How to Become a Carbon Neutral Business

Nicole Lummis
April 22, 2024

On 3rd March 2021, the UK Government published its ‘Build Back Better’ report, a piece designed to set out the stall for supporting and investing in economic growth post-COVID, a plan with a distinct focus on sustainability at its heart. It’s hailed as part of a new move towards a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ for the UK, which is directly mentioned in the report, with the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, writing that part of ‘building back better’ will include driving:

Growth that is green: delivering our Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and taking action to fulfill our commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better condition than we found it.

 

Climate change poses a significant risk to all environments, be they natural or commercial. Our global supply chains depend on consistent supplies of resources, unmarred by environmental threats. Unfortunately, climate change has the potential to drastically affect our shared global economy, causing dire problems such as:

  • Extreme and unpredictable weather conditions.
  • Impacts on food security.
  • Changes to ocean dynamics.
  • The potential for international conflict.
  • Mass human migration.
  • Freshwater scarcity.
  • Sea level rise.
  • Barriers to human health and development. 

It’s more crucial than ever that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide, can be reduced or eliminated entirely and that carbon sequestration practices can come into play. 

Business is very much in the eye of the storm when it comes to climate change. In 2017, it was discovered only 100 global businesses were responsible for 71% of global emissions, with some now creating more emissions than entire countries. 

For example, according to the University of Cambridge, the increasingly popular act of Bitcoin mining now consumes more energy than the annual consumption of countries such as Argentina, Malaysia and Sweden. Both the public and private sectors represent a vast responsibility for mitigating climate change by acting now. On top of the problems raised previously, climate change is expected to cost the world economy $7.9 trillion by mid-century

The issue is, then, how can businesses become carbon neutral to ensure these problems are limited in size? 

  • Carbon Neutrality - or Net Zero
  • How Can Businesses Become Carbon Neutral?

Carbon Neutrality - or Net Zero

In the Building Back Better report, the UK government’s growth plans to secure will help ‘support the transition to net-zero’. Net-zero is also known as carbon neutrality, where net-zero carbon emissions can be achieved by eliminating emissions or offsetting carbon emissions. 

The UK government has a legal agreement to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. As of March 2021, a third of the UK’s biggest businesses (30 of the UK’s FTSE100) have committed to net-zero emissions by that year.

According to Caitlin Drown of Climate Neutral, it only costs around 0.4% of annual revenues to offset a company’s carbon footprint.

How Can Businesses Become Carbon Neutral?

Working towards carbon neutrality and becoming a greener business as a whole isn’t about implementing a recycling program or making sure people refrain from using single-use plastics. While these are worthwhile, they don’t attempt to change the core functions of a business - those areas that actually create the most emissions, such as:

With these factors for consideration in mind, how do businesses position themselves to work towards carbon neutrality?

Energy Procurement

One of the most significant and immediate changes a business can make to reach carbon neutrality is to take a close look at where a business’ energy is coming from. Electricity produced by fossil fuels isn’t the route towards net-zero. Fortunately, there’s a myriad of renewable energy providers that exist in the UK, such as:

  • Ecotricity
  • Bulb Energy
  • Good Energy 
  • Octopus Energy
  • GEUK
  • Ovo Energy

It’s currently rare for green energy suppliers to be 100% carbon neutral across the board. However, many of these companies can supply fully carbon neutral gas alongside electricity that’s completely sourced from renewable sources.

Facilities Management

One of the most common issues for businesses looking to up their green credentials is the fact their buildings may be leased. Countless green policies can be enacted on-site, but if a building owner is still utilising energy produced through the burning of fossil fuels, this can be a real obstacle to carbon neutrality. 

If possible, businesses should make a case for building owners who control energy assets to switch to a renewable energy provider. In terms of direct facilities management, those responsible can undertake several changes to aid in the transition towards carbon neutrality:

  • Update assets to energy-efficient models.
  • Improve on-site heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
  • Begin enacting preventative maintenance on equipment.
  • Develop recycling and waste management policies.

Improving insulation and utilising energy-efficient LED lighting can even help reduce energy consumption, decreasing monthly overheads. For more information on sustainable practices within facilities management, head to our blog here.

Supply Chain Changes

Private and public sector businesses will all work with some sort of supply chain, even if it’s for the smallest of orders, such as on-site cleaning supplies. Sometimes, the largest source of emissions within a business will be found in the relationships and actions between suppliers and customers. Raw materials and services need to be transported, increasing the carbon emissions directly related to a business. 

However, businesses can look into their supply chain and choose to work with suppliers who reduce their emissions or are already carbon neutral. This is admittedly difficult, but it’s still an area of a business that can improve by sourcing greener supplies, materials or services. 

This can even go further than the supply chain, with environmental considerations applied to things that aren’t necessarily facilities or supply chain-related, such as website hosting. Services are now available that allow business websites to be hosted by servers powered by renewable energy, like GreenGeeks, DreamHost, iPage, EcoHosting, Kualo and Orangewebsite.

Join Voluntary Initiatives

Many carbon neutral initiatives are readily available for organisations and businesses to join, such as Caring for Climate, Climate Neutral Now and the Carbon Neutrality Coalition. 

These initiatives provide the framework, support for businesses unsure how to reduce their emissions and offer networking opportunities and improve a company’s reputation. 

To discover more about these initiatives, visit our blog post here.

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