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Transforming business: methodologies and mindsets as key pivots

by Futures Centre, Sep 20
11 minutes read

In the face of the escalating climate crisis, businesses and governments around the world are under increasing pressure to take transformative action. Impacts on human rights, food security, and extreme climate events are intensifying and the demands on the public and private sector to act are growing in parallel every day. The traditional approach of focusing solely on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not sufficient to address the interconnected challenges posed by climate change and risks overlooking other impacts. 

Recognising this urgency, Forum for the Future and Capgemini embarked on a collaborative journey in 2022 to explore how impact measurement undertaken by businesses to understand the intended and unintended consequences of their work could allow them to take a pivotal role in shaping a just and regenerative future. This resulted in the ‘Beyond Greenhouse Gases’ project.

There is an imperative for all organisations, regardless of sector and industry, to consider planetary and societal impacts throughout their value chain. This extends to professional services firms; it includes not only the impact of their direct actions and operations but critically the indirect and inadvertent impacts they have as professional services businesses through their client services i.e., their downstream Scope 3 impacts. By embracing impact measurement methodologies that consider both environmental and social factors, businesses can move beyond short-term fixes to solutions that drive long-term positive change.

Over the last year, we have explored how project impact measurement could be redesigned and adopted to be more systemic across the direct and indirect consequences of a business’s client services. Capgemini’s team recognised the gap for a methodology that can directly support the transparent calculation and reporting of carbon impacts via technology or consulting projects. These projects included wider operations projects as well as sustainability projects and there was a crucial need to understand impacts of any project undertaken at the design phases using a long-term approach and understand how it may either contribute to or hinder the achievement of larger sustainability goals.

Expanding on #BeyondGHG

During the 2022 New York Climate Week, Forum for the Future and Capgemini released “Measuring impact: a methodology to inform transformative project design”. This thought leadership report serves as a guide for businesses by outlining the principles of the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact measurement methodology and offers practical insights on how to embed impact measurement into project design and critical decision-making processes. Importantly, it also opens the dialogue to challenge and deepen the impact of traditional disclosure and measurement models. This methodology offers a robust and critical first step for businesses in understanding their true GHG impact and making the shift from net to absolute reductions. Using a pre-emptive approach of embedding this methodology into project design  allows client facing organisations like Cagemini an opportunity to spark a conversation on what it might mean to not only meticulously understand all GHG impacts but also the wider social and environmental impacts of various business activities.

Our three-part podcast series, a special series edition of The Futuring Podcast, featured Sol Salinas (Global Executive Vice President & Sustainability Lead – The Americas) from Capgemini in conversation with innovators, business leaders and sustainability experts. Ranging from the interconnectedness of challenges faced by business to the role of rigorous and agile innovation, the series aimed to give leaders within organisations a moment to pause – to be inspired by the possibilities that truly transformative impact measurement could hold. What would integrating new approaches mean for their sustainability goals and their business’ purpose as a whole? What would they measure and value?

How could impact measurement truly transform the agency of businesses in shifting from carbon myopia to larger climate goals?

Alongside the podcast series, we co-produced a collection of insight pieces which delved further into the role of business and GHG impacts. The series highlighted the gap Capgemini addresses with their innovative methodology, which considers the potential impact a project can have and the inadvertent GHG impacts. 

Building a just and regenerative future is undoubtedly the goal. Through using futures tools such as ‘signal scanning’ and ‘scenarios’, we were able to highlight industry case studies that display leading qualities with their approach to impact measurement, and – looking beyond GHG emissions – also imagine what a positive, alternate future could look like. Transformative and urgent approaches to impact measurement already exist in pockets – but what can we continue to learn from them?

Could deep impact measurement help us towards a just and regenerative future? Amongst the multiple possibilities, we explore a future scenario, one where businesses adopt impact measurement that goes beyond only Scope 1,2 and 3 to create systemic ripples. What does business with more systemic principles look like in the future? What could this mean for the economic system and wider society?

Explore the scenario

Can business transform in time? Political leaders and businesses are being forced to look up and respond to the growing climate crisis. But will the current economic models and policies be delivered at the speed and scale needed, or will net zero remain the bare minimum with us still relying on natural ecosystems to radically reduce carbon dioxide?

Explore the opportunities for businesses to respond in time

To facilitate further engagement and collaboration, we conducted workshops with various teams at Capgemini that hold client-centred projects. We explored the barriers and solutions to the widespread adoption of the GHG impact methodology as a critical first step in project design. These workshops used systemic frameworks such as the Three Horizons, Multi-Level Perspective and 4Cs (Culture, Context, Client and Capability). The models supported participants to discuss and analyse: the status quo (e.g. what challenges are faced by businesses in adopting impact measurement methodologies?), the ideal future vision for using the methodology, and strategies to overcome these challenges. The workshops emphasised the need for a mindset shift, collaboration, and innovation to drive meaningful change in the way businesses approach impact measurement.

