Tag Archives: customer success stories

Best practice examples and insights for communicating your net zero journey with SEFIANI [with video]

There has been an increasing focus on ‘net-zero’ in the past few months, so from a communications perspective, it is difficult to differentiate your net-zero journey from everyone else’s. As more companies embark on their climate action journey, the challenge many face is whether to talk about it and how and when to meaningfully engage with stakeholders.

I recently had the pleasure to interview Robyn Sefiani, CEO & Reputation Counsel of Sefiani for the second episode of my “Driving Net Profit with Zero Emissions show, see video below. This blog post summarises our major discussion points.

Communicating your climate action efforts is important

In the past, there was no social media to connect and inform people, and importantly to galvanise action. A large proportion of the population was not engaged. Today, people are better informed and are demanding action.

Investors are also putting companies under increased scrutiny to disclose their climate risks and responses, for example through the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the CDP.

The power of consumers and shareholders is pushing organisations to a more responsible position, including towards the need to reach net-zero emissions. Companies cannot afford to sit on the sidelines, which could result in damaged reputation, risk to operations, missed market opportunities, boycotts and a weaker talent pool.

However, many companies are announcing net-zero targets without a plan. They announce a timebound ambition to be net-zero without a roadmap, interim milestones or any clarity on how net-zero will be achieved and communicated to their stakeholders. Some companies are also reticent to communicate proactively, perhaps because they’ve been criticised in the past.

Saying nothing is no longer acceptable.

Changing consumerism and social licence to operate

According to a CapGemini study from 2020, 79% of consumers are willing to change their purchase preferences based on social responsibility, inclusiveness and environmental impact.

Taking this a step further, a study by Insites Consulting showed that 25% of Australians had boycotted a brand for sustainability reasons, compared to 14% just over twelve months ago. This behaviour is skewed towards younger generations, with 41% of Millennials reporting boycotting behaviour compared to just 6% of Baby Boomers.

Nowadays, people are genuinely looking at actions versus promises on sustainability and climate. People are watching to see if companies are doing what they said they would do. There are also plenty of activist groups with far-reaching influence that will call companies out when they fall short of their promises.

At the same time, people are also looking to support companies or brands that are doing the right thing. There is a huge opportunity for companies that are progressing with their net zero plans to meaningfully engage their audiences and galvanise support for their sustainability journey.

No room for greenwashing

Audiences today are too savvy to be fooled by greenwashing. Companies are facing intense scrutiny for taking shortcuts or failing to communicate with honesty, integrity and authenticity.

Brookfield Asset Management’s Mark Carney, a key climate finance leader and vice-chair at Brookfield, ‘walked back’ his remarks after claiming pollution had been neutralised across its portfolio. This is a company with an enormous renewables business, but it remains active in fossil fuels. The position of the company was that the renewables business compensated for the company’s other activities, but the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) does not count avoided emissions in its framework, which means the firm can’t use avoided emissions to meet net-zero claims without addressing its other operations.

In another example reported by Bloomberg, Rio Tinto, announced a 15% target reduction in operational emissions by 2030, which it claimed aligned with a 1.5° C pathway. However, climate activist group, Market Forces, disagreed with their calculations and said that alignment would require a 50% reduction in emissions over the same timeframe. Rio Tinto has now agreed to be more transparent with its targets and performance and will disclose short, medium and long-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions in its own operations.

One final example, was BMO, a Canadian Bank, that came under fire for its net-zero pledge, which was dismissed as “unambitious”. Adam Scott, director of Shift Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health found that “a bank that is claiming climate leadership while financing fossil fuel pipelines is either greenwashing or doesn’t understand the urgent action the climate crisis necessitates.”

