their supply chain sustainability, but many links are missed when the focus is company by company or country specific, the report found.
HOW TO ACCELERATE TO NET ZERO:
1. Decarbonise products, services and operations.
2. Upskill and invest in R&D to close the innovation gap.
3. Embed sustainability in the broader business strategy.
4. Account for natural capital to accurately assess growth.
5. Don’t forget sustainability gaps in the supply chain.
6. Develop sustainable infrastructure, including energy.
7. Adopt new technology to become an “energy citizen”.