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What does it actually mean to be Carbon Neutral?

By 19/08/2020No Comments

Let’s define how your business can become Carbon Neutral 

In 2017, the BBC broadcast a documentary which generated a culture shift. Watched by over 14 million people, Blue Planet II undoubtedly ignited a change in people attitudes. 

After the airing of the first episode, a whopping 81% of global respondents felt strongly that businesses should help improve the environment. This passion for a company’s social responsibility is shared across generations. From Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X right through to their older counterparts (Source).  

With what has been coined the ‘Blue Planet Effect’, climate change has now jumped to the forefront of people’s thoughts. As a result, businesses and customers alike are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact.  

Therefore, many individuals, companies and countries around the world have committed to being carbon neutral. In this blog, we will discuss what it means to be climate neutral and how businesses can take the necessary steps to make it happen. 

So, what does carbon neutral actually mean?

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Carbon sinks refers to any system which absorbs more carbon than it emits. This whole process results in removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere, and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. To achieve net-zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.

We know that sounds very scientific, but to put it simply, Carbon Neutral refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or eliminating carbon emissions entirely. 

How is carbon neutrality different to ‘net zero emissions’?

The terms’ net-zero emissions’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ are interchangeable. The core meaning of both is the need to achieve an ecological balance between the activities we carry out that emit climate pollution, and the processes that reduce the impact of that pollution to zero or as close to zero as possible. Both terms mean a phase-out of fossil fuel emissions accompanied by a phase-in of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. 

So, how can businesses begin to become climate-neutral?

As businesses begin looking for ways not to affect the planet’s natural carbon cycles, the phrases “carbon-neutral” and “carbon-negative” have increasingly become industry buzzwords. But, how can businesses truly make strides in achieving climate neutrality? 

 Your business’s energy consumption generates carbon emissions. Amenities such as heating, lighting travel (petrol) and water usage are all produced by fossil fuels. Therefore, the first step a company must do is understand more about their carbon footprint. There are several, free carbon calculators businesses can use to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions. Once you have calculated your total CO2 emissions, then you need to look at how you can reduce them. 

Businesses also might realise some aspects of their production are unsustainable and look for workarounds or more environmentally-friendly alternatives. In contrast, other companies may regularly travel for meetings. Therefore, they may make the necessary change to hosting meetings virtually. Alternatively, a business may introduce eco-schemes into the workplace, such as local and organic vegetables deliveries or incentives for employees to reduce their individual footprints.

 But, if there are areas where you cannot eliminate your carbon footprint, you counteract it! You can ‘offset’ an adverse action by purchasing carbon offset credits. You can invest in environmentally friendly projects elsewhere in the world through areas such as reforestation and the generation of renewable energy.

It can seem complicated at first to reduce your footprint without affecting the quality of your products/services or your bottom line, especially if you’re already a lean business. But when you look at the whole picture, there are always actions you can take, whether in reducing or offsetting your emissions.

There’s nothing to lose – except your carbon emissions!

Clearly, the issue of how we treat the planet is not a temporary trend. Changes are being made, and the public is responding positively to them. Overall, going carbon neutral can offer real business benefits as well as contributing to the broader goal of reducing emissions.