The workshops unearthed a collective acceptance of the complex challenge climate holds for businesses but in place of a sense of all hope is lost, emerged a sense of responsibility and agency to evolve our thinking and approaches now rather than waiting for change to happen. In terms of tangible next steps, they surfaced a range of risks that businesses face but also the opportunities that they offer for more responsible and transformative innovation:

Narrative of distrust and anti-ESG pressures: 

Risk: Current impact methodologies and their processes are being scrutinised with concerns around the quality of data collection and potential data biases or gaps. The scepticism as to the robust nature of many methodologies has contributed to the greenwashing narrative, and therefore less external trust in disclosed figures or sustainability efforts to varying extents

Opportunity: Businesses need to enhance the transparency and robustness of their measurement process by sharing their methodologies openly, addressing shortcomings and aiming for accuracy with regular improvements to establish their credibility. 

Increasing external pressures: 

Risk: New legislation such as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the European Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) are mounting compliance pressure on businesses. Auditors are challenging assumptions behind corporate disclosure and expecting deeper transparency.

Opportunity: These regulations can serve as a transformative catalyst, encouraging businesses to invest in more comprehensive and accurate impact measurements. By encouraging rapid innovation and experimentation within measurement methods, businesses could surpass present requirements and raise industry wide standards leading to widespread adoption and change.

Going beyond greenhouse gas emissions:

Risk: Measuring greenhouse gases across the entire lifecycle of a project is one of many steps to becoming just and regenerative. There is a critical need to go beyond and consider wider social and environmental metrics.

Opportunity: Amidst criticism over carbon myopia, businesses can use systemic impact measurement to capture and share how their projects contribute to holistic sustainability ambitions e.g. increasing jobs, preserving and restoring biodiversity, investments in carbon sequestration capabilities, and community resilience.

Role of mindsets:

Risk: The challenge lies in viewing impact methodologies as the solution without any changes in underlying mindsets and approaches. A mindset shift is needed to ensure actions are always taken with a just and regenerative lens.

Opportunity: The risk offers an opportunity to be part of a cultural transformation. Here, that means understanding that embedding methodologies not with the mindset that it “is a silver bullet” but rather a way to enable more transformation through what we choose to value, and how we enable change. This would include challenging the purpose of the business, the values driving it, the way decisions are made and with whom.

Technology won’t save us:

Risk: The tool and methodology address one part of the climate crisis. Climate and sustainability issues do not occur in siloes, and technological fixes can only get us so far.

Opportunity: Data, measurement and evaluation can play a key role in not just simply capturing impacts, but also in catalysing conversations about other impacts and enhancing collaboration amongst actors. Interdisciplinary metrics and approaches could be tested to foster more holistic solutions.

What’s next?

“The era of global boiling has arrived”

UN secretary general, António Guterres, July 2023

In 2023, we have already seen a series of extreme weather events from Europe experiencing its second warmest winter to date, unprecedented monsoon rains in South Korea and Malaysia, and devastating fires in Canada, US, Hawaii, and parts of Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal); collectively bringing us closer to passing 1.5C degree every day. As the climate crisis grows, so does the urgency to act and do so in a meaningful manner. Governments and other enabling actors are releasing increasingly transformative and meaningful disclosures and expectations for businesses to adhere to as the challenge grows. Recently, we saw the introduction of the EU’s deforestation-free product regulation designed to radically reduce and tackle GHG emissions and biodiversity loss globally. While these set the stage for businesses to increase their sustainability ambitions and mitigate impacts, they can potentially leave them ill-equipped to act and operationalise these changes.

Impact measurement has a unique role to play to aid the private sector in its sustainability ambitions. Changing what and how you value your actions and impacts allows businesses to pivot and adopt more transformative transition pathways and scale solutions that not only addresses their GHG impacts but also the impacts on planetary health and people. As an immediate and fairly mature step towards sustainability, transformative impact measurement allows businesses to take a systemic and long term view of not only their actions and services, ones of their collaborators, their industries and eventually that of the whole economic system.

The Beyond Greenhouse Gases project has produced an array of insights, but also left us with some important questions to take forward as we try to build a just and regenerative future: 

  • How can businesses design impact measurement to value not just GHG impacts but also metrics that adhere to safe and just planetary boundaries? 
  • How can businesses implement measurement as a design metric across the life cycle of their work to ensure a more meaningful impact?
  • How can this shift impact public perception of businesses’ sustainability actions?
  • How can a business’s internal governance shift to enable more agile and holistic measurement?

The team at Capgemini are continuing to work towards these questions while also testing the methodology’s scope and applicability in other sectors such as aviation, metals, and marine transportation. They are also widening the scope of calculation and how it can deter or enable decision-making in a more iterative manner at various project levels to create more impact.

Join us

Head to our live research page ‘Beyond Greenhouse Gases’ to access all of the content from our work on how impact methodologies can play a transformative role towards a just and regenerative future. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please tag us on social media using the hashtag #BeyondGHG

About Beyond greenhouse gases: Transforming project design through impact measurement

Co-produced by international sustainability non-profit, Forum for the Future and global information technology company, Capgemini, Beyond greenhouse gases: Transforming project design through impact measurement will explore how businesses can unlock more transformative project design and decision making, through the lens of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Over the next four months, we will be publishing a series of insights and podcasts featuring industry leaders spanning sustainability, technology, and business. We will be exploring: the world of GHG accounting, climate change impacts, the importance of ‘futures’ thinking and how we must adapt our approaches and the way we work.

With thanks to our partner
Beyond greenhouse gases was made possible thanks to the generous support from our partner: Capgemini


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