Businesses are under increasing pressure to take action to help tackle climate change. Words like ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’ are being thrown around a lot. But what do these words mean? And are the concepts themselves achievable?
What does Carbon Neutral Mean?
The term carbon neutral might sound good, but all it means is that a company has balanced their emissions. A company has essentially measured their carbon footprint and then paid to offset their emissions through removal projects such as tree planting or avoidance projects like renewable energy projects. The company is then free to continue with ‘business as usual’ regardless of how polluting their practices are. It is very easy to become carbon neutral simply by paying to offset your emissions. But carbon offsetting is a flawed concept and to avoid being accused of greenwashing, companies need to go a step further.
Take Real Action by Committing to Net Zero
Net Zero involves reducing emissions in line with the latest climate science and balancing any remaining emissions through carbon removal projects. This is the nitty gritty of climate action for businesses. It involves long term action that must be applied across the entire business. Standards for net zero are laid out in the SBTi Net Zero Standard. Most companies are expected to reduce emissions by 90% across scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2050. The residual emissions can then be accounted for through carbon removal projects such as tree planting or CO2 removal technologies.
What Should My Company Do?
It might sound easy to go carbon neutral, and that’s because it is. This option allows your business to continue creating emissions with no level of reduction required. It’s also possible to be carbon neutral and only take account of your scope 1 and 2 emissions. This is a problem as a company’s scope 3 emissions are often the largest.
Committing to Net Zero is a more responsible way of tackling your emissions. The SBTi Corporate Net Zero Standard has further guidance on how to set science based net zero targets as well as an SME Pathway to help smaller businesses.
How Do I Get Started?
For smaller businesses, the thought of committing to net zero may seem overwhelming. Check out our top tips for getting started:
1. Measure your business’ carbon footprint across scopes 1, 2 and 3.
There are consultants who can help you do this, such as Green Small Business.
2. Create an action plan to start reducing your emissions over time.
This can include small changes such as using recycled paper, to bigger commitments such as installing solar panels onsite or switching to electric vehicles.
3. Support carbon removal projects.
You could also consider joining 1% for the Planet. As a member you can choose from a range of environmental partners who are certified, giving you assurance that your money is going to where it is most needed.