With 6 billion people dependent on fossil fuels, global environmental, economic and geo-political events are causing electricity prices to rise to unprecedented levels – putting financial pressure on people around the world.

“Electricity prices are a function of supply and demand,” explains Zarak Khan, Consultant Manager at Blunomy, an international strategy consultancy advancing energy and climate solutions for businesses.

“Ongoing extreme weather events and current geopolitical tensions between Russia and the Ukraine affect energy production, storage and delivery – pushing prices up as demand continues.

“The world is constantly changing,” says Zarak. “So, in business, being able to think on your feet and adapt is critical.”

Plus, there are other costs beyond financial ones. Energy production generates a significant proportion of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas account for over 75% of global greenhouse gas and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

All around the world, people like Zarak are using their problem-solving skills and adaptability to tackle these issues, and transition businesses to clean energy, helping them prepare for what climate change might mean for their operations.

Leading environmental and business sustainability outcomes

What does work in a climate change solution consultancy involve on a day-to-day basis?

At Blunomy, Zarak works with clients across the entire energy value chain, including government network businesses, technology start-ups, energy retailers, financial institutions, and large energy manufacturers to reduce their impact on the environment, but also mitigate the impact of environmental changes on the business.

“While energy and greenhouse gas emissions are key challenges, they're often not the only issues our clients need help with tackling,” he explains. “We also help businesses make smart choices in addressing biodiversity, circularity and climate change adaptation.”

This means considering everything from their reliance on healthy ecosystems and how industry can combat biodiversity degradation, through to how to limit the impact of expected climate change on business operations and activities.

At Blunomy, Zarak and his team help co-design solutions that help businesses contribute positively to the world. He also helps identify and quantify the environmental and societal impact of these solutions.

“We set off by reviewing their organisation, its positioning, and its environment to draw an impartial picture and fuel reflection for later phases,” Zarak says.

“For example, we may undertake tech benchmarking to understand opportunities and risks for various solutions. Or we may audit existing strategy to identify any areas that could be improved so they align with global ambition,” Zarak explains.

His team then develop a strategic plan for clients, using several tools that focus on areas such as concentration, integration, expansion and diversification. They provide training if needed, helping organise implementation and communicating on the strategy with both internal and external stakeholders.

“We then support clients with financing their growth strategy from investment needs, developing investor pitches, engagement with financial partners and the like,” says Zarak.

It’s an approach that helps organisations make strategic choices that both mitigate risks and take advantage of energy transition opportunities.

Pollution and climate: from micro to macro impact

But minimising the negative impacts of unclean energy isn’t just something that can be tackled at the business end of town. Zarak points out that growing up in Pakistan also gave him an appreciation of engineering climate positive solutions at the micro level.

“The society in Pakistan is incredibly charitable, but the levels of poverty and inequality are unbearably widespread,” he says. “The only way I could address that was to focus on giving back to the community.”

Years before coming to Australia, Zarak worked with Engineers Without Borders. It was this experience that inspired him to start a local Pakistan branch with friends.

“There are many societal problems to be solved in Pakistan, and there’s an abundance of underutilised talent, including engineers,” he explains.

To get things underway, Zarak and his co-founders raised money for a pilot project in a village in north Pakistan, where they developed a cost-effective, easy-to-assemble stove that removes harmful smoke from homes. This project had the potential to save the lives of many locals, who cooked in an open area of the house using solid, harmful fuels like wood, charcoal and cow dung.

It’s this human perspective that Zarak believes those who want to make a difference need to keep in front of mind in order to make a meaningful, positive change towards positive climate change impact.

Climate change makes for big risks

Zarak says that one big thing today’s businesses need to take into consideration is increased pressure to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks and explain their strategies to ensure resilience and competitive advantage in a net zero world.

“Customers, employees, financiers, and shareholders are demanding companies not only offer sustainable products and services, but make sure their operations have a positive impact on the world,” says Zarak.

While this presents a challenge, transitioning to clean energy has also become cheaper for industry with advances in technology. The United Nations estimates that reducing pollution and climate impacts could save $4.2 trillion per year by 2030, making Zarak’s work more crucial than ever.

“Transitioning doesn’t just reduce environmental footprint,” says Zarak. “It makes clear economic sense.”

Businesses can open up new opportunities by creating strategies with a sustainable focus, he adds: “the current set of challenges also present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future by reconstructing your portfolios in a way that aligns with a net zero world.”

A job with meaning: working beyond profit

When Zarak moved to Australia in 2014, he wanted to better understand how organisations function on a strategic level so he could help them be more successful. He also wanted to learn more about himself.

“I wanted to feel comfortable having conversations and adding value. I wanted to understand how individual roles influence the business overall – and to explore what it is that I really wanted to do.”

“I was at AGSM @ UNSW Business School, completing my MBA program, when one thing kept popping up in my head over and over,” Zarak shares.

“Maximising shareholder value wasn't the only thing I wanted to do. I wanted to combine it with making a significant positive impact on society.”

“Being able to adapt, and asking the right questions, were the key strengths that I learned through an AGSM MBA,” he says.

“While the solutions won’t necessarily be the same for everyone, the end goal is the same: a decarbonised, decentralised and digitally interconnected world.”


Learn more about AGSM’s globally ranked MBA programs, click here.

To find out more about AGSM @ UNSW Business School, click here.