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How to get started on your net zero journey

building blocks with Net zero on top block

The UK Government has agreed to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 and achieve net zero by 2050. Many businesses are already evaluating their own operations and making changes. Others are wondering where to begin and what baselining carbon emissions means. This post will help you discover how to get started on your net zero journey.

What is net zero?

Many of us have heard the term net zero, but what exactly does it mean?

Net zero is when the greenhouse gases produced are no more than the amount removed. It’s a state of balance between carbon emissions and carbon removal.

The SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative) defines and promotes emission-reduction best practices. Aligned with climate science, their standard defining corporate net zero includes the following:

  • Focusing on rapid, deep emission cuts
  • Setting near-term and long-term targets
  • Not making net-zero claims until long-term targets have been met
  • Going beyond the value chain (on top of reducing your own emissions)

The SBTi is a global body enabling businesses to set ambitious emissions reductions targets in line with the latest climate science. It is focused on accelerating companies across the world to halve emissions before 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions before 2050.

Organisations working towards net zero will first need to understand their current emissions. This means evaluating carbon emissions throughout every stage of the business. Once done, they can develop a strategy to reduce those emissions.

It can be a complex process but some businesses in Barnsley have received free support. The Net Zero Accelerator at The Business Village offers workshops and intensive support.

One workshop covers baselining carbon emissions. Delivered by Sarah Whale of Profit Impact helps to provide a starting point. From there, specialist coaches then provide support to develop action plans.

“Understanding what needs to be included in our carbon calculation will be a huge benefit to our business.” Webmart

Why is it important to achieve net zero?

In 2021, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reported that we are currently at a 1.1°c global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels. The UN (United Nations) also produced a report in 2021 which states that we are on track for a 2.7°c rise by the end of the century.

Even a 1.5°c increase will mean increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons. So, limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°c is important and every fraction of a degree matters.

“At 2°c of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.” – IPCC

The IPCC has said global warming needs limiting to 1.5°c through rapid, deep, and sustained emission cuts. And that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 would limit global warming close to 1.5°c.

There’s also a strong business case for reducing carbon emissions. We covered some of these in our blog post ‘How sharing your net zero strategy can boost your marketing’.

Your starting point for net zero

For your organisation to reach net zero, the first step is baselining emissions. This will then help determine where to focus your efforts.

Emissions have been categorised into Scopes 1, 2 and 3. These categories are the basis for mandatory greenhouse gas reporting in the UK. Defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, they are also widely used worldwide.

Scope 1 emissions:

Direct emissions from sources controlled or owned by an organisation. Examples include heating and lighting, manufacturing, and company vehicles.

Scope 2 emissions:

Indirect emissions associated with purchased electricity, steam, or heat.

Scope 3 emissions:

Indirect emissions not included in Scope 2 that occur in both upstream and downstream emissions. These can often make up 80% of your emissions.

Examples of upstream emissions include:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Business travel
  • Employee commuting
  • Waste disposal
  • Transportation and distribution
  • Leased assets

Examples of downstream emissions include:

  • Use of sold products
  • Transportation and distribution
  • End-life treatment of sold products
  • Investments
  • Leased assets

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are often relatively easy to measure. But Scope 3 will be subject to the availability and quality of data available.

Calculating your carbon emissions

To calculate your carbon footprint, it’s important to begin with an emissions inventory. This means listing every operation, service, and product from the most emissions to the least.

The data can then be input to give an emissions baseline. This Greenhouse gas conversion factors document is available on the UK Government website.

The equation looks like this:

Unit of measure x specific carbon emission factor (fuel, electricity)

= kgCO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)

By comparing the data over time, you can then set targets for reductions. Reduce as much as possible before offsetting what remains. To learn more about carbon offsetting, see this article What is carbon offsetting? from the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses).

Your net zero strategy

Many factors will affect the choice of where to start your carbon reducing efforts. Timescales, cost, feasibility, and the speed for a return on investment will all play a part.

It’s best to concentrate on tackling three or four major objectives. But there’s also no harm in going for a few quick and easy wins first.

When creating a strategy, consider what resources and investment you may need. Also build in a review process to check on progress.

The Net Zero Accelerator at The Business Village can help with your net zero strategy.

Email: ksteel@barnsleyBIC.co.uk

or find out more by visiting #NetZeroBarnsley 

Sarah Whale of Profit Impact can also help with baselining your carbon emissions

Email: sarah@profit-impact.co.uk

Mobile: 07784 187 506


Feedback on the Baselining your carbon emissions workshop includes:

“Great examples given, and video content is useful to see how this can benefit your business as a whole” – Susan Richardson, Harris & Co Accountants

“Great to be able to ask specific questions in an open environment” – Rebecca Eccles, FlexSeal

“Thought-provoking and great to understand the impact of our green footprint” – Adrian Waite, The Business Village


Read our previous Net Zero blog posts:

How sharing your net zero strategy can boost your marketing

The benefit of using a customer-focused approach to green innovation

Funding for the Net Zero Accelerator at The Business Village comes from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Barnsley Metropolitan Council.

Net Zero Funding