Mar 09,2022

Sustainability series: Seizing the net zero opportunity – together

Mind the gap. Or, rather, close it. That, for me, is the overriding message for Microsoft UK partners in our recent study of how UK organisations are faring on the road to net zero.

Conducted by independent researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and available to read here, the study found strong intent among UK organisations to embed environmental sustainability in their operations. However, it also revealed a distinct lack of progress in actually doing so. To the point that three in five (59 per cent) are currently set to miss the government’s 2050 net zero target.

A unique opportunity

Of course, this ambition-action gap makes for worrying reading in terms of those organisations’ ability to shrink their climate footprint and achieve their sustainability goals. Yet as we see in the findings of our new supplementary research report, Partnering to accelerate the journey to net zero, it also presents a compelling opportunity for the Microsoft UK Partner Network – both environmentally and commercially.

More than two in five (44 per cent) Microsoft UK partners say customers are already asking for technologies or services that will help them reduce their negative climate impact. Meanwhile, three in five (60 per cent) UK leaders believe technological innovation is vital to improving environmental sustainability in the UK.  Over half plan to shift their focus to more intensive use of carbon emissions measurement tools (56 per cent), RPA (51 per cent), machine learning (53 per cent) and digital twins (55 per cent) within the next five years.

Given the Microsoft UK Partner Network’s broad reach and deep expertise in delivering innovative technology and consulting solutions, members are uniquely positioned to supply this burgeoning demand and, in doing so, help UK organisations close the ambition-action gap.

Young small business male with laptop in modern workplace.

Six steps to sustainability success

Encouragingly, there is good work happening already. According to the research, nearly a third (32 per cent) of Microsoft UK partners have developed new solutions to help customers achieve their net zero ambitions. And while 44 per cent admit they are yet to do so, the door to seizing this opportunity is well and truly open.

The report therefore identifies six key steps that partners can take to drive sustainability success for themselves and the other UK organisations they serve. They are:  

  1. Connected sustainability – Using in-housesustainability goals and achievements to showcase knowledge, create use cases and provide proof of concepts for customers.
  2. Decarbonisation –Providing customers with tools and systems to accurately calculate, track and report scope one, two and three emissions, thereby helping them identify where to focus carbon reduction projects and how to evaluate their impact.
  3. Innovation – Meeting customer demand for advanced technologies and insights that optimise performance and accelerate pathways to net zero.
  4. Funding and skills – Recognising current talent and skills gaps and investing in the necessary in-house training, to enable workers to provide consultancy solutions that meet other organisations’ upskilling needs. 
  5. Supply chain – Working with suppliers, customers and each other to identify material risks and unlock opportunities for performance improvements via business operations and upstream/downstream activities. 
  6. Solutions – deploying cutting-edge sustainability solutions, using Cloud for Sustainability, Emissions Impact Dashboard and Microsoft AppSource, to help meet sustainability targets.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Every member of the Microsoft UK Partner Network and its customers will have their own challenges in hitting net zero and their own individual solutions for doing so.

Yet individual certainly doesn’t mean alone. While there may be varying degrees of progress, all organisations – Microsoft included – are on the same journey and must play their part in pushing the country towards a greener and more prosperous future.

This is more cause for optimism. Since its very beginnings, the Microsoft UK Partner Network has been built on cooperation – with suppliers, with Microsoft and with each other. Fast forward to today and members can now draw upon that same spirit of partnership to innovate and accelerate along the road to net zero too. As one of the study’s participants, Paul Hunter from Kin + Carta, put it, “Sustainability innovation has to have a specific flavour to it. And that flavour is collaboration.”

Read the full Partnering on the road to net zero report, including a series of short case studies in which a selection of Microsoft UK partners explain how they are already engaging customers on sustainability.