Should Your Business Be Working Towards Net-Zero?
If you live in Australia, it is highly likely that you have heard a lot of talk about net-zero in the media over the past few weeks.
The government has received enormous pressure from lobbyists, interest groups, businesses and citizens across Australia to commit to net-zero by 2050 ahead of COP26, an annual climate summit attended by leaders from around the world, taking place this year in Glasgow.
Unlike many terms in sustainability (such as eco-friendly, ethical... even the term sustainability itself) which are yet to be truly quantified by a authorising body, net-zero is a target which can be measured on an individual, local, national and even global scale.
What is net-zero?
Net-zero is a simple equation between the amount of greenhouse gases produced MINUS the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere. If this number is a positive number, it shows that the particular country, company or household is continuing to contribute to climate change. If the number is zero or negative, this is where we start to see a balance restored to what we are doing to our planet. This is the goal.
Is net-zero the same as carbon neutral?
While the two terms are very similar, they are not entirely the same. Carbon neutral refers to a similar equation but instead of all greenhouse gases, we are only looking at the equation between carbon dioxide (CO2) produced MINUS carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Carbon neutral is also sometimes interchanged with net-zero carbon; however, we try to avoid this in order to separate net-zero emissions and carbon neutrality.
You may also hear the terms carbon positive and carbon negative. Carbon positive means that the organisation measuring their environmental impact is actually taking even more CO2 out of the atmosphere than they're putting in. Carbon negative is when the opposite happens and an organisation, a country or the planet collectively produces more CO2 than they are removing from the atmosphere.
Why is net-zero important?
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that stated we must work towards a net-zero by 2050 target in order to limited the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5°C.
Limiting a temperature increase to only this amount will go a long way in safeguarding our planet. However, if we can reach net-zero before this time, we will further be able to protect our planet against the impending effects of climate change.
The IPCC has also declared we must cut our net emissions (our total emissions MINUS how the amount of greenhouse gases taken out of the atmosphere) in half by 2030. Even with this action, we will only give ourselves a 50% chance of avoiding some of the most serious effects of climate change.
What can businesses do?
While the government works quickly to come up with a net-zero plan for 2050 prior to COP26, businesses can also make their own decisions to become net-zero. Some businesses may even find that they can set a more ambitious target than by 2050; for example, some businesses may also be able to achieve net-zero by 2030.
The process of working towards net-zero emissions can be daunting, so for small businesses starting out in the sustainability realm, we recommend starting with carbon neutrality and then working towards a net-zero emissions.
If your business is working towards that already, you can even look to achieve a climate neutral policy, which occurs when the net impact of your operations on the environment is completely neutral. This is a lot broader and looks at not only your business operations but your supply chain, the impact your workplace has on the behaviours of your staff outside of work (eg are you in an area accessible to your staff by public transport).
3 ideas for small business net-zero commitments
Consider your business operations carefully. What can be improved or limited?
Look at your electricity, gas and water consumption. Is there a way you can reduce your gas consumption? Can you move to renewable energy?
Consider a carbon offset scheme for your business.
There are a number of ways you can make a meaningful and measurable commitment to the environment, no matter what size your business is. Whether you're looking to be carbon neutral, net-zero or climate neutral, Strategic Sustainability Consultants is here to help! Contact us to find out how to embark on these steps.