Navigating the social seas in the race to net-zero

By Karen Dingley | December 4, 2023

In the evolving landscape of the journey toward net-zero, we, as an industry, are at a crucial intersection of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. This blog explores the potential social consequences that accompany the ambitious pursuit of carbon reduction, framing the discourse with ways decision-makers can reframe and re-strategize this endeavor.

European and UK markets currently have robust environmental regulations backed by financial institutions driving industries toward net-zero commitments; however, the social ramifications emerging from the race to net-zero are mounting.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine saw a sudden increase in energy prices worldwide, creating an immediate impact upon energy prices and driving global inflation.  In recent months, the British government has rolled back the UK’s net zero commitments, citing economic pressures upon households, highlighting the delicate balance between environmental goals and societal well-being.

On the global stage, challenges are being faced by many nations in the transition, especially those within the developing world. The rollback of power and energy access driven by fossil fuels exacerbates existing disadvantages, reducing access to already scarce power supplies, and having a direct impact upon household earnings. With this in mind, there’s a need for open conversations surrounding the social value commitments required alongside decarbonization efforts, which draws a parallel to the socioeconomic benefits assessed in traditional projects.

With the need for innovation at the forefront of our projects, Hatch equally weighs the importance of adapting and supporting the communities we serve; inventing and improving green technologies is as important as embedding sustainable infrastructure and creating self-sufficient communities. To do this, we involve community members in the earliest stages of decision making, creating an equitable partnership, and demonstrating new ways to reinvent solutions for the current climate crisis.

To pivot to technology, many targets remain aspirational, with technology yet to catch up to climate initiatives. Innovation in green energy supplies, green construction materials, and low carbon mineral and metals processing technologies are all key to supporting the transition; however, these are not tried and tested at scale, and the speed of technological change is rapid.  The importance of maintaining these goals and pushing boundaries despite technological challenges must be emphasized, especially as industry leaders navigate a landscape of shareholder demand to maintain profitability alongside the evolving role of financial markets, governments, and customer demands in driving sustainable practices.

The same courageous position is needed to integrate the social lens of the carbon-centric narrative—one where decarbonization technologies for hard-to-abate industries such as mining and metals are most in need of attention. As the world continues to navigate uncharted territory, there’s a continuous need for exploration, adaptation, and consideration of the dynamic nature of ESG. As leaders, we must ask ourselves: is clear equilibrium achievable, or is it an ever-shifting balance? In the short-term, we must continue to strive to move environmental and social components forward, ensuring that the achievement of one is not at the expense of the other.

Beyond mere participation, Hatch highlights community and socioeconomic growth as a cornerstone of our projects, designing our initiatives to leave a lasting positive impact and ensuring that when projects conclude, communities are left thriving. We champion the social component of ESG framework and believe that environmental goals can co-exist alongside societal well-being, fostering a sustainable and equitable future.

We would like to hear about your challenges in achieving a net-zero future by 2050. We are at COP28 and we’re eager to share our experience, expertise, and lessons learned in the climate change arena.