Skip to main content

How Professional Practices can use their influence to contribute to lowering carbon emissions

The professional services industry has a unique role to play in achieving the collective commitment to reach net zero by 2050 by influencing change in the real economy.

Accountants, solicitors, architects and other professional service providers (PSPs) will always feature in the supply chain of their clients and as such need to contribute to the conversation about how we reduce the indirect emissions that occur in the delivery of services and goods.

Without the obvious challenges that other industries such as manufacturing and agriculture face to reduce direct and indirect emissions, the professional practices industry may struggle to know where to begin. The UN’s Climate Champions Working Group have recently launched the following six draft principles for this sector, which act as a good indicator to “how emissions associated with the provision of services could be better understood, mapped and reduced”.

1 Strategy
The first step for any PSP is to develop a strategy to better understand your serviced emissions and create a clear, data backed reductions roadmap to demonstrate your commitment to net zero and embed this into your business model.

The recently formed Carbon Accountancy Alliance is a great place to start to look for help with analysing your emissions in line with the Greenhouse Gas Protocols to ensure your goals are achievable and to give credibility to your strategy.

2 Due diligence and risk
Start to integrate climate considerations into due diligence for new and existing clients, projects and services to ensure you are working with likeminded businesses who share your commitment to decarbonisation. This will help reduce emissions from the supply chain, minimise potential reputational risk, and provide opportunities for you to influence positive change in your network.

3 Ongoing engagement
The Working Group behind these principles have suggested PSPs “seek opportunities to engage clients on climate/sustainability even when this is not the primary scope of activity”. For example, when advising a client on business development, a PSP may use their influence to encourage their client to incorporate social and environmental opportunities and risks into their strategic plans.

4 Governance
It is essential that when embedding ESG into your business model, that you develop robust governance systems to uphold your commitments to net zero. Creating a leadership group with board oversight within the PSP is integral for successful integration of social and environmental objectives and hold the business accountable to their pledges, producing a ripple effect of influence to employees, clients and contacts.

5 Measure impact and report on progress
Corporate governance and data backed roadmaps are only the start of the journey. To ensure meaningful change follows, PSPs need to track the outcome and impact of their engagement on services emissions. Establishing clear KPIs and objectives will enable you to monitor the success of your decarbonisation initiatives and will allow you to be transparent in your journey to avoid potential greenwashing claims and be a voice to influence others to make similar changes.

6 Systems changes
Finally, we shouldn’t gatekeep our successes and the final draft principle is to become an advocate for regulatory changes. PSPs can achieve this by sharing their experience to be an influential voice in their supply chains for ongoing engagement with climate impact. You can also join campaigns such as UN’s Race to Net Zero to lobby for policy change to make reaching net zero more achievable for all businesses.

Next steps
These principles are currently considered draft and are under consultation with the aim to be finalised by COP29 in November 2024. However, the guidance given is a great place for businesses within the professional practices sector to start considering how they can begin their net zero journey.

If you would like further support on taking these first steps, please do get in touch with our ESG Advisory Team who specialise in supporting clients develop and embed sustainability goals into their business model. You can read the full report here.