There has been much talk in recent years of climate change and the impact human activities have had on shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. From cutting down our daily energy use to changing the way that we travel, there are many small changes that we can make to help reduce our carbon footprint. But when it comes to your business, there are so many more steps that you could be taking in helping achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and to becoming a net-zero business.
At the COP26 climate conference in November 2021, fresh announcements were made about the role research and innovation will play in the green transition, including a detailed plan from the USA setting out how it will achieve net-zero.
US president Joe Biden told fellow world leaders that the current soaring energy prices, which are now affecting businesses and consumers all over the world, were a reason “to double down on clean energy deployment” so that countries were not “overly reliant on one source of power”.
Though President Biden committed the US to achieve net-zero by 2050, few commentators think that the aim of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is achievable with current plans. The US strategy revolves around technologies some of which are not yet developed, including renewable energy sources, sustainable fuels like hydrogen and biofuels, energy-saving technologies, and the scaling up of carbon removal by means of both atmospheric ‘scrubbing’ and the protection of forest as natural carbon sinks. But some of this is extremely ambitious; the US plan admits for instance that “there is currently no large-scale proof of concept for DAC [Direct air capture] technology or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, making it difficult to determine how well the technology can scale up and what the true cost and adverse impacts of the technology are at large scale.”
Even with all this in place, the US strategy would still also be reliant on some nuclear power as part of a green energy mix.
In 2019, the UK Government committed itself to reduce the UK’s net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% by 2050. This target is known as net-zero and to achieve such a goal will require widespread changes in policy and business across many sectors. As part of this plan, at COP26 a new £3 billion technology transfer fund was announced to help poorer countries roll out sustainable technology.
The UK Government is actively encouraging businesses, no matter how big or small, to take action to reduce emissions to contribute to the 2050 target, with UK based businesses accounting for 18% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions.
According to research by the UK Government, 38% of businesses reported that they are taking at least one action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with a further 24% intending to act in reducing their carbon footprint in the next 12 months.
However, businesses have also expressed concern with the purposed target. In the same UK Government report, it was found that 20% of UK based business owners cited costs as a major apprehension in becoming a net-zero business.
However, it isn’t just the cost of becoming a net-zero business that is concerning businesses owners, but the lack of understanding as to what becoming a net-zero business looks like in practice.
A 2021 BT survey found that 77% of businesses didn’t know how to measure their carbon emissions and were unsure as to how to transition into a net-zero business.
So, what does a net-zero business look like? And what are the costs and charges involved in cutting your businesses carbon emissions?
Steps to take in becoming net-zero
The best place to start is by measuring your businesses current carbon emissions.
Fuel consumption – How much fuel is your business currently consuming? For example, are your employees travelling to and from work? If so, how much fuel are they consuming daily? Could you cut fuel use by encouraging home working? If you operate a vehicle fleet, is it petrol-driven and could you switch to electric vehicles?
Energy consumption – How much energy is your business premises currently consuming? This could be in the form of heat, gas or electricity. Do you leave the lights on overnight on your premises? Do you switch electronic devices off, or leave them on standby?
Other emissions – Does your business occur any other type of emission? For instance, how much waste does your business currently produce? Could you do more to recycle waste? Does your business use the services of other companies, and what is their sustainability record?
If you are a small or medium-sized business, you can calculate your organisation’s carbon emissions on the Carbon Trust website.
While not a complete evaluation of your businesses overall carbon footprint, you will be able to get a basic overview of your organisational footprint, and how you can start to cut down your businesses carbon emissions.