Environmental sustainability has been a concern for decades, and its urgency has only increased since recent climate reports and the UK government’s target of reducing carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2050. Organisations across all sectors must consider how they can alter business models, structures, and processes to meet this target. One of the most promising technologies for helping achieve this is Distributed Ledger Technology, or DLT. 

Tackling climate destruction is the most essential task we must carry out as a collective society over the next few decades. In June 2019, the UK government set the target of reducing collective carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2050—one of the most ambitious targets of any major economy in the world. 

The Net Zero target involves everyone from individuals to organisations (in both the public and private sectors). While the target is more than justified, achieving it is not necessarily going to be easy. Organisations are likely to have to review almost every aspect of their working models and processes in order to become sustainable enough to meet the Net Zero target. 

What does Net Zero mean? 

Net Zero does not mean producing no carbon emissions whatsoever—this would be called “Gross Zero” and is not believed to be a realistic goal. Gross Zero would mean either halting all operations (industrial, logistical, etc.) or finding alternative methods that produce no emissions at all. Net Zero simply means producing no more greenhouse gases than the amount reabsorbed from the atmosphere by plants, trees, and oceans. This balance would mean the climate ceasing to change at its current unnatural and dangerous rate. 

As well as reducing emissions, reforesting and rewilding programs could potentially reduce greenhouse gases. However, in all likelihood, we will still need to collectively reduce emissions significantly to reach this balance. What’s more, the Net Zero target is believed to be the minimum reduction required, with “carbon-negative”—or emitting even less carbon than is naturally reabsorbed—being the ideal. 

What obstacles do organisations face when trying to reach Net Zero?  

To reach Net Zero, organisations must review and replace internal processes and appliances used—which includes anything from electronics and employees’ vehicles to heavy agricultural or manufacturing machinery. 

Organisations must also be sure that the processes of partner organisations, and any others that enable or assist their operations, are also sustainable. True Net Zero applies not just to internal operations but to everything that enables an organisation to operate. 

In fact, regulations like the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) require all investors/financers over a certain size to report quantities of emissions for all investments, from the smallest farm to the largest international manufacturing firm. This means an urgent need for access to reliable data from many organisations, so audits for compliance can be carried out and data provided to regulatory bodies. 

On top of this, regulations around data protection, such as GDPR, make this essential inter-organisational data sharing not as simple as it once was. Ultimately, promoting and enforcing the safe sharing and storage of data is a good thing, but it often provides administrative and logistical challenges. 

Sharing data securely, consensually, and confidentially is essential but not necessarily easy! Thankfully, technology is catching up with these challenges and offering solutions. In particular, Distributed Ledger Technology shows a lot of promise in overcoming this obstacle. 

How can DLT help?

DLT enables a distributed data register to which granular access management can be applied. A shared register is based on a Single Source of Truth, which makes data tamper-proof and eliminates the need for data duplication (a common security weak point) when sharing. This not only increases security but can also streamline analysis and reporting processes between operations and compliance. 

DLT platforms such as SICCAR have already helped organisations share data such as the sustainability certifications of appliances and processes with their partners. Being able to securely access and share this data can help organisations stay informed and in control of their emissions, whether they are choosing a new piece of equipment or considering whether to partner with a particular organisation. 

For example, the SICCAR platform can be used to record and share emissions credentials (in real-time if IoT devices or Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems are used) among an entire supply chain, from suppliers and manufacturers to distributors and retailers—as well as investors in any organisation involved. The implications for the public sector are also highly promising, with organisations in health and social care, energy, and other fields able to benefit from a shared yet highly secure register of emissions data at every stage of operations. 

This isn’t just theory—there are clear precedents of how DLT has enabled large-scale supply chain auditing. For example, working alongside Scotland’s Rural College and six farmers in Aberdeenshire, SICCAR developed a blueprint for a shared register that enabled the gluten content of oats to be traced all the way from the field to the supermarket shelves. Although supply chain traceability was, in this case, used to monitor gluten content rather than carbon emissions, the principle of the SICCAR platform is not limited to one particular type of data.

What is the future of DLT in reaching Net Zero? 

Reaching the ambitious Net Zero target while also thriving as an organisation requires advanced solutions. The complexity of modern supply chains, and the sheer amount of data involved, means that state-of-the-art technologies are needed to achieve this. 

We believe that DLT is a hugely powerful tool at our collective disposal. Whether or not we use it is down to all of us. 

Later this year, we will be releasing the new version of our renowned SICCAR data sharing platform. To see for yourself how a DLT platform can help your organisation overcome obstacles towards achieving Net Zero, why not join our Early Adopters’ Community?