For many companies, aligning to the Paris Agreement requires learnings, risks and operating in new ways, and not everyone is going to get it right. Instead of misleading stakeholders, acknowledging a failure can help a brand to build social capital. This was the case for Charity Water, a non-profit organisation that disclosed that one of its water drilling projects had failed after one year. The head of Charity Water openly communicated the failed project, and came back with an action plan. When the team returned to drill a few months later, many more people had become invested in the story and were willing them on to succeed.

Best practice in communicating your climate action

As companies step up and transition to net zero, the question for many is what, when, where and how to communicate their journey.

With the rapid increase in public focus on transparency in corporate communications over the past five years, it is important to take a considered and strategic approach to communications across all stakeholder groups.

Our top 7 tips for companies to consider when communicating their net zero journey are:

  1. Regularly communicate proof of action: Frequent and consistent communication allows companies to build a voice on climate action and ultimately, that will help to build a bank of social capital.
  2. Differentiate yourself: Consider what your journey means for your company and your stakeholders, and how this is different from your competitors. As with any example of communications, no company will achieve cut-through if they cannot differentiate themselves.
  3. Be true to your brand: Demonstrate that sustainability is in line with your own brand positioning and not an add-on.
  4. Know your audiences: Different audiences have different expectations of engagement. A targeted multi-channel communications plan will allow you to engage with your audiences in a meaningful way and work towards establishing trust. Consider how you can empower your stakeholders – employees, shareholders, customers and partners – to take small actions that align with your commitment and come along with the company on its sustainability journey.
  5. Don’t discount employees: With the rise of ‘glass box’ company culture – a culture of transparency, prizing visibility of the company’s values, decisions and action – companies that have sustainability as part of their internal culture, will see it amplified through their employees.
  6. Be transparent: If you make a mistake or miss a milestone, take your audiences on your journey. Be honest, be human, and reiterate the goals of the journey.
  7. Keep it simple and inspiring: Audiences do not want the jargon or the doom and gloom. They want to know that you are taking action, through simple, clear and inspiring communications. A study by Greenbiz showed that videos positively depicting nature’s beauty and innovative climate change solutions were 50 times more effective at driving views than negative messaging or even a combination of positive and negative.

Communication plays a pivotal role in supporting a company’s net zero journey. There is a huge opportunity out there for companies and brands that can strategically use communications to bring their stakeholders on their journey with them.

About Sefiani Communications Group

Sefiani is a leading Australian strategic communications firm that helps companies enhance and protect brands and reputations Through a media relations, social and digital communications and stakeholder engagement, Sefiani solves complex business challenges and seizes opportunities for clients. The firm also works with clients to help them manage and share their sustainability journey in a way that is meaningful to their stakeholders, mitigates issues and builds brand reputation.

If you want to get in touch with Sefiani, please visit the following:

About 100% Renewables

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate action strategies and accompanying financing plans. If you need help with developing your climate action plan, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Net-zero case study: Canada Bay Council and community emissions pathway

100% Renewables would like to congratulate the City of Canada Bay Council, who has committed to net-zero emissions, on winning the Local Government NSW’s (LGNSW) Excellence in the Environment Awards’ Local Sustainability Award.

100% Renewables is proud to have developed two studies which informed the City’s Emissions Reduction Action Plan (ERP), specifically:

  1. Emissions pathway study – Council operations
  2. Emissions pathway study – Community

How Council developed its Net-Zero Emissions Reduction Plan

Canada Bay Council tasked 100% Renewables with the development of two technical studies to understand how emissions can be reduced for both Council operations and the community.

The technical studies of the ERP drew on extensive analysis of Council’s emissions profile, population and urban density projections, renewable energy trends, stakeholder engagement, as well as an assessment and prioritisation of savings opportunities.

As part of this project, a community survey was run, and two workshops were held to gauge the community’s perspective on what Council and the community should prioritise with regards to climate change and reducing emissions. We also performed site visits across Council’s facilities and ran workshops with Council staff and the Environmental Advisory Committee to get input into the development of the two studies.

