Environmental, Social & Governance

A healthier planet for healthier people: Inside ZS’s strategy to reduce Scope 3 emissions

By Kailah Peters

April 16, 2024 | Article | 5-minute read

A healthier planet for healthier people: Inside ZS’s strategy to reduce Scope 3 emissions

With the pressing need to tackle climate change, it’s crucial for corporations to step up and take responsibility for their impact on the environment. That’s why ZS is answering the call to action, setting ambitious targets to reduce our emissions and finding ways to run our operations more sustainably. By collaborating with clients, suppliers and ZSers, we’re part of a global ecosystem working to get it right for the planet.


At ZS, the journey toward mitigating our climate impact is a collective endeavor embraced by ZSers worldwide. Our culture of collaboration and innovation serves as a catalyst for driving meaningful change in sustainability practices, going above and beyond expectations for many of our clients. ZSers started this journey from the ground up years ago, and we continue to partner with clients and ZS leadership—as part of our firm’s formalized sustainability strategy—on new ways to maximize ZS’s impact.

Where passion changes lives

To achieve our net-zero target by 2045 (a goal waiting approval by the Science-Based Target initiative), ZS is actively reducing Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Scope 3 emissions, as defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, include all emissions released indirectly because of a company’s activities, like the emissions from suppliers, customers and transportation. These emissions represent a significant portion of our carbon footprint and can be challenging to measure and mitigate—which is why we’ve made them a focal point in our sustainability strategy.


Going green, one commute at a time


The first step to effectively reduce emissions from commuting is to understand how our employees currently travel. In 2023, ZS’s ESG Emissions Impact Team introduced an employee commuting survey to select offices, aimed at capturing travel data directly from ZSers. Overseen by the ESG Emissions Impact Team and led by Julia Roccato, strategy insights and planning consultant in New York, this initiative improves the accuracy of our emissions measurements.

“It’s hard to address a problem you don’t understand,” says Julia. “By introducing a commuting survey, we are able to tackle climate change the same way we tackle client issues—through data-driven insights and people-centric solutions.”


After analyzing the data, ZS continues to find opportunities for how to implement low-emission travel alternatives. For example, we intentionally select office sites that offer ZSers convenient access to public transit or eco-friendly modes of transportation. Overall we encourage ZSers to use hybrid and fully electric vehicles (EVs) whenever possible.


“Our 2023 survey found that 62% of ZSers already use low-emission modes of transportation to commute to offices, including carpooling, walking, biking, driving hybrid and electric cars or using public transportation,” Julia explains. “We have a lot of work to do globally to reduce our emissions, but it helps that our people already want to take these actions.”


We’re also helping expand low-emissions travel options in India, where select offices have transportation services assisting in ZSers’ commutes. Additionally, we are encouraging ZSers in Pune to use EV or hybrid options when traveling to and from the airport, between offices and other destinations. Since 2022, Pune ZSers have traveled 127,130 miles with EVs, preventing 45.85 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—or the yearly electricity use equivalent of 8.9 homes. We remain steadfast in our ambition to achieve 100% EV usage at both our Pune and New Delhi offices by 2030.


Jet-setting greener—and smarter


As a professional services firm, we value face-to-face interactions and on-site presence with our clients. Which is why—given the environmental impact of business travel—we are exploring sustainable practices. This includes strategically planning business meetings close to our offices to minimize travel requirements and maximize sustainability.


For example, during a recent Americas leadership meeting ZS used a shuttle service to transport over 1,000 attendees between the airport and meeting space. Organized by Sarah Hayden, travel lead in Evanston, IL, this initiative helped eliminate 1,390 one-way transfers and saved 7.05 metric tons of CO2 emissions—or the equivalent of 793 gallons of gasoline. Meanwhile, our upcoming European leadership meeting will intentionally take place in a central location that allows for 60% train travel—compared to previous years, where travel to the venue required minibuses, motor coaches and gas-powered cars, in addition to flights for all attendees.

“As we organize meetings, it’s essential to consider the environmental impact of travel arrangements,” says Alice Bartram, meetings lead in London. “By strategically selecting venues closer to transportation hubs and encouraging the use of sustainable modes of travel, we have the power to make a tangible difference. This shift not only minimizes our carbon emissions but also sets a new standard for environmentally conscious event planning.”


Building bridges to a sustainable future: one supplier at a time


Lastly, ZS is making strides in reducing Scope 3 emissions by ramping up sustainable procurement efforts. From having suppliers adhere to ZS’s Supplier Code of Conduct and sourcing meals from environmentally sustainable vendors to negotiating with airline suppliers to use sustainable aviation fuel, we are encouraging environmental stewardship across our value chain.


In an effort to accurately share our steps toward a sustainable future, ZS participates in CDP’s annual reporting. Formerly called Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP scores companies and cities based on their journey through disclosure and toward environmental leadership based on their independent scoring methodology. From ZS’s various efforts, CDP awarded us a Supplier Engagement Rating of B in 2023—a marked improvement from our 2022 rating of D.

“It’s inspiring to see how ZS’s approach to sustainability has been driven by the bottom-up, top-down and sideways—all because of our unwavering drive to tackle the climate crisis head-on,” says Adam Loraine, administrative specialist in San Francisco. “In our office, for example, we’ve implemented waste diversion efforts, green commuting education and a catering pilot favoring sustainable vendors that use compostable and reusable food ware. We hope that ‘small’ practices such as these, and many others, can spread to more offices and create global change.”


Environmental sustainability is not just a corporate responsibility at ZS—it’s a commitment to creating a better world. We aim to protect the planet as part of our larger goal of improving health outcomes for all. Through education, awareness campaigns and employee engagement programs, ZS empowers our people to contribute actively to a sustainable future.


To stay informed on how ZS is helping build a healthier planet, follow us on social media.

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