In September 2020, CGI sponsored the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival for the fourth consecutive year, where we ran a Design Sprint in collaboration with Newcastle City Council, ENGIE and North-East start-up Wordnerds, and with the participation of local and global partners, including ZMOVE, Climate Change Action North, Salesforce and Microsoft.
Our challenge was simple, but not necessarily easy:
“How can we help to accelerate the journey to net zero using data and emerging tech?”
As part of our preparation, we needed to find out more about the net zero challenge facing organisations and decided to conduct a short survey to understand their views on the Climate Change agenda and assess their readiness to tackle their net zero objectives.
What did we find out?
While over 90% of survey participants said they were concerned about net zero and its impact, and were aware of the ways in which they can reduce their individual carbon footprint, 60% reported a lack of knowledge about their organisation’s stance on net zero. Furthermore, the few plans currently in execution seemed to indicate a lack of the key data required to progress.
In terms of overarching strategies, we saw a polarised result. While 30% of respondents either indicated that their organisation had developed and was now executing an action plan for net zero, 32% indicated they were unsure as to whether their organisation had implemented a strategy, suggesting a lack of communication about the issue at an organisational level.
As well as observing strategic trends for net zero, we also gathered some insights into how organisations are measuring progress. Despite the requirement for measurements to be present for an organisation to achieve net zero, 34% of participants stated that their organisations had not set any targets to track their progress. Another 38% indicated they were unsure as to whether any targets existed, again suggesting a lack of communication from organisations about their approaches towards net zero.
Since these measures will be developed using data from within the organisations, we queried participants as to whether they would have access to the required data. Alarmingly, only 11 % indicated that they were already in a position to support this, whilst 46% stated that they would need to develop further, before being able to measure their progress. The remaining 43% said they were unsure as to whether they had the required data, suggesting that they would need support to determine how they might measure their progress.
What happened during the Design Sprint
These results helped us inform the proceedings of the Design Sprint, which was attended by organisations from a variety of sectors - from the NHS, Local Authorities and Education, to Energy, Environment and Finance - who all contributed to identifying a number of different solutions to the challenge. Two in particular stuck out:
- Carbon Coach – A digital solution that incentivises people to travel less and be more energy efficient both in their professional and personal life
- Compare the Carbon – A regional approach to digital carbon scoring that incentivises people through a range of different drivers like access to green local product and services or gamification and education, based on their persona’s characteristics
Interestingly, all solutions explored required the same foundation data to be successful and this what we’ve been focusing on since.
What became strikingly apparent, from both the survey results and the cross-sector engagement in the Design Sprint, was the firm acknowledgement of the fundamental role that data and technology can play in the challenging journey towards net zero.
The way forward
If the key priority for progressing the net zero agenda is easy access to the right data to measure progress and continuously incentivise citizens and businesses’ ‘green’ behaviours, the first requirement for any organisation is to devise a clear plan with an actionable roadmap and an effective communication strategy.
The second essential requirement is to obtain a deep understanding of what motivates different demographic groups to ‘go greener’, as we discovered when we boosted our research by interviewing a subset of citizens in the North East about what would most incentivise them to improve their green profile. This, in turn, will inform how to best engage with customers, citizens and employees.
Getting the user experience right is another crucial success factor – as user-friendliness and digital inclusiveness are indispensable to ensuring that the process is not perceived as too complicated and that people remain engaged.
Accessing data in a friction-free, secure and scalable manner is a key priority for any successful solution development. At CGI, by promoting a data-driven approach and clear focus on user experience during strategy development, we aim to support organisations in reaching key milestones in their journey to achieving net zero emissions.