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How Tech Companies Can Achieve Net-Zero Emissions

Climate change is a complex environmental, social, and economic crisis. According to experts, the world must halve CO2 emissions by around 2030 and reach net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, companies are increasingly adopting net-zero climate targets. Since 2019, net-zero pledges have increased from 16% of the global economy committed to now nearly 70% committed to net-zero by 2050.

The technology sector plays a vital role in developing long-term solutions toward a sustainable future. In particular, the electronic design industry has the opportunity to develop clean energy systems, improve data analytics for environmental applications, and advance machine technology across transportation, construction, and natural resource management.

In addition to enabling these innovations, technology companies can work to minimize their own carbon footprint. By treating corporate sustainability programs like any other business initiative — with a strategic approach and thorough planning process — organizations can more effectively combat climate change. This article includes best practices for strategic corporate sustainability, as well as key learnings from Keysight’s net-zero emissions initiative.

Building a successful net-zero emissions strategy

Achieving net-zero emissions is critical to the future of every technology company and cannot be accomplished as a side project. Sustainability programs are more successful when they are integrated into every aspect of the company – starting with a shared vision for the future and a including a strategic plan that ensures accountability and minimizes risks. Building sustainability into the company-wide operational plan also puts necessary processes in place to continuously improve and adapt to deliver on your net-zero emissions goals.

It’s also important to put a strategy in place that aligns with your organization’s core values and the way you do business. In all of our corporate initiatives, Keysight relies on the Keysight Leadership Model, which outlines five core values and defines our culture and purpose. This model was top-of-mind as we developed our sustainability strategy and is fundamental to achieving our goals.

As a company, we chose to focus our sustainability efforts around a net-zero emissions strategy. That means reducing all GHG emissions generated by our company operations to near zero — and neutralizing any residual emissions by removing the equivalent amount from the atmosphere. To achieve this goal, we prioritized two strategies: energy efficiency and conservation, and renewable energy sources.

Five steps to effective sustainability planning

With an overarching strategy in place, organizations can jump into the planning phase — for Keysight, that means taking the following steps.

1. Define measurable goals

The first step in any strategic planning exercise is to align on objectives. Just like with a business initiative, take the time to identify what you’re trying to achieve with your sustainability efforts — then review existing data to create benchmarks and determine how you’ll measure success.

At Keysight, we used the 2015 Paris Agreement as a framework for our goal-setting — specifically the aim to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. So how does that standard translate to our business operations? As a company, we reviewed our fiscal year 2019 emissions levels and committed to the following goals by end of fiscal year 2040:

2. Set a realistic project timeline

With goals in place, the next step is to create a realistic project timeline for your sustainability initiative. When will you realistically be able to achieve your objectives? For longer-term goals, how will you stay on target? An effective project schedule includes a launch date, checkpoints along the way, and an endpoint.

For example, Keysight committed to achieving net-zero emissions by the end of fiscal year 2040 — ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050. We also set a halfway goal of 55% renewables and 10% energy reduction by 2030 to keep us on track.

3. Align on key tactics

Now that you understand what you want your organization to achieve and when, it’s time to focus on the execution. What actionable tactics will you employ to reach your goal?

For Keysight, we came up with several ways to conserve energy and make our operations more efficient — ranging from simple steps to company-wide conservation projects. These include improving maintenance schedules, electrifying our vehicle fleet and processes, implementing on-site renewable energy installations, partnering with green utility providers, and selectively purchasing vetted offsets to neutralize our residual emissions.

4. Implement a system to track metrics

To ensure your sustainability strategy is being executed on the right timeline, it’s essential to set up proper monitoring and measurement. Whether that’s leveraging existing tracking systems or building new capabilities, keep the maxim “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” in mind when it comes to your sustainability efforts.

For Keysight, we set up robust data management and analytics systems that would be able to track our energy usage and emissions output over the next two decades.

5. Review your progress and optimize

Once you’re executing your sustainability strategy, your work is not complete. Companies must assess their progress and adjust tactics as needed. Regularly refer back to your strategic plan to ensure your project continues to support the agreed-upon goals.

It’s also important to communicate progress to employees, customers, and investors. This helps to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to transparency and motivates key stakeholders to continue supporting the sustainability initiative.

Keysight shares updates on sustainability efforts through our annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, as well as annual shareholder updates, global frameworks and standards, industry working groups, and regular internal communications.

Collaborating on sustainability strategies across the industry

While it’s important to have a sustainability initiative that aligns with your company’s unique goals, don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Environmental challenges are an opportunity for companies to partner with trusted industry peers. Get input on your sustainability strategy from diverse sources to ensure you understand best practices and can make the most impact. This collaboration will lead to more informed decision-making, efficient operations, and successful outcomes.

When companies leverage a strategic planning process in their sustainability efforts, they enhance the effectiveness of their initiative. By taking the time to put a plan in place that aligns with your core values — including defining goals, timeline, tactics, metrics, and optimization — the entire industry, and the planet, will benefit.