No blocks on Net Zero

Intrapreneurship Insights with David Paterson, Vice President Decarbonisation, Carbon Advisory, Wood

Intrapreneurship within large companies is a deft balancing act, especially within those leading the charge on decarbonisation, learns Dominic Ryan.

David Paterson, Vice President Decarbonisation, Carbon Advisory, Wood

Only significant and concerted action to decrease global carbon emissions will ultimately deliver a net-zero future.

Decarbonisation, however, is far from straightforward, requiring not only a fundamental understanding of carbon performance but also the ability to provide business solutions that use a winning formula of technical, commercial and practical drivers.

In many ways, it is a job for the pioneering intrapreneur: enter stage right David Paterson.

As Vice President Decarbonisation, Carbon Advisory, at Wood, Paterson, pictured inset, became interested in the journey to net zero because of the number of companies who wanted to know what help was available in comprehending the carbon cost of doing business, as well as the financial cost.

"This sparked my interest into thinking there are real problems to be solved here and the way we're doing it right now is great, but we need to look at doing more. I get curious about different things and, once I get into them, I'm all in until I can make that difference.

"I love working with teams. My role is bringing leadership and galvanising a vision. However it's other people who are experts in their field, including environmental scientists and engineers. So my role centres on inspiring action and capitalising that action for real change." Paterson believes a truly successful intrapreneur is someone who's prepared to be comfortable with ambiguity and operating in what he calls 'grey areas'.

He explains: "In a big organisation there are a lot of procedures and a lot of "this is the way we do things'. You're dealing with thousands of people and people need direction. But when you're coming in to innovate, you need to be comfortable with a little bit of tension because you're doing new and different things." He points out that larger companies, by their very nature, understandably like doing things in predictable ways. "So, inevitably, there will be a healthy tension involved in trying to do things differently, influencing, setting a vision, bringing people with you and demonstrating the results.

"Intrapreneurship is about living with that ambiguity and, sometimes, that's challenging you have to have a lot of belief in what you're doing and a lot of faith in the team around you. Often it can mean following a difficult path before you see the benefits. Otherwise it would be easy!"

Wood's Carbon Advisory team is acknowledged as a leader in assisting clients in a wide variety of sectors, including energy, mining and life sciences, all of whom have ambitions to achieve climate change targets. As part of this mission, it supports key activities to manage climate- related risks and opportunities.

Paterson notes that in all of this Wood has a strong focus on using its experience and expertise to bring both its own employees and clients with them on the journey and demonstrate the very real benefits of doing things differently.

"To me intrapreneurship is obviously not the same as entrepreneurship in the external kind of private business equation," he says, "however, there are a lot of similarities because you're influencing people, you're selling an idea and you're trying to make positive change happen for what you see as the benefit to the company.

"All of this involves a lot of 'imagineering', if you like, and painting a big picture and persuading people of the benefits. Ultimately, what I find is quite often the person with the ideas isn't necessarily the implementer. My experience is that it's very difficult to get those two attributes in the same person. You need people coming alongside you to help you with all of the detail and help you actually make the process strategic. That's my role at Wood: to influence, to inspire and to bring people together around a vision for decarbonisation."

This article was written by Dominic Ryan for the Autumn 2023 Edition of The Herald Business HQ Magazine. Click here to read the full edition.