Just a few years ago, investors never brought up environmental, social and governance (ESG) with Jacobs CFO Kevin Berryman on calls. Now, it comes up on every call. Over the past four years, Jacobs, which provides diverse professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery, has ramped up its focus on ESG, starting with PlanBeyond℠, setting out the company’s sustainability priorities. Refreshing the approach in 2021, PlanBeyond 2.0 set out the process of further integrating sustainability throughout Jacobs’ operations and offerings, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We identified six core sustainable business objectives (SBOs), each one aligned to an SDG material to our business, where we can have the most influence and impact,” says Berryman. “Of course, we remain committed to contributing towards all 17 UN SDGs. For example, one of our SBOs is to accelerate solutions that address the climate emergency. Addressing climate change can also impact many other areas of sustainable development.”
Jacobs also launched its first Climate Action Plan on Earth Day 2020, outlining its long-term commitments to emissions reduction and climate action. In 2022, the company shared its new Climate Action Plan setting out its next phase of climate mitigation and adaptation commitments: target every client project to become a climate response opportunity; achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain by 2040; and maintain carbon neutrality status and 100% low-carbon electricity for its operations.
In its financial year for 2021, it reduced its total calculated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60%. Business travel emissions were cut by 75%. Both were from a proforma fiscal year 2019 baseline that reflects its acquisitions. Jacobs also became carbon neutral for its operations and business travel in 2020, says Berryman. Jacobs’ carbon neutrality status is in line with the international standard PAS 2060. It has currently achieved 100% low-carbon electricity.
In 2022, Jacobs also had net-zero targets approved in line with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) Corporate Net-Zero Standard.
“We became the first consultancy and one of the world’s first companies with net-zero targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative,” says Berryman.
To ensure corporate alignment and that these aims are delivered, Jacobs established an Office of Global Climate Response and ESG to lead on climate action commitments and drive innovative solutions.
“The Office of Global Climate Response and ESG reports to our ESG and Risk Committee to further increase Board of Directors’ oversight of ESG issues and reporting, and enterprise risk management, while an executive steering committee was set up to have oversight of our PlanBeyond 2.0 sustainability approach,” Berryman explains.
Sustainability leads within the company’s lines of business work closely with the corporate team to drive progress, report against KPIs and deliver against the company’s sustainability priorities. The company also offers its entire workforce an online climate solutions accelerator course to improve climate literacy across the board.
While standardisation in non-financial reporting is yet to be achieved, the US SEC is working on standards for companies to follow. Before that, however, Berryman advocates the need for businesses to use as much of a common language within non-financial reporting as possible. “It will provide greater comparability, so investors can make decisions more readily.”
It matters, says Berryman, because sustainable finance matters. Greater capital investment in ESG projects will likely result in more sustainable projects and an increase in businesses that have been created and designed to support and promote the UN SDGs. “We’re seeing this play out on projects across our business, from access to water to renewable energy, resiliency and social value programs.”
Jacobs’ ESG Disclosures Report shares ESG performance, reported in alignment with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board framework and informed by Global Reporting Initiative standards. “We achieved industry-leading ISS Prime Status for our ESG corporate rating – awarded to companies with an ESG performance above the sector-specific Prime threshold, which means that we fulfil ambitious absolute performance requirements,” says Berryman.
The next step for the company is to improve energy data collection, with an aim to create a digital ESG reporting platform to streamline its ESG data gathering and analytics. Data collection on fuel consumption is also an area of improvement.
From a reporting perspective, Jacobs is also expanding its Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)-aligned reporting, including climate risk assessments across more of its markets, such as transport and health. It will also this year consider a response to the emerging disclosure framework from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), to begin reporting on the company’s nature and biodiversity impacts.
“We’re constantly evolving our strategy to further our ambitions and ensure we’re implementing everything we can to meet our commitments,” says Berryman. “From how we operate our business to the innovative sustainable solutions we create with our clients and partners, reducing carbon and responding to the climate crisis is embedded into every part of our organisation.”
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