Small businesses make up over 99% of the UK's business population and provide 60% of private-sector jobs. This means there’s no way we’ll be able to achieve a net-zero economy without them on board.
However, a lot of small business owners have said they’re confused about what net-zero is, and they aren’t clear what action they need to take.
Well, if this sounds like you don’t panic! Read on to learn what net-zero is, why it’s a good thing for your business and what you need to do to get started.
What is Net-Zero?
In a bid to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
There are lots of things we can all do to cut down on our emissions, from lifestyle changes to technologies.
Net-Zero vs Absolute Zero
It would be impossible to reach a point where humans produce zero greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why we talk about “net-zero” as opposed to absolute zero. Net-zero means that we remove enough emissions from the atmosphere to balance out what we’re producing.
The UK is one of six countries to give itself a legally binding deadline for reaching net zero. This means we need to drastically reduce our emissions and invest in new ways to remove the remaining emissions from the atmosphere.
Why Is Net-Zero Important?
The biggest reason to aim for net-zero is of course the climate emergency. Climate change is not only endangering animals but threatens the resources that we depend on, such as energy, water and food. Unless there’s a significant drop in carbon emissions soon, this will be our reality.
There are also some short-term benefits for your business to get to net zero.
With 80% of UK residents reporting that they are concerned about climate change, they’re increasingly making a conscious effort to seek out more environmentally sustainable products and services. This means that by making a visible effort to cut your emissions you’ll be making your business more attractive for these kinds of customers. It also helps with recruitment, with over a quarter of UK workers reporting that they would prefer to work for a company that cares about the environment, and even that they would be prepared to take a pay cut to do so.
How to Lower Your Business’s Energy Consumption
Step 1: Measuring Your Emissions
Whether you operate a large manufacturing firm or a small local café, the first stage of your net-zero journey is to calculate your current emissions. If you don’t know where you’re starting, how are you meant to complete your journey!
To do this, you need to map out the boundaries of your business. Ask yourself: what operations and sites does your business directly control?
Then you’ll need to measure all the emissions from your company’s operations. This means measuring the sources of emissions (for example, energy consumption), then calculating the actual emissions, which will vary depending on which greenhouse gas is being generated.
Let’s break it down with an example. Most businesses emit a lot of carbon dioxide due to their energy use. This means you’d need to measure your gas and electricity use in kWh. If your business involves transport costs, you’d measure your fuel consumption in litres, and so on. The global warming potential of different gases varies, but they can all be measured in a“carbon dioxide equivalent”, or CO₂e (for example, one tonne of methane has a carbon dioxide equivalent of 28 tonnes). The UK government regularly publishes conversion factors, meaning you can calculate the CO₂e of different gases your business might produce.
As you gather this data you’ll start to build up what is known as your business’s carbon footprint. To get a better idea of what energy your business is using, try installing sub-meters. These could even help you to pinpoint what areas and processes of your business are using the most energy so you can prioritise them.
Step 2: Setting Targets
The idea of trying to reach net-zero by 2050 probably feels pretty daunting, instead, you should break it down into a series of short-term goals that will help your business stay on track.
Work backwards and figure out what emission reductions you’ll need to make every year, creating a carbon-neutral road map with the steps you need to take. Setting interim targets will give you a chance to keep an eye on your progress and gives you chance to correct your business if it goes off-course.
Step 3: Stay On Track
Net-zero might feel like a huge, unattainable goal, but approaching it with the right mindset will make it more likely that you’ll be able to succeed.
Here are a few top tips that you can follow to see yourself through to success:
It’s OK to do the Easy Things First
Sometimes the best way to kick of a carbon neutral roadmap is to start with the quick, easy wins. This can include switching to a greener energy supplier or installing cheaper, more energy efficient options. It’s a good idea to make these kinds of changes as early as possible. But don’t forget to ensure you have a plan for how you’re going to approach the trickier areas.
Talk About It
You should go public with your company’s net-zero journey and share your progress as you go.
Write about it on your website and keep your customers and employees up to date as you go. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable, and it’s also good public relations.
Celebrate Your Progress
When your business hits an interim target, it’s time to celebrate and share the news.
This will make it clear that your goals around emissions reductions are taken as seriously as other business goals.
Reaching net-zero poses a huge challenge, but most businesses find that embarking on their net-zero journey brings many benefits.
You’ll be making cost savings, you’ll get a reputational boost and you’ll build better relationships with your value chain. Your communications about your net-zero plans should reflect the fact that you are taking a hugely positive step.
So, there you have it! Our top tips to get your business on the path to net-zero. It's important that every business helps in the battle to tackle climate change, so we hope you've found it helpful.
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