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How to get started on your net zero journey
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
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
Transportation and distribution
Examples of downstream emissions include:
Use of sold products
Transportation and distribution
End-life treatment of sold products
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.
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.
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.