Curbing executive travel helps Jacobs achieve net zero carbon emissions in 2020

US engineering giant Jacobs says it has fulfilled its commitment to transition to 100% renewable energy for its operations this year, and has achieved net-zero carbon emissions for its operations and business travel, in part by encouraging executives to stay put and in part by buying renewable energy and carbon offsets (RECs).

2020 saw a 33% reduction in the company’s total calculated carbon emissions compared to 2019, down to 116,753 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), and a 50% reduction in travel-related carbon emissions.

The company declined to say how much of the emissions reduction came from buying offsets.

A Jacobs spokesperson told GCR: "We purchased a proportion of RECs to help meet our 100% renewable energy commitment in 2020. Our dependence on carbon offsets and RECs will diminish over time through emission reductions and other investments."

Business travel represents 60% of Jacobs’ quantified carbon footprint, and the company aims to cut business travel emissions by 20% by 2022 against its FY2019 baseline.

It acknowledged the pandemic’s role in reducing travel emissions in 2020, but said it was working to prevent a post-Covid bounce-back.

"While our FY2020 has been impacted by Covid-19 and will no doubt show a dip in emissions versus FY2021 if normality resumes, we will explain this reduction in our reporting and continue to compare progress against our baseline year FY2019," the spokesperson said.

"We are working to ensure that when travel restrictions are lifted and normality resumes, our business travel emissions do not rebound to pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic resulted in fast-tracking IT improvements to enable better virtual connectivity with coworkers and clients, along with a cultural and behavioural shift to better connect virtually, which we strive to continue to grow.

"Our senior leaders have pledged to reduce in-person meetings that require travel; we have increased promotion and awareness of web conferencing tools; and we have implemented employee and manager travel dashboards displaying their progress towards meeting the 20% reduction. These measures have already helped reduce our business travel emissions pre-Covid-19."

Jacobs said its real estate operations team is cutting energy use in offices by optimising office space and focusing on sustainable office buildings.

Company chair and chief executive Steve Demetriou said: "Reaching our goal to become carbon neutral is a major step in improving the way we run our operations at Jacobs. And our biggest opportunity to affect climate change is through the work performed for our clients – helping them to achieve change and create a better tomorrow for all. Together, we are pushing the limits of what is possible and staying ahead to create the new standards of our future."

Jacobs said it would be carbon negative for its operations and business travel by 2030.

The company is also helping five of its clients do a climate-risk assessment. Its climate action plan is here.

Image: Business travel represents 60% of Jacobs’ quantified carbon footprint (Photograph by Daniel Eledut/Unsplash)

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