Is 'net zero' more greenwashing than reality?

Reaching net zero is about more than just balancing carbon emissions; it involves bringing about a transformation in the way businesses of all sizes operate. As the UN calls for a crackdown on greenwashing of net-zero pledges at COP 27, Energy Focus puts the big question to four members

Jonathan Brindley

Chartered Marketer at JBPRM Ltd

In simple terms, greenwashing refers to a company advertising itself as being greener and more sustainable than it is in reality. The purpose of this is to tap into  green public sentiment and, in doing so, increase its sales and income.

So, when it comes to net zero and the energy transition, some might say that the energy transition is just a way for big business to make lots of money from infrastructure that we don’t really need. However, climate change is very real and has been proven to be anthropogenic – which means we have a responsibility to reverse it.

I am aware of the hard work being expended in trying to build supply chains to enable less carbon-intensive power

Due to the work I do, I am aware of the hard work being expended in trying to build supply chains to enable the adoption of less carbon-intensive power generation, the adoption of carbon capture and storage, and a switch to greener fuels such as hydrogen for powering energy-intensive processes.

From this perspective, is net zero more greenwashing than reality? No way! It’s happening on the ground – maybe I could be bold and say there is not enough ‘shouting’ going on.

JBPRM Ltd is a results-based industrial marketing consultancy delivering value-for-money business growth services for start-ups and SME businesses operating within the power, process and energy sectors. The company offers a complete digital marketing service, as well as a virtual business development office for developing sales funnels quickly and effectively.


Andy Howell

EVP Technology at KBC (a Yokogawa company)

In a word, no – it’s not greenwashing. It is, however, a journey, and one that starts with semantics. Some have interpreted net zero as involving no ‘extra carbon’ being emitted than today, or companies becoming ‘carbon neutral’ from paying fines or offsets. I am afraid that is greenwashing!

For KBC it is more than that. Net zero means that our industry contributes zero towards global warming and does not emit any more produced carbon to the atmosphere than we remove from it.

The journey our industry needs to take will involve reducing emissions from producing, refining and using petroleum products, implementing carbon capture and storage initiatives, and moving to low carbon and then no-carbon fuels.

Net zero is a chemical engineering challenge that will be solved by chemical engineers

Net zero is a chemical engineering challenge that will be solved by chemical engineers, and we are well on the way, with smart energy reduction, multiple asset heat and energy integration, synthetic methanol from captured CO₂, gas turbine heat integration with ethylene furnaces, biofuels from cooking oils, and the emerging hydrogen and ammonia economy. KBC is passionate about driving sustainable change for the planet and has removed more than 400m tonnes of CO₂ from being emitted.

Define the journey – take the first steps.

KBC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Yokogawa Electric Corporation, is all about excellence in the energy and chemical industry. Fusing technology with talent and best practices, the company makes excellence real for its customers. KBC provides leading software and expert services, powered by the cloud, to assure process operations achieve their full potential.


Nick Shorten

COO Asset Solutions at Petrofac

For us, the journey towards net zero is a scientific, moral and business imperative. We know it is a long road and needs real commitment. Processes need to change, equipment needs to be retired and replaced, and investment decisions need to be taken. And that means belief and resolve, placing energy transition at the core of our strategy.

Petrofac will be a net-zero business by 2030, with all the difficult real-world choices that implies. We are also working to help decarbonise our customers’ activities and those of our supply chain. Our ongoing contribution to policy development and regulatory frameworks is also recognised by governments and key stakeholders around the world.

We’re using the skills we’ve developed in oil and gas to support the development of low-carbon and renewable energy infrastructure. Whether enabling first-of-a-kind green hydrogen or waste-to-value projects, or delivering close to 4GW of offshore wind power, we’re operating at the cutting edge and at scale.

Fundamental changes at the heart of business strategy deliver real results

For us that means good business, in both senses of the word. Superficial changes are easily outed as greenwashing, but fundamental changes at the heart of business strategy deliver real results.

Petrofac is a leading international service provider to the energy industry, helping clients meet the world’s evolving energy needs. Using engineering know-how and project management expertise, Petrofac designs, builds and operates world-class energy facilities that are engineered for safety, optimal efficiency and low emissions. The company has been delivering projects across the renewables sector for more than a decade.


Jennifer Richmond

Executive President, Strategy & Development at Wood

The transition to a net-zero future will be one of the defining challenges of our generation. It’s also a challenge we must meet head on to secure the future of our planet.

In my opinion, the commitment is genuine, but the reality is that setting a target is just the first step

In the corporate world, decarbonisation is now a boardroom imperative, and companies are making commitments to net zero across multiple industries. Despite this, scepticism remains on whether this constitutes actual progress or is just superficial greenwashing.       

In my opinion, the commitment is genuine, but the reality is that setting a target is just the first step. The bigger challenge comes in defining how to drive down emissions in the near term and ultimately build a roadmap to net zero that is practical, affordable and achievable.

At Wood, we use our proprietary SCORE advisory tool to help clients on this journey. It helps them break a challenge of this magnitude down into actionable steps and execution plans that can bring their commitments to life. This is key to addressing the cynicism – we are in a world of ‘show me’ rather than ‘tell me’.

From a Wood perspective, net zero is a compelling business opportunity. We have a purposeful role to play in helping clients drive real progress around emissions and ultimately help to design a better future. That’s an inspiring mandate that we fully embrace.

Wood is a global leader in consulting and engineering, helping to unlock solutions to critical challenges in energy and materials markets. The company provides consulting, projects and operations solutions in 60 countries, employing around 35,000 people. Wood has world-leading expertise in decarbonisation and works with clients across multiple industries to shape a path towards a lower-carbon future.


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