The momentum behind the global decarbonisation agenda has grown significantly in recent years, with net zero commitments roughly doubling in 2020. But while setting emission reduction targets is one thing, meeting them is another - and the journey will be different for every organisation. In response to that, Jacobs have recently launched Net Zero Labs. We met with Janine Barrow, Global Technology Lead – Sustainability and Climate Action at Jacobs to learn more about this recent initiative.
Janine, in response to the climate crisis, investor pressure and COP26 outcomes, companies and organisations are pledging to decarbonise their business activities. Can you tell our community about the initiatives that Jacobs is engaged in within the decarbonisation space?
While Jacobs has set targets to decarbonise our own operations, we recognise that the biggest opportunity to affect the climate agenda is through the work we deliver for our clients. It is therefore, imperative that we respond to our client’s most pressing climate-related challenges with on the ground action. We have various internal initiatives underway to help operationalise decarbonisation thinking into mainstream project delivery and help our clients on their journey – many of which will be further developed through our newly formed Office of Climate Response and ESG.
Most recently, Jacobs has also partnered with 2030 Breakthroughs (a UN High-Level Climate Champions initiative) on an exciting global video miniseries, Breakthroughs. Through this campaign, we put a spotlight on projects and solutions from the sectors we support across the world that are pushing the boundaries on decarbonisation to reduce global carbon footprint and bring substantial benefits to organisations and the communities they serve. In addition to this, we have also released a thought leadership paper titled Beyond Carbon: A holistic approach to net zero cities. The paper outlines how embracing a more holistic, programmatic approach to decarbonisation and investing in local carbon reduction and removal projects could help cities accelerate their transition to net zero and deliver co-benefits that address other challenges. The latest issue of our digital magazine, Reimagined perspectives and Sparks – a special podcast series co-hosted with World Climate Foundation, focused on elevating discussions on critical topics such as sustainability, resiliency and energy transition. There are so many more of these initiatives underway, and more to come as we progress in this space.
While COP26 did not deliver the ‘silver bullet’ that guaranteed a 1.5°C degree warming limit, it did herald a changing shift in governments’ net zero commitments. These commitments bring greater certainty for business. One of the key reflections of the overarching rhetoric at COP26 by our Global Head of Sustainability, Zoe Haseman, was “the need for action” and “implementation.”
Which is why, one of the key initiatives I am very excited to lead is our Net Zero Labs, where we partner with our clients to develop their initial decarbonisation strategy through collaborative and interactive workshops. We are planning to employ them with all our appropriate client, regardless where they are on the decarbonisation journey.
Tell us more about Jacobs’ Net Zero Lab approach. Can you give an example of what this could look like?
Decarbonisation is fraught with complexity. Consider a transport client, for example, decarbonisation could mean effecting change to electrify transport networks, land-use planning, realising modal shift, energy efficiency or behind the meter low carbon energy generation to name but a few strategies. Similarly, water clients have grid connection and energy efficiency to address but also waste heat recovery and process/source emissions control to consider.
The program typically entails the following:
First, we study the client’s specific needs, their industry/peers, the nature of their operations, and the stage that they are on with their decarbonisation journey.
We then work with them to analyse their emissions footprint; key challenges, barriers and enablers to abatement; possible solutions (including technologies, processes, energy solutions and partnerships); pathways and vision for net zero readiness.
Finally, we develop the key business case, discussion paper or strategy components to advance the agenda within their organisation.
Backed by sound analysis, we can then help our clients define targets, strategy, roadmaps and deliver outcomes that will bring lasting changes in organisational behavior, governance structures, operational arrangements and infrastructure via program management. For example, we have worked with a major utility over multiple years in strategising and program-managing their energy neutrality journey.
In a recent Net Zero Lab, we collaborated with a transport client to map out the key challenges and opportunities with net zero readiness and prepared a net zero discussion paper to provide the initial guidance to start them on their journey.
What are the challenges that Net Zero Labs can help address?
Our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emission reduction strategies are underpinned by our deep, technical knowledge.
For many of our clients, the biggest challenges to reducing their Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are the many pathways to achieving net zero. Without an understanding of the range of options available to our clients, it can be difficult to capture the right mix of solutions, particularly for hard to abate sectors. Another challenge is understanding the technical feasibility, scalability and cost effectiveness of those pathways. Our Net Zero Labs involve collaboration with our engineers and subject matter experts so that the full range of possible solutions can be captured, filtered and phased to help our clients reach their targets in the most effective and impactful way.
What are the next steps for Jacobs in this space?
While many organisations can develop net zero strategies, few can stand beside our client’s every step of their net zero journey – assessing options and implementing the required governance, infrastructure/asset and organizational behaviourial changes to deliver on targets. We intend to further upskill our renowned program managers across the business to apply their skills in a net zero delivery capacity to make the required changes on the ground.
We see further work assisting governments to calculate their carbon emissions; then understand and apply emission abatement technologies. Also, greening fleets/electric mobility and transport decarbonisation in general is high on the agenda, as well as tackling process emissions in the water and heavy industry sectors. We will also continue to help our clients with their scope 3 supply chain management, again delivering programmatic delivery of facilities assessments, advice and reporting. Phasing into the endemic, the aviation sector’s decarbonisation and energy efficiency will be high on our agenda.
In general, linkages within supply chains and synergies across different industries can present unique decarbonisation opportunities. As partners to clients across water, transport, built environment and power, combined with relationships across technology developers, the investment community, and government stakeholders, we aim to explore partnership opportunities that will help achieve better outcomes for our clients.
About Janine Barrow
Janine Barrow leads Jacobs’ sustainability, climate action strategy and growth activities across Asia Pacific — driving innovation, fostering connectivity, attracting and maintaining talent and supporting delivery excellence. Using her extensive experience in sustainability in design frameworks and organizational business planning, Janine spearheads Jacobs’ “Net Zero Labs” workshop approach, a strategy- and evaluation-based method that helps clients establish decarbonisation priorities and key strategy inputs. She looks forward to helping achieve sustainable, net zero carbon objectives in the Asia Pacific Region and beyond.
Jacobs is challenging today to reinvent tomorrow by solving the world's most critical problems for thriving cities, resilient environments, mission-critical outcomes, operational advancement, scientific discovery and cutting-edge manufacturing, turning abstract ideas into realities that transform the world for good. With $14 billion in revenue and a talent force of approximately 55,000, Jacobs provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector. Visit jacobs.com and connect with Jacobs on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.