How to transition your business to being carbon neutral

On 31 October to 12 November the UK is hosting the COP26 – the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties.

COP26 has various main goals on its agenda, but most specifically is the goal to “secure global net zero by mid-century”. Each country is being tasked with coming up with ambitious targets and taking steps to meet them.

Rightly so, the pressure is mounting for even greater sustainability as countries. As such, the pressure is on for businesses to move with greater pace towards carbon neutrality.

Very few businesses have sustainable business models. But the transition needs to happen. It can feel overwhelming knowing where to start and feeling like your small changes may only be a drop in the ocean.

The fact is that every drop of change matters, and there are steps you can take towards becoming a carbon neutral business without feeling that it’s an impossible task.

Why should your business strive for carbon –neutrality?
Ethically, many business leaders actively want to take responsibility for their own impact on the planet. However, even without this driving force, there are many good reasons why sustainability makes good business sense:

  • Customers expect it

Increasingly, your customers, whoever they are, will be demanding sustainable business practices. Whilst just a few years ago it was considered niche to actively seek out green businesses, now it’s the driving force for many customers. We’ve also come a long way with this. A few years ago, simply paying lip service to sustainability through promises was often enough to attract customers. Now this greenwashing isn’t enough – they want to see tangible evidence that your business model is become genuinely greener.

Sustainability is the modern route to brand enhancement.

  • The best talent expects it

And it’s not just customers in the traditional sense either. Within the recruitment arena the best candidates are cherry-picking employers that align with their own values. For the best talent – at all levels – businesses have no option but to be driving sustainable changes.

  • It’s more efficient

In the globalised world, efficiency vastly affects the bottom line. Sustainable businesses are more efficient businesses. It makes financial sense at the most basic level.

  • Cut costs

It may feel that it costs money to become sustainable and this is, at least partly, true in the short-term. However, sustainable business models ultimately cost less.

  • It puts your business ahead of the curve

The world is moving towards a carbon-neutral future – it has to and it’s inevitable. The option isn’t if, it’s ‘when’, and those businesses that lead the way and cut emissions drastically today will be the leading businesses of the future. Rather than waiting for government policies to force your hand, but taking advantage of opportunities now is the way to be ahead of the curve.

So, what steps can your business take to become carbon neutral?

Steps to becoming a carbon neutral company
Unless you are a start-up, becoming carbon neutral is something that will need transitioning into. It’ll involve shaking off your old business model by gradually replacing it with new approaches. By breaking it down into five actionable steps, you can make clear and swift progress.

1. Evaluate and measure

It’s impossible to take steps to improve your carbon footprint if you don’t know what it even is. Your first step is to ascertain – honestly – what your entire carbon footprint is now.

This involves looking at every part of your business, including your supply chain. Identify what your CO2 emissions are, but also gain insight into where they occur.

This can be a laborious and complex exercise but it provides you with a clear starting point. Most specifically, this will identify the areas where quick and easy gains can be made.

2. Set a target

Look at all of the world’s biggest businesses and you’ll see they have clear carbon neutrality targets. For example, Apple is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030 and Amazon by 2040.

Your business needs these targets too. It needs to be achievable, but it should also be ambitious. Simply having the target alone is excellent for your brand’s reputation.

3. Reduce and replace

With clear insight, your business leaders are then in the position of being able to see where reductions in carbon emissions can be made. It makes sense to split this into two main parts: your in-house business practices, and; your supply chain.

With your in-house operations, it’s usually a simpler approach. By focusing on creating efficiencies and aiming for technological innovation, you can usually make impressive strides to reducing your carbon footprint.

Your supply chain may be more difficult if pressure to change is ineffective. You may instead have to opt to replace suppliers with greener alternatives, specifically where materials and energy are involved.

4. Offset

Carbon neutrality is unlikely to be achievable solely by reducing your emissions to zero, certainly in the first instance and all at once. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the emissions you create. The solution is to offset, or negate, the CO2 through other ways.

There are multiple ways in which you can do this and your business leaders should strategically choose ways that reflect the business ethos and ultimate goals. For example, the business may choose to contribute to deforestation projects, plant trees, or support renewable energy schemes.

5. Reassess and repeat

Green technology and innovation is moving with speed. Having completed the above exercise, it’s time to re-evaluate and see what’s now possible that wasn’t before.

Leadership matters in sustainability
It’s absolutely vital that you have sustainability minded members of the executive team. These are the leaders of tomorrow and they will enable to business to transition effectively towards carbon neutrality whilst building brand reputation and competitive edge.

Only with a drive towards sustainability and carbon neutrality from the highest levels can companies effect this transition and successfully create a new business model that thrives for stakeholders and the environment.

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