Net Zero Explained: A Small Business Guide to Understanding the Basics

Car driving on a road through a forest

Sustainability is a bit of a buzzword in the business community at the moment and with the Scottish government setting targets to reach net zero by 2045, the emphasis on going green isn’t going anywhere. Keen to be at the forefront of the sustainable business community, one of our goals at Planner Bee VA Services is to become a net zero business (and eventually, a B Corp). But, before becoming a net zero business, we must first identify our current carbon footprint, so that we can work to reduce our carbon emissions. 

In order to do this, over the last year, I have been learning everything I can about net zero and calculating carbon emissions for businesses and it’s fair to say that I have found there is quite a lot to get my head around. We are all in this together, so in the hope of inspiring other business owners to embark on the net zero journey, I have decided to start sharing everything I learn along the way, in this journal of our journey to net zero. For this first journal entry, this article explains net zero, a small business guide to understanding the basics.

What does it mean to be a net zero business?

The Paris agreement set out that we have just over 6 years to ensure that the global temperature does not rise by more than 1.5 degrees (by 2030). If we don’t there are catastrophic events that will occur in the world in terms of biodiversity, people and planet. At a business level, we need to do our bit and change how we operate in order to ensure we are able to meet the targets set out in the Paris agreement and becoming a net zero business is one of the most effective ways to do this. Net zero means that your business is not adding to the total amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. 

At a very basic level, the process to becoming a net zero business is as follows:

  1. Commit to becoming a net zero business and get your team and clients on board.
  2. Assess the current carbon footprint of your business.
  3. Work to reduce the carbon emissions that your business produces as much as possible.
  4. Any carbon emissions that cannot be reduced are offset, in order to reach net zero.
  5. Continue to monitor technological advances and adopt new technologies/ processes/ practices that can help you to reduce your business carbon emissions further.
Renewable energy infographic

Net Zero Vs Carbon Neutral for Business

Although the terms net zero and carbon neutral are often implied to have the same meaning, the terms do have different meanings. Being net zero and carbon neutral both mean that your business is not adding to the total amount of harmful emissions in the atmosphere. However, a carbon neutral business is only concerned with removing and reducing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Whereas a net zero business goes beyond this and is concerned with reducing and removing all of the harmful greenhouse gasses being emitted, not just CO2. While achieving both net zero and carbon neutral status are positive steps for the planet, achieving net zero is a more comprehensive approach.

The Importance of Net Zero for Businesses

As a net zero business, you will be doing your part to prevent climate change and secure the future of the planet for generations to come. With both the UK and Scottish government pledging to reach net zero,  businesses of all sizes will have a role to play in this. Working to become a net zero business now will not only benefit the planet, but you will also be ahead of the curve and will be prepared for any government regulations surrounding net zero, as the deadlines for these targets approach.

Becoming a net zero business and adopting sustainable practices can also playing an important role in enhancing your business reputation and establishing yourself at the forefront of the sustainable business movement. Building your reputation as an environmentally-responnsible brand can create feelings of pride among employees, increasing the satisfaction your team get from their work and encouraging them to build a long working relationship with the business. Having a strong reputation as an ethical business can also prove beneficial when it comes to recruitment, with employees, particularly younger employees favouring employers with a commitment to sustainability and ethics

With increased awareness of the climate crisis and adoption of sustainable lifestyles on the rise, becoming a net zero business is also likely to enhance your business reputation amongst clients and potential clients. Furthermore, Seedrs most recent investor survey found that sustainability focussed businesses are the number one thing investors are looking for, meaning that becoming a net zero business could also open doors to additional investment opportunities.

Understanding the Basics of Net Zero for Businesses

When it comes to transitioning to net zero, there is lots to think about (and I haven’t even covered carbon calculating and scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions yet), but there is also lots to gain, both environnmentally and in your business. Understanding the basics is the first step on our net zero journey. Now, we are embarking on our quest (and it really has turned out to be quite the quest), to calculate the carbon emissions of our business – keep an eye out for the next journal entry coming soon.

In the meantime, download our sustainability checklist here for sustainable practices that you can implement to kickstart your net zero journey.

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