22.04.24 Business

Climate Action Programme case study: OVO Energy

In 2019, OVO Energy was the first UK energy provider to set a net zero target. Following a refresh of its sustainability strategy, Plan Zero last year, Senior Sustainability Analyst, Ella Thomson, shares how OVO’s approach to climate action has evolved, and how they engage their 5,000-strong team to achieve their goals.

Adapting to align with climate science

Being prepared to question whether what we have down on paper accurately reflects both our business and our environmental impact is an integral part of our approach to climate action. There is no better example of this than Plan Zero, which has not only been refreshed but now includes a SBTi-aligned net zero target of a 90% reduction by 2035.

The decision to refresh Plan Zero was driven by our acquisition of SSE’s retail arm in 2020 and the launch of the SBTi Corporate Net Zero Standard in 2021. The evolution of our business and climate science meant that Plan Zero and the targets and metrics we were working with were no longer fit for purpose.

We’re a large company, with 5,000 colleagues, ranging from field engineers to customer service agents, and everyone has a part to play in Plan Zero. We took a lot of time engaging with and educating our people to ensure that everyone across the business understood why we had decided to make such significant changes and what these changes meant for them.

Although it was challenging, we are proud to now be working with Plan Zero version 2.0, which has a SBTi aligned net zero target. In October last year, we launched our third Plan Zero impact report and celebrated a 50% reduction in operational emissions and a 35% reduction in our overall carbon footprint.

Complete impact reporting

Reporting on our impact has also evolved. In October last year, we brought together our environmental and social impact reporting for the first time. Global inequality and the climate and ecological crises are inextricably linked, so it made sense to take a holistic view of what we are doing to address both as a business. It is quite complicated, particularly as we have to source data from all departments, and from people who are not directly involved in Plan Zero day-to-day. However, our efforts to engage our people regularly throughout the year have helped with this process and our data capture is becoming increasingly more efficient.

We are now looking to report on how we impact nature and integrate this data into our next impact report. To launch our work in this area, we have joined the Taskforce for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures Early Adopters Scheme. We are prepared for a challenging journey, as there are limited resources available for businesses acting on nature. However, we have found that ENCORE is a great starting tool and is helping us to identify key areas to focus our assessment.

Open and transparent culture

We can only achieve our Plan Zero goals if our people understand our strategy and how they contribute. To engage our people with Plan Zero, we deliver a range of activities throughout the year. This ranges from nature-based volunteering sessions to Plan Zero week – a week-long celebration of our achievements, filled with inspiring events for our people. For example, this year, we hosted a screening of Save Our Wild Isles with Bristol Zoological Society, the National Trust and Let’s Go Zero.

We want to embed an open and transparent culture around Plan Zero, so everyone feels empowered to get involved, share their ideas, and challenge us. We have implemented a few simple but effective processes and tools, such as an inbox for all Plan Zero queries and challenges (managed by our Sustainability Team) and having an open Q&A opportunity at our all-company monthly meeting.

Top tips

  • Have a guiding principle – understand and embed what your target means to you. For example, at OVO, we always ask ourselves whether what we have down on paper reflects what we are putting into the atmosphere.
  • Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress – measuring and reporting your emissions will always be a work in progress. Don’t let perfection stand in your way of getting started.
  • Connect with your team – be open and help people understand what you are doing and why. Remember there is no one size fits all approach.

Learn more about OVO energy and Plan Zero on their website.

Through our Climate Action Programme collaboration with the Redcliffe & Temple Business Improvement District, we’re keen to showcase climate progress in this area of the city and create more opportunities for businesses to learn from one another.

If you have an initiative or project we can shout about, please do get in touch (bex@bristolclimatenature.org).


Find out more about the Climate Action Programme

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