The reduction of carbon emissions has often been viewed as the responsibility of manufacturing facilities, fleet services, and utility companies that burn fossil fuels. However, achieving carbon neutrality is a goal we should all share as businesses.
In this article, you’ll learn what being carbon neutral means and how you can make your business more sustainable.
What does carbon neutral mean?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a form of air pollution. Being carbon neutral means that you’re offsetting your company’s CO2 emissions by contributing financially to the removal of the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere. This can be done by purchasing carbon offset credits from organizations like Cool Effect or the South Pole Group. These entities then invest those funds into carbon removal technology.
Modern consumers want to do business with carbon neutral companies. Governments reward carbon neutral businesses with tax breaks and subsidies. Most importantly, your employees will know that your company is doing its part to save the planet.
How does carbon neutrality impact costs?
The most important variable in the cost equation is the amount of carbon your company generates. Neutrality is achieved by equaling that output with the financial amount necessary to offset it. If your emissions are low, your offset costs will be low. CO2 emissions are measured in metric tons (1 metric ton = 2,204.6 lbs). Carbon offsets can be purchased for as low as $14.62 per ton.
Buying carbon offsets to match your current carbon output can be mitigated by a reduction in your tax liability. It’s also been a trend in recent years that employment prospects will take less money to work for more environmentally conscious companies. Carbon neutral businesses attract the kind of people willing to put the planet’s needs before their own.
Why is sustainability in business important?
A popular saying in the climate change movement is, “There is no planet B.” That sums up why being a sustainable business is so important. This goes beyond simply reducing your carbon footprint. If you really want to commit to sustainability, it needs to become part of your identity as a business. Some of the top companies in the world are now pushing to be carbon negative, not just carbon neutral.
Don’t underestimate consumers who buy your products or subscribe to your services. They look at sustainability when they weigh the pros and cons of doing business with you. The three measures of sustainability are economic, environmental, and social principles. In other words, your bottom line isn’t the most important metric. Today’s consumers want to see more.
Examples of carbon neutral businesses
Many of the top companies in the world have committed themselves to being carbon neutral. Amazon recently ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles and committed $100 million to reforestation projects. Microsoft has invested $700 million in wind farms, solar projects, and forestland conservation. Their goal is to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.
In the retail space, Walmart is taking a more aggressive approach by committing to restore 50 million acres of forested land and 100 square miles of ocean in the next decade. These targeted areas are classified as “carbon sinks” that absorb more carbon than they emit, a process that is critical to the long-term health of the planet. Walmart’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2040.
Steps to becoming a carbon neutral company
You don’t need Amazon or Walmart money to become carbon neutral. Smaller businesses are doing it by switching to renewable energy, allowing employees to work virtually from home, and encouraging commuters to use public transportation. Your company can begin the journey of achieving carbon neutrality by following the steps below.
1. Define your sustainability goal
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Reducing carbon emissions can be overwhelming if you try to do it all at once. Focusing on a specific product or service can help alleviate some of the pressure. Examples of this are switching to electric delivery vehicles or changing to recyclable packaging. Set reasonable goals that you know you can meet.
2. Measure your carbon footprint
If you can’t measure it, how do you know when your goals have been met? Your carbon footprint is a quantifiable value. There are several calculators online that you can use to input the variables used to determine what that value is. 8 Billion Trees has a calculator where you can input your region, business activities, and operations that contribute to your carbon footprint.
3. Commit to your target
Armed with the knowledge of how much CO2 your company is releasing into the atmosphere, you’re now ready to set a reduction target. Can you commit your company to being carbon neutral by 2025? How about 2030? Make sure your commitment is firm and achievable. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for it.
4. Reduce your carbon emissions
Once the setup work is done, it’s time to take action to reduce your carbon footprint. Some of the most common areas to look at are how you power your business, how your employees get to work every day, and who your distribution partners are. You’ll want them to be part of your initiative. If not, find new partners who are.
5. Share with customers and stakeholders
Create communications to keep the public informed about your goals and progress. Climate change is a threat to everyone. Spreading the word about how you’re focusing on change could motivate others to follow in your footsteps. It could also help you attract new investors who are looking for carbon neutral companies to spend their money on.
Carbon neutral vs. net-zero emissions
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, carbon neutral and net-zero emissions are two entirely different descriptors. Carbon neutral, as we’ve explained in this article, is when your company invests in the removal of carbon equal to the amount of CO2 you generate. Net-zero emissions is when your company doesn’t generate any CO2.
Realistically, the only way to achieve net-zero emissions is to run a company with a virtual team that’s 100% powered by renewable energy. There are online firms that fall into that category. If you’re not one of them, strive for being carbon neutral. Think of it as helping to get nature back into balance, while finding new, sustainable ways to operate and grow your business.