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The biggest challenge for professional services firms starting their net zero journey

By Julia Neuhold
10th January 2022

Professional service firms all around the world are announcing their commitment to climate action. The last year has seen top law firms, marketing agencies, and consultancies set net zero targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. But it’s not just the big players who are taking action – businesses of all sizes are joining the battle.


The pressure for climate action is on

Calculating a carbon footprint and having a carbon reduction plan is no longer a nice-to-have. Clients, employees, and investors increasingly ask to see an ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) strategy when choosing who to work with, and certifications like B Corp and ISO 14001 are more common than ever. Top market players know that if they want to stay relevant, they’re going to have to jump on the bandwagon.


The biggest challenges for professional services

1. Calculating your footprint

You need to understand your carbon footprint in order to know how to reduce it. This can be quite a lengthy process and is often supported by specialist consultancies. But smaller firms don’t need to hire big consultancies to calculate a footprint. You can use software like the Carbon Intelligence platform to generate an emissions estimate, see where your hotspots and blind spots are, and update your data over the years.


2. Energy efficient and low-carbon workplace

For larger firms, carbon emissions from energy used on site will form a significant proportion of their total carbon footprint. The good news is that this is within your control. By switching to renewable electricity for example, you’ll already be making big steps in the right direction.


3. Sustainable business travel

In the pre-COVID world, business travel was often one of the biggest contributors to total emissions in professional services firms. You can deliver on your goals by both reducing the amount of travel required by employees, and making business travel more sustainable.


4. Supply chain

Emissions from purchased goods and services regularly form the largest part of the carbon footprint in a professional services firm. In fact, our research shows that supply chain emissions can make up to 97% of the total emissions.

The complexity of this challenge is undeniable. If supply chain emissions count towards your total footprint, then your suppliers’ emissions are your emissions. For professional service firms this is particularly relevant, as not only are you required to look at your own supply chain, but your clients will be asking the same of you as their supplier.

Tackling supply chain emissions is by far the most complex and time-consuming task for any firm on a decarbonisation journey. The sooner you start with it, the better.


Our research shows that supply chain emissions can account for as much as 97% of their total emissions


Hidden depths in your supply chain

We’ve already established that the majority of your carbon emissions lie in the supply chain. And you are not the only one. Imagine an infinite, interconnected network of suppliers: You are your client’s supplier and have your own suppliers, who will also have their own suppliers, and so on.

The sooner all these suppliers can link up and share carbon data with one another, the better. It will save hundreds of work hours and millions of pounds further down the line.


What do I need to do?

  1. Gather accurate data
    You’re going to need data on the emissions of each and every one of your suppliers. This data can come from public data sources (if your suppliers are already reporting on their carbon footprint), or from your suppliers directly. The best way to do this is with software that automatically pulls together and regularly updates all these data points into dashboards.
  2. Engage with your suppliers
    Reach out to your suppliers to fully understand their environmental record. You’ll want to know whether they have a carbon reduction plan, whether they’ve set official targets, and what changes they are making to their business in the mid-term. You’re going to keep track of this info in comprehensive dashboards as so called “supplier maturity” will change over time.
  3. Take action
    Once you’ve gathered all the data you should be able to make informed decisions on how to change your supply chain to lower the carbon footprint of your firm.


Network visualisation


How Carbon Intelligence is building a network of suppliers

At Carbon Intelligence we’ve measured and helped reduce emissions for 60% of the UK’s top law firms, global marketing services leaders, and executive search firms. We’ve used this experience to build a future-proof platform that calculates your carbon footprint and helps reduce emissions across Scope 1, 2, and 3. With a huge existing database of public and Carbon Intelligence data and smart supplier engagement functionality, the Carbon Intelligence platform is the perfect solution for you to start your journey towards net zero. Get on the network today, calculate your footprint, and connect with your suppliers.


If you want to find out more about how Carbon Intelligence can help you become a sustainability leader in the industry, please email info@carbon.ci


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