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Is there a 'quick, easy, cheap' way to net zero?

Is there a 'quick, easy, cheap' way to net zero?

The race to Net Zero is on but, with slippery definitions of what this entails and varying levels of commitments from businesses, how will this challenge be solved before 2050?

If you want to decarbonise your business, the quickest, easiest and cheapest way for your business to become more environmentally friendly could be to make sure that the electricity that you buy is renewable - that is, that your power comes from sources that do not deplete the Earth's resources.

Indeed, according to Eon, the number of customers wanting to use renewable electricity has steadily increased over the past decade as businesses have become more aware of the climate impacts of using fossil fuels and pressures have grown to become more sustainable from customers, investors and employees. More recently, demand has picked up as growing numbers of companies have committed to Net Zero targets or their own sustainability targets.

Communication is key

But to meet stakeholder expectations, you need to know what you are getting. Make sure that you are buying sufficient renewable electricity to cover 100 per cent of your supply and that you know the actual sources. You also need to be able to communicate what you are doing, says Mike Scott, head of products and propositions at npower Business Solutions: "Make sure any deal you sign up for has been independently audited and assured so you can be confident that all of your Scope 2 emissions are covered as part of your emissions reporting mandate."

"Eon customers have become much more aware of the impacts of fossil fuels,"adds Jay Chauhan, I&C Propositions Manager at Eon. "There has been a great movement towards renewables and suppliers including Eon and npower Business Solutions have responded to that. Most large business customers are going straight for 100 per cent renewable. They want to demonstrate to their stakeholders their CSR credentials and commitment to the environment."

At the same time, technological developments and the increasing scale of the industry have made renewable energy much more accessible. But there are challenges here too.

This article is sponsored by Eon.

Deloitte launches programme to educate all 330,000 employees on the climate crisis

Deloitte launches programme to educate all 330,000 employees on the climate crisis

Entire global workforce is to undertake training programme that has been developed in conjunction with WWF

All 330,000 employees at global consultancy giant Deloitte are to be enrolled in a climate learning programme designed to strengthen their understanding of both the huge risks presented by the climate crisis and the opportunities that could arise from the push to decarbonise the world's economy.

The programme has been developed in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and aims to "inform, challenge and inspire Deloitte employees to learn about the impacts of climate change and empower them to confidently navigate their contribution to addressing climate change by making responsible choices at home and at work, and in advising our clients", the company said in a statement released yesterday.

The firm said the initiative makes it the first global business to run a climate focused training programme on this scale, adding that improving the 'climate literacy' of its staff and building out the skills required to tackle the climate crisis should inspire its employees to take action.

"To address climate change, we need to understand it. Through dedicated learning, we can help make the right choices necessary to combat the crisis," said Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO. "Deloitte's climate learning program is a powerful tool to unlock the climate ambition of our most valuable asset and superpower - our people. By educating and inspiring all 330,000 of us, we can help drive collective action at the scale required to help address climate change."

The digital learning program comprises a module which features videos, 'interactive data visualisations', and personal testimonials from Deloitte staff etailing how they are already taking climate action around the globe.

The training programme is now due to be rolled out over the next six months.

Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund, said: "Climate change brings global impacts that demand global solutions. But we also know that companies have a big role to play in driving progress, and that the actions and voices of their employees really matter. Leading companies today are not only setting science-based targets to slash emissions and drive progress through their supply chains. They're also engaging their customers and employees to make smarter choices and build momentum for broader societal progress. This new initiative from Deloitte taps into that trend and aims to bring it to scale."

The programme forms part of Deloitte's WorldClimate strategy, which was launched last year and set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and promote green operations across all the regions in which the firm operates.

Dropbox drops details of 2030 net zero strategy

Dropbox drops details of 2030 net zero strategy

Company announces its data centre storage capacity is now running on 100 per cent renewable power

Data sharing giant Dropbox has provided more detail on its plan to hit carbon neutrality across its operations by 2030, revealing that its data centre storage server power is now covered by 100 per cent  renewable electricity.

In an update released yesterday, the cloud based data storage giant said it was making progress towards its goals of achieving 'carbon neutrality' for its Scope 1 and Scope 2 direct emissions, and its indirect Scope 3 emissions from business travel.

"As a company that runs on data centres, we recognise the impact we have on global energy consumption, and we're proud to announce that all of our data centre storage server power is covered by 100 per cent renewable electricity," it said. "This means when you're storing your data with us, you're not leaving a carbon footprint."

Dropbox said it had achieved its 100 per cent renewable target by focusing on three focus areas: "maintaining best-in-class power usage effectiveness, optimising overall power consumption, and sourcing more renewable energy."

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is an efficiency metric that tracks how efficiently a data centre operator is leveraging the power it consumes.

"We're proud to say that our PUE rating is top of the class in our industry - by 2020, we were operating at 17 per cent below the industry average," it said. "We achieved this by implementing outside air economisation and thermal containment solutions and by maximising power utilisation throughout our spaces."

