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More ambition, more rewards: Kainos’s climate story

Construction worker looking at windmills

Kainos’s approach is simple: find the best people, give them everything they need to grow, then harness their talent to design and build solutions that help clients deliver much better digital experiences. A trusted partner for public sector organisations like the UK government and the NHS, as well as for brands like Netflix and John Lewis, their mission has remained the same for over three decades: use the latest technology to make the world a better place.

Kainos’s early work on climate was driven by the usual forces: employees were keen on action, and customers and investors had begun asking about emissions plans. But in 2021, internal discussions elevated the importance of positive climate action as an essential responsibility—setting Kainos off on one of the most aggressive corporate climate programs in the UK.

Early days

Before they decided to go all-in, they’d taken the typical first steps: measuring their direct emissions (including business travel) with a consultancy, offsetting those emissions, and initiating their first partial CDP report.

But these steps still left them with key gaps:

  • They didn’t have visibility into how their carbon footprint had been calculated, nor know which levers to pull to make real reductions quickly
  • They knew that indirect “Scope 3” emissions—from suppliers—are often 90% or more of a software company’s total, but didn’t know which vendors to focus on

They also weren’t happy with just offsetting, and wanted to set an ambitious reduction plan that represented their fair share of keeping global temperatures inside the +1.5° C safe zone.

Determined to take their climate program to the next level, they reached out to Watershed.

Compounding advantages

“Within 6 months, Watershed measured two years of our carbon footprint, supported our submission to SBTi, and helped us create a reduction plan that will get us to net zero.”

Martin Corbett, Net Zero Strategy Lead

As a bidder on UK government contracts, Kainos is subject to vendor requirements. And sometimes new requirements can come with little lead time. In 2021, they were asked to provide a full carbon reduction plan with a pathway to net zero emissions—in just sixty days.

For other vendors who let those requirements dictate their climate action, this was likely a difficult scramble. But thanks to their work with Watershed, Kainos already had an ambitious net zero plan in hand—one with concrete plans for real, aggressive reductions:

  • Their net zero plan had a 2025 target date (where the gold standard is 2030, and the few governments who require a target have mostly chosen 2050)
  • They’d already begun taking significant action on office retrofitting, including sourcing clean power (they’re now well on their way to 100% renewables)

And thanks to their new data insights, their reduction plan has now passed the first screening phase with the Science Based Targets initiative—the strongest validation body in the industry.

The last mile(s)

While their ambition has come with unexpected benefits—from opportunities to collaborate with other forward-thinking companies to being able to breezily comply with new regulatory and disclosure requirements—the hardest work still lies ahead:

  • While they’ve identified the largest sources of carbon in their value chain, many suppliers are in their own early days of understanding and managing their contributions
  • Having developed innovative tools to understand the carbon implications of their digital solutions, the challenge is now to support their customers to also prioritise their own emission reduction action plans

Within these challenges are also rich opportunities: Kainos’s top 10 vendors account for half their emissions. Getting even a few of them to adopt a net zero plan will lead to massive reductions, not just to Kainos’s footprint, but for every other company using those vendors!

If your company is interested in following suit, please get in touch.

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