Target-setting approach

Council was committed to setting climate action targets which considered Australia’s global emission reduction obligations, goals set by other councils in NSW, as well as input from the community and Council staff. The ERP sets out the following ambitious, but achievable carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.

  • Corporate target: Net-zero emissions from Council operations by 2030
  • Community target: Net-zero emissions from the City of Canada Bay community by 2050

The pathway to net-zero for Councils operations

The pathway to net-zero emissions for Council’s operations is supported by 62 cost-effective actions that Council can take to reduce its corporate emissions, which include:

  • Continued energy efficiency upgrades to buildings and sporting fields, including fuel switching
  • Street lighting upgrades to LED technology
  • Increasing the amount of energy generated from onsite solar PV systems
  • Adjusting practices, basic controls and O&M procedures to reduce energy waste such as high night-time demand
  • Fleet emissions reduction from hybrid vehicles, and in future potentially electric vehicles
  • Adopting sustainable procurement policies for all capital works and purchases of energy-using equipment
  • Increasing the amount of renewable energy sourced via power purchase agreements (PPA)

The pathway to reducing Council’s corporate emissions to net-zero is illustrated in Figure 1.

Pathway to net zero by 2030 for Canada Bay Council’s operations
Figure 1: Pathway to net-zero by 2030 for Canada Bay Council’s operations

The pathway to net-zero for community emissions

Alongside the target for Councils operations, a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 for the community was set by consulting the community. Council will assist the community in achieving its target by

  • Leading by example
  • Empowering the community through initiatives and programs about buying renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Supporting local community groups and schools to install solar PV systems
  • Advocating for sustainable transport and engagement around waste initiatives

These initiatives and programs were quantified and broken down into 33 discreet actions to reduce emissions to net-zero, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 for the Canada Bay community
Figure 2: Pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 for the Canada Bay community

Canada Bay’s success in reducing carbon emissions

The City has a long history of emission reduction and climate change adaptation programs. Some of these initiatives are listed below:

  • Greenhouse Action Plan 2014, which highlighted 70 actions that Council could invest in to reduce emissions. The plan also suggested targets such as replacing traditional energy supply with alternative renewable sourced by 2020.
  • Community Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP) 2014 saw Council invest in major energy efficiency upgrades across four of Councils largest energy consuming sites. Collective outcomes after the completion of the CEEP saw energy use and carbon emissions decrease by almost 32%, and energy costs reduce by almost 25%.
  • Small sites LED upgrade saw LEDs replacing existing lighting across six sites resulting in a combined energy reduction of 20%.
  • Installation of 134 kW of solar PV at Concord Library, City Services Depot and the Civic Centre
  • Implementation of LED lighting at several sporting fields as part of refurbishment and new field activation works
  • In October 2018 Council committed to purchasing 20% of its total electricity consumption from the Moree Solar Farm for 11.5 years commencing 1 July 2019
  • Council is participating in the SSROC Residential Road Street Light LED Replacement Program in partnership with Ausgrid. The current spot replacement program will be augmented by an accelerated bulk upgrade program in the short term.
  • Offsetting of emissions from major Council events such as Ferragosto and Concord Carnival

In the Canada Bay community, there has also been a significant increase in emissions reduction by residents installing solar panels on houses and businesses. At the time of development of the ERP, less than 10% of dwellings in the Canada Bay LGA had solar installed, with the total capacity being 8,490 kW as of September 2019. A year later, the solar capacity had improved significantly to 12,321 kW, which is a 45% increase.

Canada Bay Council is one among many leading councils showing that achieving ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals is both feasible and cost-effective. 100% Renewables is proud to have played a role in helping this leader through the development of their Emissions Reduction Plan. We look forward to Canada Bay Council’s continued success in reaching its carbon and renewable energy targets in the coming years.

pdf-iconNet-Zero Case study “Canada Bay Council and Community – Emissions pathway
Start Download

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate action strategies, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Action Strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.