Undoubtedly, climate change poses an increasingly urgent threat to us all. Since the 90s, the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by nearly 1°C. According to researchers, if the average global temperature gets any warmer than 2°C, the world will be a lot drier and it will dramatically impact economies, devastate agriculture, and deplete our natural resources.
In other words, ecosystems would be damaged, human life would be at stake, and other species would not be able to adapt — particularly coral reefs and Arctic animals. Furthermore, low-lying coastal regions and small islands all around the globe would disappear as glaciers melt and sea levels rise.
However, according to the most recently published report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is still possible to limit the increase in global temperature to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. At this level, it would guarantee fewer negative impacts of climate change, allowing mitigation and adaptation.
In order to maintain the temperature at 1.5°C, and to reach the goals of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010), and completely reducing any emissions by 2050, everyone must take quick and aggressive action.
What Is Carbon Neutral?
Coined in the early 1990s, the term ‘carbon-neutral’ refers to a process of achieving no net release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. In other words, if you or your company emitted an amount of CO2, you will have to balance out the emissions by removing the equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
Every company emits CO2 through a range of activities, whether this is through transportation, waste disposal, or energy consumption. The final aim is to reduce harmful emissions, to have a zero carbon footprint.
This carbon-neutrality process can be achieved via the use of renewables and emission-free resources, and a combined effort of carbon offsetting — such as participating in schemes or funding programmes.
Why Carbon Neutral?
There are many benefits to a business when committing to a carbon-neutral future. First and foremost, your business contributes to the global movement of reducing greenhouse emissions, helping to limit the impact of climate change and pushing the process of preserving the planet earth for future generations.
Secondly, being a conscientious green company will help your business attract both investors and customers. As stated in Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2018, the total revenue of ethical market in the UK has reached £81.3 billion, which more than doubled compared to the statistics from 2008.
Additionally, almost 75% of Britons and around 87% of American shoppers are more willing to buy sustainable products over ones that are not. Meanwhile the emphasis on buying from ethical brands is even more prominent in emerging markets — India (95%), China (94%), and Brazil (93%).
In addition, being carbon neutral could also help your business to improve energy efficiency, consequently saving costs on transportation expenses, as well as energy bills.
A recent study, released by Clutch, also shows that ethical companies have higher chances of attracting and retaining employees. 93% of those surveyed claim that it is important to them if businesses maintain high ethical standards, while 76% would work for a company that commits to make the world a better place.
What Steps Can Your Business Take?
Many of the world’s largest and most successful companies are investing in environmental stewardship initiatives, such as swedish furniture company IKEA.
This company‘s ultimate aim is to 100% use renewable energy by 2020. It has invested about £1.3 billion into renewable generation projects: it owns and operates 327 wind turbines, and has almost 700,000 solar panels installed on their stores and distribution centres.
So how can your business take IKEA’s example and build a sustainable brand? Here are three steps to get started:
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Company’s Environmental Impact
It is not possible to change something that you do not understand or have a clear view of. Hence, the first step should involve creating the most accurate picture of your business’ carbon footprint and calculating the quantity of emissions that are currently produced during your day-to-day operation.
A company-wide carbon footprint includes all types of greenhouse gas emissions, from both direct and indirect sources. Direct sources are sources of emissions that come straight from facilities that your company owns or operates — fossil fuels used in manufacturing or processing, or in company transportation. Indirect sources are those that your business buys: business travel, employee commuting, electricity and water usage, waste disposal, and energy that your company sells: the entire life cycle emissions of products and services sold to customers.
The data can be collated from different departments, like purchasing, finance, and energy teams. Energy bills and fuel invoices can help quantify the business’ annual fossil fuel consumption. Once data is obtained, you can use carbon footprint calculators offered by the National Energy Foundation or Native Energy.
Step 2: Develop a Climate Action Plan
Once you gain a complete picture of your carbon emissions, you can start planning to tackle the major sources, focusing your effort and investment where it will benefit the most.
There are many ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, including recycling paper, encouraging employees to use public transport, introducing carpool systems, and to utilising technology advancements — for example, video conferencing to reduce business travel, and deploying cloud storage to store and share documents to create less waste.
Electricity, heating, and cooling are all traditional sources of carbon emissions. Hence, your company can start by improving energy efficiency in the office by insulating with double-glazed windows and doors to prevent heat loss. You can also make use of renewable energy by installing solar panels to generate electricity, or air source heat pumps to provide heat.
However, it is simply not possible to reduce your footprint 100% as there will always be unavoidable emissions. Thus, your company can think of purchasing carbon credits and reinvesting in certified environmentally-friendly projects across the globe, including protecting animal habitats, renewable energy sources, and reforestation.
Once you have set targets and started to implement your climate action plan, it is vital to assess your progress. It is best to work with a third-party consultancy to maximise transparency, maintain cross-collaboration and accountability, and track and measure your footprint elimination progress.
This process is not only to help validate your company efforts, but also offer insights on where you can do better.
Step 3: Join Other Businesses
One of the best ways to take action on sustainability is to partner up with other businesses, environmental groups and local government. By doing that, you can maximise the impact, collectively reduce your environmental footprint while promoting your business as sustainable.
The biggest example of collaborating as a force for good, including environmental impact, is B Corp Community. They represent thousands of enterprises that set their own science-based greenhouse gas emissions goals, and together moving toward 100% renewable power to address climate change.
The Bottom Line
We have a moral and ethical obligation to each other, future generations, and other species to sustain our planet earth. It is also critical if we hope for our businesses to survive, as having a sustainable operation model puts an organisation far ahead of the competition, gaining trust and loyalty among employees and customers. That is to say, a carbon neutral commitment is beneficial to your business and helps to safeguard the future of the planet.