The company also pointed to the business benefit of achieving its target, citing the Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer which found that customers are 5.7 per cent more likely to trust companies that embrace sustainable practices. 

The firm said it is also investing in technologies to automatically power down servers when not in use, which saves an estimated five per cent in power use over each server's lifespan.

The company is also working on driving down the use of power when a server is idling, which could yield energy savings of a further 50 per cent.

"In the last year and a half, we've reduced our data centre carbon footprint by 15 percent. In the coming years, we'll continue to find smart, innovative ways to cut back and reach our overall sustainability goals by 2030," the company said.

In the post the firm also revealed an eye-catching method of driving employee engagement for its sustainability goals that sees it encourage staff to use volunteer time for environmental causes. Dropbox employees are entitled to 32 hours paid time off each year to work for a cause close to their hearts.

Big Clean Swith: IKEA to offer customers £35 of free green energy

Big Clean Swith: IKEA to offer customers £35 of free green energy

Customers who use the Big Clean Switch initiative to move energy suppliers are in line for money off their bill

IKEA's customers are to be offered £35 of free green energy if they switch to a green energy supplier through the company's website, after the retail giant moved to expand its partnership with green energy platform Big Clean Switch.

Big Clean Switch runs a comparison website helping consumers select green energy suppliers. In addition to the partnership with IKEA, it works with a host of consumer brands including Tesco, Sky, and Nando's  in a bid to help businesses and consumers make the transition to cleaner energy tariffs.

The free energy offered as part of the IKEA deal is exclusive of any other savings or promotions run by green energy firms themselves, the company said.

Outlining the rationale behind the promotion and tie-in with Big Clean Switch, IKEA pointed to the impact of 18 months of lockdowns on household bills. "With more time spent at home over the last year than ever before, energy bills have soared - which is why IKEA is helping its customers to switch to a low-cost tariff from a number of different green suppliers," the company said.

The initiative is also designed to complement IKEA's wider environmental goals, which have seen parent company Ingka Group pledge to invest €4bn in renewable energy projects as it works to slash emissions across the company's entire value chain.

"With everything we do we hope to enable and inspire people to take small, affordable and simple steps towards living more sustainably," said Greg Lucas, sustainability manager at IKEA UK. "Millions of homes across the UK are already benefiting from IKEA products and services that help to reduce waste, energy and water, as well as to save money, which is why we're so pleased to be able to partner with Big Clean Switch and help our customers switch to green energy suppliers too."

Jon Fletcher, CEO of Big Clean Switch, said the site aimed to encourage bill payers away from energy contracts that do not help the environment - an aim that would be aided by the link up with IKEA.

"Too many UK households are put off switching supplier because they think it will be too much trouble or they don't trust the energy market and as a result, they're often paying hundreds of pounds more than they should be," he said. "We're working with IKEA to provide a different kind of switching service that provides their customers with the support and reassurance they need to make the switch to greener, more affordable energy."

IKEA has already made a number of investments to switch its own energy use to renewables in the UK. All UK stores use LED lighting, while 13 stores have solar panels installed. Six stores across the UK and Ireland currently do not rely on fossil fuels at all, and are 100 per cent powered by renewable energy sources, the company said.

From UK to Asia, coal plant closure plans advance

From UK to Asia, coal plant closure plans advance

Uniper confirms closure date for its Ratcliffe coal-fired power station, as consortium of top banks reveal plan to accelerate Asian coal power phase out

This week has seen a further blow to the global coal market in both industrialised and emerging economies, as the UK's coal power phase out entered its end game and some of the world's top banks revealed plans to accelerate the closure of coal power plants in Asia.

Energy giant Uniper today confirmed it is to close its Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power plant in September 2024 once it has fulfilled its current contract to provide capacity under the UK's Capacity Market scheme. It also announced that one of its generating units at the site would be closing earlier in September 2022.

"We are taking this opportunity to reduce coal generation on the GB system by closing one of the four 500MW units, two years ahead of the government's announced coal phase out date," the company said in a statement. "Uniper's strategy includes our ambitious target to make our power stations in Europe carbon neutral by 2035 and this action is part of our ongoing decarbonisation commitment, whilst still continuing to provide reliable power to support the GB system. The remaining three units at Ratcliffe will continue to provide reliable power to support the GB system until the end of September 2024, in line with our existing Capacity Market agreements with the government."

The move is the latest in a string of coal power plant closures in the UK over the past decade, as generators have been squeezed by falling renewables costs and rising carbon prices that have left coal power plants at a major financial disadvantage to clean power generators and lower emission gas plants.

Uniper said it would now work closely with employees and unions, local councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and universities as it look to advance plans to turn the Ratcliffe site into a "zero-carbon technology and energy hub for the East Midlands".

