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Podcast: how to build a strategic case for climate action

Listen to SSE’s Rachel McEwen and Telefónica UK’s Vijay Chouhan talk about embedding sustainability into business operations.

At Energy Live News EXPO on 5 November 2019, SSE’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Rachel McEwen, and Telefónica UK’s Energy and Sustainability Manager, Vijay Chouhan, discussed the strategic rationale for business action on climate change, and answered questions from the floor. You can listen to the talk here.

Rachel began by outlining SSE’s 2030 Goals. “Executive pay is aligned to the achievement of those goals. I think it’s a moot point whether or not those executives are more inspired because of that remuneration – the truth is that our first three goals are about climate action, and if we achieve those we will be enormously commercially successful.”

“The scientific case is crystal-clear, as we know because of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report,” said Rachel. “1.5°C warming is going to be more impactful than we thought, and the next 10 years are absolutely critical if we are to have any chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

“In the UK 80% of the public are concerned about climate change – that’s effectively unanimity.” Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough have played key roles in drawing attention to this issue. Rachel also revealed an unlikely third hero of the movement for climate action – discover who by listening here. Along with this, the investor community have been increasingly taking climate-related risks and opportunities into account in their financial decisions.

All of this combined creates a compelling business case, which presents some strategic opportunities for SSE. For example: “SSE opened its latest offshore wind farm, Beatrice, in July, with 0.5GW capacity – an investment of £2.5 billion, the largest private investment ever in Scotland. Our next offshore wind farm is probably going to be at Dogger Bank with our partners Equinor, with 3.6GW capacity, and that will cost £9 billion. The cost of building has reduced in half.”

SSE is not the only company looking to de-carbonise its business model. Rachel said: “A renewables company like us can provide the zero-carbon energy that the rest of the economy needs. Telefónica UK (O2) is a great example of a customer demanding not just climate action but also improved sustainability credentials throughout their supply chain.”

Vijay explained that Telefónica’s sustainability programme focuses on three main points. He highlighted the importance of the supply chain – which SSE Business Energy is part of – in helping Telefónica meet its goals.

Telefonic 2020 2030 Goals

“Of our carbon emissions, 90% sits outside of our operational control,” said Vijay. “It sits within our supply chain.

“To do business with O2 means subscribing to certain conditions. Our suppliers must have a carbon efficiency roadmap in place, and sign up to reducing their waste, diverting from landfill and cutting water consumption. We hold regular reviews, checking to make sure suppliers are meeting their commitments. We hold them to account, and ask them what more they can do.

There is also a commitment for our suppliers to purchase renewable energy. By adding a clause into our new contract, we’re giving them the means to do that – allowing them to procure green energy at a reduced rate from SSE Business Energy.”

To hear Vijay talk about his best and worst examples of supply chain partners, and answer questions from the audience, you can listen to the talk here.

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