This week was partly spent planning an innovation event for a client in the utilities sector. We have been developing a few scenarios that can be used as part of the event to help participants to push at the boundaries of what might be possible in the future when thinking about doing things differently.

We want these scenarios to be just on the cusp of credibility. Things that aren’t so outlandish that they are dismissed as fantasy, but aren’t too close to reality that they bound people’s thinking to the here and now. One idea, in particular, I find particularly fascinating.

This week in presumably one of her last acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May committed the UK to have net carbon zero emissions by the year of my 80th Birthday, 2050. Now there’s plenty of debate of whether that’s an ambitious enough target or not, but something is being missed by focusing on the target of net zero. Presuming that some sectors will continue to emit carbon in their operation, that means that many sectors need to target to becoming net carbon consumers by that date.

So that’s one of our innovation scenarios. What if you set the target for your business not to be net zero, but to be a sink? To be a net carbon consumer rather than emitter?

I’m not deeply involved in the world of carbon emissions, but this isn’t a line that I’ve heard much about. But I don’t think I can remember any established business setting aspirations to anything other than carbon-neutral. Which, if we assume that not everyone will achieve, means a national target of zero is almost certainly bound to fail.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the net carbon consumer scenario pans out in the event…

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