Is your business on track for a net-zero future?
With a summer of fires and floods, and COP26 soon kicking off in Scotland, the challenges of climate change are hard to ignore.
But can SME's really make a difference to these global challenges? The short answer is yes. While the game-changing decisions do lie with governments and global players we can – and should – be playing our part.
More and more household names are announcing net-zero targets and a commitment to decarbonisation is a step we can all take.
What does net-zero mean?
The UK was the first major economy to set a legally binding target of net-zero by 2050, and many others including France, Japan, and Sweden have followed.
In simple terms being net-zero or 'carbon-neutral' means that your carbon emissions are offset by the absorption of an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere.
It sounds like a big ambition, but with the right plans in place, it is an achievable one.
Why it matters
The single most important reason is that you'll be contributing to saving the world, without the need for a cape. But beyond that, showing an authentic commitment to sustainability shows strong leadership and is demanded by employees, clients, and communities alike. Plus in the long term you're likely to see operational efficiencies, more business resilience, and be in a stronger position to weather future regulation changes.
Five steps to get started
Assess and plan
You can't make changes if you don't have a good grasp on where you're currently at. Measuring your current carbon footprint will help you develop a plan of action. The Carbon Trust has put together a Carbon Footprint Calculator that is a great place to start. It will take into account things like energy consumption, fuel consumption and your use of air conditioning equipment. Using this as a base measurement you can start to look at ways to manage and reduce your consumption.
Tackle your building
Energy efficiency is probably the quickest way to cut your emissions and key to this is your building use. Consider the fabric of the building and how you could reduce heat and cooling loss, you might need to replace things like boilers and fridges to make a real impact. Upgrading your lighting can also make a big difference. If you share the building with other tenants try to get them on board too as collectively you will have more impact.
Switch to renewable energy
Many energy suppliers now offer green tariffs - if yours doesn't it's easy to switch. But be aware that not all green tariffs are equal, some directly swap renewable energy while others purchase excess renewable energy certificates off other suppliers to create their green tariff. Make sure you read the small print to establish which you're getting.
Reduce your waste
This is another other initiative you can get onto straight away. Going 100% paperless can save you money and reduce your carbon footprint, think about getting a card baler machine to flatten and compress boxes ready for recycling, and don't stop at your practices, think about switching to sustainable suppliers who will deliver in recyclable, biodegradable or refillable packaging.
Get your data sorted
Large cloud providers are more energy efficient than enterprise data centres because of operational and equipment efficiency, data centre infrastructure and a higher utilisation of renewable energy. If you're using on-site servers think about moving to the cloud and deleting old or obsolete data.
Communicate and collaborate
Getting your business to net-zero isn’t a solo mission. You need your whole team on board and involved. Communicate your plans, identify some net-zero champions and try to embed sustainability into your core purpose. And look externally for support and community too, connect with other businesses who are looking to go net-zero and try to develop local and sector wide initiatives to tackle it together.
Going net-zero can seem daunting but with a firm commitment and solid plan you can kickstart your transformation. It's a commitment more and more organisations are taking, and you'll not only be creating a better planet but future-proofing your business too.
Further reading and resources
UK Business Climate Hub