"We see the site development creating employment based around modern industrial and manufacturing uses, with sustainable onsite energy generation," the company said, adding that it has already submitted a detailed application for planning permission for the development of an energy recovery facility on part of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station site.  

"Over the past 54 years Ratcliffe power station and our colleagues, have made a critical contribution to power generation in the UK," Mike Lockett, UK country chairman and chief commercial office for power at Uniper. "We're proud of the contribution that Ratcliffe has, and continues to make in keeping the UK's lights on. And we'd like to say a big thank you to all those colleagues past and present, who have been part of Ratcliffe's story. We're now looking at what comes next for the site and exploring options with our local and regional stakeholders."

The news came just hours after Reuters and the BBC reported that a coalition of some of the world's largest financial institutions are working on a plan to pull forward the closure dates for coal power plants across Asia, which remains the main growth market for coal globally.

According to reports the initiative has been developed by UK insurance giant Prudential and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and has secured backing from a number of major banks, including HSBC and Citi.

The mooted initiative would see top investors acquire coal power plants in Asia and work to close them ahead of the end of their projected lifespan. The ADB is said to be hopeful the plan can be finalised ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, with a pilot programme in development for a leading south east Asian market.

Aspects of the plan are yet to be finalised including what to do with the plants after they are closed and what role carbon credits could play. However, it is hoped that financial institutions could be convinced to take lower than usual returns on their investments in a programme that could play a big role in helping them meet their stated net zero emission goals.

"By purchasing a coal-fired power plant with, say, 50 years of operational life ahead of it and shutting it down within 15 years we can cut up to 35 years of carbon emission," Ahmed M Saeed, ADB's Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Don Kanak, chairman of Prudential Insurance Growth Markets, who developed the initiative, told the broadcaster that accelerating the retirement of existing coal plants was critical if the world is to meet its climate goals. "This is especially true in Asia where existing coal fleets are big and young and will otherwise operate for decades," he added.

Amazon bolsters second-hand product offering with fresh reseller initiatives

Amazon bolsters second-hand product offering with fresh reseller initiatives

Online retail giant launches two new reseller programmes it claims could give more than 300 million items a second life

Amazon has opened the door to more second-hand products being offered by sellers on its site, yesterday announcing two initiatives which it said would make it easier for businesses to resell customer-returned items or overstock inventory.

The two new Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) programmes aim to provide small businesses with another way to profit from selling items online while also helping to build a more circular economy, according to the online retail and tech giant.

Once fully rolled out, Amazon said it expected the FBA programmes to give more than 300 million products a second life each year.

"Customer returns are a fact of life for all retailers, and what to do with those products is an industry-wide challenge," said Libby Johnson McKee, director for Amazon WW returns, recommerce, and sustainability. "These new programs are examples of the steps we're taking to ensure that products sold on Amazon - whether by us or our small business partners - go to good use and don't become waste."

One of the two new programmes announced yesterday - FBA Liquiditions - is already live in the US, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and is also set to launch soon in the UK. It provides sellers on Amazon with the option to use the firm's existing wholesale liquidation partners and technology to recoup potential losses on returned and overstock inventory, the company explained.

Previously, a seller on Amazon would either need to have returned items sent back to them by customers, or have Amazon donate the product on their behalf. Amazon said FBA Liquidations was therefore designed to help firms recover some value from their returned and overstock items through selling in bulk, while also reducing waste and environmental impacts.

In addition, FBA Grade and Resell - which gives third party sellers the option to sell returned products on Amazon as 'used' items instead of having them sent back or donated - is now also available in the UK and the US, with a view to launching in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain by early next year, the company said.

It means that when an item is returned by a customer it can be automatically be routed to the new FBA Grade and Resell programme, at which point Amazon will evaluate the item and grade it along its four standard conditions for resale: 'used', 'like new', 'very good', and 'acceptable'.

The moves follow the launch of FBA Donations across the US, UK. and France in 2019 and 2020, offering sellers the chance to donate their returned or overstock items to Amazon's charity partners, which the firm claims has since seen 67 million items donated to good causes.

The new initiatives come in the wake of significant criticism in recent months over the company's waste policies, after an ITV News investigation in June claimed the firm was destroying millions of items of unsold stock - many often new and unused - every year at just one of its UK warehouses.

But McKee said the latest sustainability efforts announced this week were just two of a raft of Amazon programmes designed to give more products a second life, such as its Amazon Warehouse, Amazon Outlet, and Amazon Renewed, and Pre-owned Amazon Devices services.

"Along with existing programs like FBA Donations, we hope these help build a circular economy, maximise reuse, and reduce our impact on the planet," added McKee. "And we're excited that these programs will also help the businesses selling on Amazon reduce costs and grow their businesses - it's a win for our partners, customers, and communities."

The latest commitments form part Amazon's broader green aims to become a net zero emission company by 2040, and to power its business with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.

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