Blog from Jane Marsh: How Every Business Can Work Toward Net Zero

There are higher expectations for businesses now as the climate crisis becomes the most topical issue on the planet. Becoming net zero embraces reducing greenhouse gas emissions while pushing for even more extensive eco-conscious initiatives like offsetting.

Going net zero makes companies more aware of their wasted resources and toxic behaviors that hurt the planet and its ecosystems. How can your business optimize carbon sinks to become one of the leading competitors in your industry by going net zero?

Visualize Company Metrics

First, companies must understand the distinction between carbon neutrality and net zero to perform accurate company analyses. Carbon neutrality focuses on one greenhouse gas, carbon, and participating in activities to emit no more carbon than the company emits. However, controlling other residual greenhouse gas emissions, like methane and hydrofluorocarbons, is a part of becoming net zero. It’s a more holistic approach to energy and waste management.

Every company must use its tools, whether the workforce, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, AI and machine learning, to visualize what processes emit the most greenhouse gases. These discoveries will lead companies in the right direction, accenting productivity inadequacies and monetary waste.

It reveals the priorities by seeing what parts of the business cause the worst impact. It’s about more than the main office building, though. Companies should analyze their supply chain and third-party partners for all scopes of greenhouse gases and their sources. Here are some examples of what falls under which category:

  • Scope 1: Fuel from company vehicles. These are within a company’s control to manage.
  • Scope 2: Utilities like electricity or losses on a production line. These are within the company’s control but are indirect by-products of certain actions.
  • Scope 3: Business travel expenses and investments. These are further down the company line, potentially in customers’ hands. The emissions from these sources are outside of the company’s control.

Greenhouse gases hide in every part of a business and require varying degrees of effort to reduce, particularly Scope 3 emissions that may require discourse and education with customers. Collect the numbers in a database and see what you learn about energy, waste and financial optimization.

Set Practical Reduction Goals

Now that your company has found the most wasteful aspects of the business, it’s time to implement standards. Comprehension of the situation doesn’t equate to action, and there are several models for organizations to use as a baseline to get to net zero.

Going net zero requires B2B and B2C collaboration, internal shifts, and, most importantly, time. To maintain transparency and cohesion on the company’s objectives, publishing corporate social responsibility (CSR) promises is a prominent first step. It will outline the promises the company wants to adhere to, while involving the value chain and customers in the larger conversation.

It should contain manageable short-term goals for momentum and more impactful long-term goals for continued accountability:

  • Donating to local eco-friendly nonprofits to support habitat restoration.
  • Investing in renewable energy.
  • Changing packaging materials.
  • Transforming business fleets to electric.
  • Providing work-from-home opportunities for employees.
  • Obtaining third-party certifications.
  • Installing technology to monitor emissions constantly.

Customers, investors and employees want to see these come to fruition, so to enhance the power of a company’s CSR, they should also look to environment, social and corporate governance (ESG). CSR only defines the goals, while ESG clarifies how a company will self-evaluate for success.

Go Beyond Net Zero

Producing as little emissions as possible is one step, especially for highly scalable businesses like laundromats and tech startups that consistently upgrade machinery and have to reevaluate water, waste and energy usage more frequently. Then, companies are responsible for offsetting even more by taking harmful gases out of the atmosphere and sequestering them in carbon sinks.

Offsetting must happen simultaneously with other actions outlined in CSRs. It can’t wait because the urgency of the climate crisis is too great.

Every company can look at its sector with a wide lens to determine how they want to participate in offsetting emissions. Tech companies could invest in e-waste cleanup, and agriculture could institute carbon capture assets on farmland.

Every situation is unique, and the more closely the offsetting projects align with a company’s niche, the more meaningful the impact will be. To make a massive impact, companies could invest in research to find more technologies to expedite greenhouse gas offsetting, mainly because there aren’t enough carbon credits to meet demand.

Committing to Net Zero

Reaching carbon neutrality is one advancement, but companies must also look beyond carbon into how their company impacts the atmosphere and the local environment. Every step is a step in the right direction, but businesses and customers must hold everyone accountable as humans collaborate toward a net zero planet.

About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co

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