When it comes to sustainability, the time for hesitation is over. The imperative to harmonize our consumption with what the planet can provide and the atmosphere can absorb is urgent.
As a mother, consumer and business leader, I share a common goal with a majority of people around the world to ensure our families and communities can continue to thrive. Getting there requires a stable climate that can feed the billions of people around the world, is predictable enough to keep our cities humming, and supports our livelihoods. As much as we know we need climate stability, economic activities — including farming, product manufacturing, logistics, waste management and our ever-increasing reliance on technology services — continue to generate levels of carbon pollution that threaten our planet’s future.
This year, and especially this summer, flooding, wildfires and record-breaking heat drew people’s attention throughout the world to the stark reality of the impact of climate change. At the same time, more people gained new access to purchasing power and lifestyle changes powered by energy.
Remedying the situation is not going to be as simple as telling people to switch how or what they buy, drive or eat. It’s not about changing the lightbulbs at our offices (although we are doing that), and it isn't about saving water and reducing waste in our operations (which we are also doing). This is about influence, and about flexing our collective strengths — human and technological — at scale.
Scaling to net zero
There’s little time to lose. In recognition of this, Cognizant recently announced our commitment to net zero by 2030.
By 2030, we will eliminate or offset all greenhouse gas emissions across our operations and supply chain. We expect to operate as cleanly and efficiently as possible, and purchase carbon offsets only where we can’t make absolute reductions. And by 2040, we are looking to offset no more than 10% of our carbon footprint.
Our investors, clients and communities have guided us in setting these goals. We saw that stakeholders wanted zero greenhouse gas emissions, and they wanted board alignment and independent verification that we are making progress against these goals.
We will also continue working with our suppliers, asking them to transition to renewable energy. It's a big deal to say to your investors, clients, employees and partners that you're ready to step away from the fuel we’ve all relied on for decades. But we believe that a global economy with absolute minimal fossil-based fuels is attainable, and we're going to play a role in getting there.
We are prepared to use our own scale and expertise as well as magnify our impact through solutions and support we provide to our clients. One example: we’re working with Alveo, a leader in data integration and analytics, to offer a comprehensive environmental, social and governance (ESG) data management solution to the financial services industry. We are answering investors’ call for greater transparency into the sustainability profile of the funds where they are investing. Partnerships like this will be more important than ever as businesses intensify efforts to mitigate climate risk.
Beyond finger pointing
Climate change is about unintended consequences. I came to Cognizant from the airline industry, where the need to control greenhouse gas emissions was existential. My view while working in the aviation industry was that everyone wants to see their friends and family, and sometimes that requires boarding an airplane. No one thought flying was the enemy. It was the unintended pollution resulting from burning jet fuel that we targeted, not the act of flying.
This is an important distinction — history has shown us, blame does not spur climate action. Hope and solutions do.
Consumer demand to address climate is one of my greatest sources of hope. Our “Green Rush” study showed that public sentiment is evolving and that there’s an outcry for solutions. Luckily, there are solutions emerging, too. We have clean energy — such as solar and wind — that has become more readily available. Renewable energy has arrived at scale and affordability, too. (It is a critical part of Cognizant’s net zero goal).
These advancements are providing options that save us from a false choice between a stable climate and having the energy required to power business at scale. And thank goodness. There’s little time to lose.