July 13, 2021

Building a Business Case for Sustainability Solutions: Carbon Summit Recap

Carbon Summit

The United States has committed to cutting its carbon emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, but achieving this goal will take a commitment from industries of all types. Identifying sustainable solutions to meet this end was one goal of the Carbon Summit. The promotional platform was developed to bring together individuals to identify solutions that fit within their local frameworks and that can be scaled into sustainable solutions across a range of sectors. 

The first Carbon Summit, organized by the nonprofit company Us Energy and co-sponsored by Power Knot, took place in June 2021. Over the course of two days, experts in the fields of agriculture, sustainability, climate change, and renewable technologies shared their visions, and a few consistent themes. These experts agreed that a reduction in the carbon footprint of businesses is imperative, and that it should not just be a commitment directed by the government. Achieving these carbon reductions requires recognition that sustainability takes many forms and requires a community that can build progress together.

Reducing your carbon footprint is a business imperative

There is a revolution taking place right now to make a pronounced reduction in the global carbon footprint. Businesses big and small are thinking about the impact of their actions and how they shape the world. To date, 110 companies have signed the Climate Pledge, a commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, a decade ahead of the goals of the Paris Agreement. More importantly, these companies are showing that their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint isn’t just talk—there are real investments behind the words and a strong case to make for a sustainability ROI. 

As Saskia Feast, Ph.D., board member of Presidio Graduate School and VP Western Region at Natural Capital Partners, wrote for Fast Company, “Today the commercial incentives for taking climate action are proving too big to ignore. Whether it’s the demands of employees, the ability to hire the best talent, managing risks in supply chains, operational continuity, regulation, investor interest, or customer expectations, the business case is clear across all sectors.” It’s why 23% of the companies on the Fortune Global 500 list have made a public commitment that by 2030 they will be either carbon neutral; using all renewable power; or meeting an internally set, science-based target for the reduction of emissions. 

Given the broad range of technologies available today to support these goals, the business case is more favorable today than ever. In fact, many companies have found that sustainability often has a rapid ROI. For example, many commercial food operations find that when they invest in an onsite aerobic biodigester to reduce the food waste sent to the landfill—and the massive amounts of methane that waste emits once sealed within the landfill—they save in a range of areas well beyond trash collection. Analytics on the data gathered by these biodigesters can help these operations identify key areas for reducing operational costs.

Aaron Ratner, Principal of Cross River Infrastructure Partners, noted during the Carbon Summit, “One of the most fascinating parts of the energy transition is despite how optimistic everybody is we still underestimate how fast technology is actually going to bring the cost curves down. It feels like every three years somebody looks at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance cost curves and is shocked at how much faster they’ve come down than we thought. It would be wise to anticipate over the next three to five years that with the power of AI and software coming on, cost curves are going to come down even further.” The same is true of many other technologies supporting carbon reductions—as market penetration speeds forward, costs are coming down dramatically.

Sustainability takes many forms

Sustainability is important on multiple levels. While there’s been a tremendous push in the U.S. to reduce energy use and move to renewable energy sources, sustainability encompasses far more than energy alone. As the Carbon Summit emphasized, agriculture, the way that land is used and built upon, and the emissions that come through these processes, also have an environmental impact that must be addressed.

For example, many of the speakers highlighted the need to evaluate soil health in agricultural processes. On the flip side, it’s becoming increasingly important to responsibly dispose of those agricultural products that become food waste. After all, nearly 40% of food supply is wasted in the U.S., according to the USDA. The carbon footprint left by food waste in the United States is greater than that of the airline industry. Addressing each end of this problem—from more sustainable agriculture to a reduction of food—will be key to truly achieving sustainability. 

It takes a community to create progress

Education and awareness of issues remain critical to building a more sustainable future. Technology is moving so rapidly that it’s important to keep on top of developments that impact your business model. It is important to build a network and a community to create a carbon reduction commitment that keeps pace with change. Resources such as the Carbon Summit can provide an excellent start for building these networks. 

However, another way of looking at the importance of community is to take a closer look at your supply chain network. Many large corporations are increasingly looking at Scope 3 emissions, which includes the carbon emissions that come from outside an organization’s owned assets but still impact their value chain. This includes activities such as transportation to and from meetings and waste disposal, but it also includes the activities of supply chains partners. Organizations should consider their Scope 3 emissions as an opportunity to educate key members of the supply chain and build awareness around carbon reduction strategies and sustainability’s ROI. By helping their suppliers identify opportunities to reduce all manner of waste generated by their processes, organizations can make a broader impact on the world. 

If you’re looking for a partner committed to reducing waste without impacting your bottom line, contact Power Knot today.

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