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204 - Business Express

Decarbonising the UK economy

By Professor James McCallum, Co-founder and Chairman of Proteus developed by Xergy


The UK has made meaningful progress in recent decades moving towards a zero-carbon future by adopting more sustainable, low-carbon energy alternatives as a part of the UK Energy mix. However, the continually changing climate demonstrates that there is no quick fix and the transition from hydrocarbons to greener energy solutions, which so many are calling for, cannot be an immediate change.

The idea that the transition to low-carbon solutions will be a switch flip is a myth. The truth is that the move to renewable energy can only be a phased transition that will take time and accelerating the transition businesses are crucial to the outcome.

By appreciating this, we can focus our efforts on supporting companies to transition faster and empowering businesses to deploy low-carbon solutions in their existing business practices. Business needs to be at the heart of the decarbonisation strategy, demonstrating their commitment to the country’s sustainable efforts and positioning themselves as an attractive employer for new green talent.

Let’s focus on what businesses can do immediately to support the decarbonisation of our economic landscape and what investments they can make to ensure they’re building sustainability into their business model.

Speeding up the transition 

Time – the thing experts are increasingly warning that we are running out of. The climate crisis looms and we must transition faster. Easier said than done of course when much of the world’s energy infrastructure is built to support fossil fuels and traditional heavy industry operating with outdated business practices. So what can we do now to support the road to decarbonisation?

Digital transformation is crucial here for businesses. Why?

We need to break down the barriers of reliance on outdated processes and legacy technologies that are inefficient and are using and wasting huge amounts of valuable energy and resource through maintaining disconnected systems and controls.

Deploying more low-carbon suppliers in a company’s supply chain will take time to implement but modern software technology capable of learning, like AI, can immediately help connect distributed teams delivering tomorrow’s office, maximising the benefits of remote work and supporting the mission to decarbonise the economy.

Lack of modern digital methods

The benefits of digitalisation can be brought into effect almost overnight through work management automation tools that optimise business processes as well as combat the challenges businesses face such as the development and productivity of existing IT infrastructure.

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The digital tools to replace the old with new and improved technology are already out there, but unfortunately, after years of focussing on essential capital efficiency to simply survive the sense of urgency to adopt new digital methodologies is still lacking.

Putting it bluntly companies aren’t yet convinced they need to invest even small amounts of capex to facilitate a change; whilst digital transformation may be key to efficiently decarbonise the UK economy and continue to operate effectively in the future, the key question remains how can we increase adoption?

Investing in decarbonisation through digitalisation 

From an operational perspective, investing in carbon efficient digital tech that maps business processes is certainly one way to drive the innovation we need to ultimately support a full digital transformation, however clearly this also requires a shift in mindset. Many businesses may simply be stuck in their ways with management incapable not just unwilling to make the changes needed. This happens to be something the younger, digitally enabled generation are perhaps more adept to embrace and so businesses need to focus on attracting this up and coming talent, particularly in the energy industry, to help identify, adopt and manage the new systems and technology needed.

However, careers in the energy sector once solely reliant on hydrocarbon energy resources is no longer considered an attractive prospect to young, environmentally savvy talent eager to change the world; the industry’s main objective must be to demonstrate a meaningful cultural shift to invest in low-carbon solutions which support the global energy transition agenda. It is imperative that companies recruit with the emphasis of decarbonising businesses in mind, and genuinely convey that they need help to reach this goal with the support of fresh, young talent.

Engaging the future generation

Specialised green talent recruiting software is an excellent, simple, low apex way for businesses to start their decarbonisation journey. Recruitment software can offer a fast way to access or find new talent, as well as allow companies to post ads for specific low-carbon projects, search for rated talent and engage freelancers. Recruitment historically can be challenging and lengthy, but recruiting software platforms can help to source some of the knowledge required and source the best green energy talent available.

Another way to attract and retain new talent that reflects the aim to decarbonise businesses is through the adoption of remote, flexible workplace systems that embrace the gig economy. This is hugely important, as the next generation of talent is looking for an attractive work environment without frustrating processes and slow decision making. They won’t hesitate in taking their time and skills elsewhere if such an environment is not available, regardless of employment status. In a nutshell, businesses need to adapt to a new way of working or lose out.

The final mile

The gig economy revolution is well underway, with greater than x % of the workforce expected to come from this community within the decade. The gig economy is founded on a fundamental shift in the way companies engage with talent and manage their work, underpinned by a digital transformation in the way business is conducted.

Technology is driving teams to work smarter, not harder, and will be a great benefit to businesses’ decarbonisation credentials making them increasingly attractive to prospective workers. It is quite literally the definition of a virtuous circle. Through embracing technology, employers and employees can see the benefit of a more flexible way of working allowing access to a global green talent pool that is no longer restricted by geography.

The key takeaway is that decarbonising the UK economy starts with businesses embracing innovations that underpin the energy transformation. By investing in technologies that move away from legacy systems, and instead focussing on supporting the energy, and digital transformation with the help of new, green talent, businesses are more willing to change and able to contribute to decarbonising the UK economy and help others with the same goal.

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