Framework for success: Nail your net zero targets with programme control fundamentals

Florence Stoppani-White Chris Ramsay

By Florence Stoppani-White, Chris Ramsay, Emma Burrows

Successful projects and programmes set out a clear vision, a defined understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve or solution they’re looking to implement, and an agreed plan to achieve success. It’s often in understanding and defining the critical measures of success when things start to go wrong.

Too often, programmes fail to identify meaningful measures up-front that can be accurately reported and tracked throughout delivery. By not establishing objective measures and imparting sufficient reporting controls, we often see classic symptoms such as overspend, running out of time, reduced quality, not delivering in line with customer expectations, and not meeting objectives. With over 54 percent of organisations failing to report on their Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) targets, we see this becoming an increasingly important factor for organisations who are looking to successfully deliver sustainability outcomes for projects and programmes.

The need for accurate reporting and control over sustainability targets is being emphasised through emerging regulation and legislation changes from the EU, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), that are likely to pressure other governments to follow suit.

Despite regulation and legislation driving the need for increased rigour, organisations should look to leverage this opportunity to get ahead of the game and differentiate themselves in the market. For example, National Gas’s Future Grid study is trialling hydrogen as a replacement to traditional gas to support the UK’s transition to net zero

We found there are four key actions for organisations to take to maximise this opportunity and drive successful, sustainable outcomes across new and existing projects and programmes.

1. Be open minded

Actively encourage stakeholders at all levels of your organisation to identify potential sustainability control measures within their teams and programmes. This co-creation activity will help drive diversity of thought, increasing identification of opportunities whilst also ensuring people buy into the need for change. This bottom up approach will support organisations in setting meaningful targets and assessing realistic baselines. When setting targets, it’s imperative to take a holistic, system-wide view of your organisation’s ecosystem, leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals and SBTi targets as a framework for discovery. This will ensure that you have a means of making the targets tangible and measurable, as well as seeing how they compare with other industries to help provide a point of differentiation from competitors. Setting meaningful, measurable targets is equally important when launching a new programme, to prevent overlooking potential sustainability opportunities or challenges, but also when looking to identify benefits or impacts on existing programmes during a period of re-baselining or turnaround.

2. Make information accessible

Defining sustainability targets, providing visibility of these, and communicating progress ensures sustainability is embedded into every reporting discussion and governance meeting. This helps build a community of empowered individuals who are equipped to drive action within organisations and programmes. Leveraging existing project reporting dashboards to track sustainability metrics will raise the perceived importance of these measures, ensuring they are at the core of every discussion and not a secondary thought. Making information accessible to all increases positive competition across project and programme teams, helping your organisation move towards delivery of its sustainability ambitions faster.

3. Be transparent

Integrity of reporting against targets, and not hiding where things are not going to plan, is critical to the successful delivery of sustainability ambitions. Where targets are not being delivered upon, organisations should be transparent and leverage the opportunity to undertake a targeted initiative to correct the course of the project or programme, ensuring longer term success. Uniting your best minds around issues will provide a space to foster innovation and identify opportunities and vulnerabilities, consequently building resilience within your organisation. Sharing lessons learned with the wider organisation will also prevent other projects from experiencing the same issues, whilst helping to spark conversations and opportunities elsewhere.

4. Drive innovation through experience

Using existing projects and programmes to pilot ideas for future innovation will enable leaders to adopt a ‘trial and error’ approach to acting on sustainability. This removes the pressure of accountability, as these programmes won’t yet have formalised sustainability performance metrics but provide a space for organisations to innovate and share learnings. Acting early and learning iteratively is a fundamental step towards securing a sustainable future.

It's clear that programme managers and leaders need to take action to drive meaningful progress towards their sustainability ambitions. It’s no longer enough to just set targets. Developing plans, reporting on progress, and providing a space for communities to innovate and trial new solutions, will enable organisations to successfully deliver impactful change in their transition to net zero.

About the authors

Florence Stoppani-White
Florence Stoppani-White PA business transformation expert
Chris Ramsay
Chris Ramsay PA delivery expert
Emma Burrows Defence and security expert

Explore more

Contact the team

We look forward to hearing from you.

Get actionable insight straight to your inbox via our monthly newsletter.