Tips for developing a net zero strategy as a business
The world is changing fast, and we need to change with it. We’re currently in a climate emergency and we all need to do our bit to slow the rate of global warming by reducing our carbon emissions. Businesses have a responsibility to respond to the climate emergency and make a positive contribution to their communities, wider society and our planet.
One of the best ways to do this is by developing a net zero strategy for your business that will allow you to achieve carbon neutrality. The following steps will help you understand how to become net zero; creating realistic targets and timelines, and measuring your progress along the way.
What does net zero mean for a business?
Not to be confused with being a carbon neutral business (where carbon emissions are offset against the amount emitted), a net zero strategy means a business has a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero over time.
Net zero strategies cover an organisation’s activities – from how they get products from the manufacturer through to how they dispose of them at the end of their life. It’s likely to include a number of elements across the whole business. Some of the ways businesses can reduce their emissions include: managing waste efficiently, improving energy efficiency, encouraging employees to use public transport or switch to green transport (like an electric vehicle), reducing food miles and sourcing local produce where possible.
Developing a net zero strategy may sound like a daunting task, but it’s worthwhile. The best way to get started is by breaking the goal down into manageable tasks, and working towards each of those tasks as a small step in the right direction. Once you reach those goals, set new ones and continue your progress towards becoming a net zero business. You’ll be in good company too – a third of the UK’s largest businesses have pledged to reach net zero by 2050.
How to develop a net zero strategy
Net zero strategies are a company's plan for achieving a long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. When developing your net zero strategy, it's important to consider the impact of your business on the environment, and find ways you can use renewable energy sources to offset those emissions.
To create a net zero strategy you need to consider:
- How much energy do you use?
- What can you do with your energy consumption?
- Is there anything else that affects your environmental impact?
We’ve broken the process down into more manageable steps:
Step 1: Align organisational purpose, strategy and business models
Before you can start to develop a net zero strategy, it's important to understand what your current impact is.
To start with you'll need to measure your carbon footprint and impact on the environment. You will need to work out how much CO2 your company produces every year and then compare this with how much CO2 is taken out or offset through renewable energy generation and other methods.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs changing within your business to bring your net zero strategy together. You’ll also be able to see where you can reduce costs and become more efficient overall.
Step 2: Set business goals and evidence-based targets
A net zero target means that the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by your business is balanced by the amount you remove or offset. To reach net zero you’ll need to do more than just cut down your energy usage - you’ll need to make sure that all of your business activities have an equivalent positive impact on the climate. This will often involve investing in renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines, but it can also mean re-investing in projects like tree planting, waste management initiatives and sustainable land use management practices.
Step 3: Embed net zero practices in your operations and value chains
The third step is to develop a net zero roadmap. A net zero roadmap can be a simple document with a timeline, some milestones and key deliverables. Your roadmap should include information on how your organisation will achieve net zero, including:
- The initiatives that have been taken so far and their outcomes
- The next steps in your journey towards net zero
- Benchmarks for performance along the way
- Resources required to reach your goals (for example, staff time or money)
A net zero strategy isn’t only about reducing your emissions. It also includes your operations, products and services, supply chains and offices. It’s important for businesses that want to transition to a net zero strategy to have a holistic view of emissions reduction and not just look at one part of their business.
Step 4: Measure and report progress
The fourth step is to set up monitoring and reporting processes. This will help you track your progress toward net zero, as you also need to report on your progress and impact.
There are lots of benefits to monitoring your progress: it’ll help you identify opportunities for improvement, serve as a way to keep employees engaged in the project and provide evidence that what you are doing matters.
How do businesses achieve net zero?
So, we’ve covered how to develop a net zero strategy. Now we’ll look at some of the actionable steps you can take to become a net zero business.
Reduce carbon emissions
First, consider how you can reduce emissions within your business and across your supply chain. This may include making changes to the products or services you provide, shifting where they are produced, and/or changing what materials go into them to have a lower environmental impact. You’ve already put in the work to measure your current carbon footprint, so this is the perfect time to identify any opportunities for action.
Switch to electric vehicles
A huge difference you can make in your efforts to become a net zero business is to switch to an electric fleet. Octopus Electric Vehicles offer the full EV package for businesses, making it super easy for you to set up and maintain an electric fleet.
Greener ways of working & waste reduction
All of the materials and energy that go into producing your product or service have to come from somewhere. So how can you reduce the amount of waste you create? Here are some ideas:
- Recycle - this is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste at every stage of production. It's also very cost effective.
- Reuse - rather than throwing away old products or parts once their primary purpose has been served, try using them again in another way instead.
Improve energy efficiency
The most effective way to improve energy efficiency is to reduce your energy demand – whether through lower-power light bulbs or by turning off appliances when not in use (or even unplugging them altogether). There are plenty of ways we can save money on our electricity bills without sacrificing convenience.
Onsite power generation
You can also consider switching to renewable sources of power such as solar panels or wind turbines, which will allow you to save on your electricity bills and become more environmentally friendly.
Net zero strategy: the bottom line for businesses
Becoming net zero as a business is an exciting chance to be part of the changes that will help our planet and its people thrive in the future. It’s also an opportunity for companies to show leadership and demonstrate that they are committed to sustainable practices.
Joining in on these environmental trends will help businesses compete and stay relevant to new consumers. By taking steps towards giving back more than they take from the world around them, businesses can make a real difference in their communities and beyond.