Background to Net Zero
Net Zero emissions refer to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed from the atmosphere. It is a state where the net emissions of GHGs, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), are effectively reduced to zero.
In the context of climate change, achieving Net Zero emissions is vital in order to limit global warming to well below 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris Agreement. It involves transitioning away from activities that release GHGs, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes, and adopting sustainable practices and technologies.
The concept of Net Zero allows for a combination of emission reduction strategies and the use of carbon removal techniques. Emission reduction strategies involve minimising or eliminating emissions through energy efficiency improvements, transitioning to renewable energy sources, sustainable transportation, and implementing low-carbon technologies across various sectors.
Why is it important for SME’s to pursue Net Zero?
For SMEs in the UK, pursuing Net Zero is important for several reasons:
- Climate Responsibility: SMEs have a significant collective impact on emissions and can contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. By committing to a Net Zero target, SMEs demonstrate their environmental responsibility and contribute to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Competitive Advantage: Net Zero commitments can enhance the reputation and competitiveness of SMEs. Customers, investors, and stakeholders increasingly prioritise sustainable businesses with a public Net Zero target. Being able to showcase a commitment to Net Zero can attract environmentally conscious customers, investors, and business partners.
- Cost Savings: Pursuing Net Zero often involves an investment in energy efficiency improvements and sustainable practices, however these typically lead to cost savings in the long run. Energy-efficient measures, such as adopting renewable energy sources, can help reduce energy consumption and operational expenses.
- Regulatory Compliance: Governments in the UK and worldwide are implementing policies and regulations to tackle climate change. By aligning with Net Zero goals, SMEs can stay ahead of regulatory requirements and avoid potential penalties or market barriers.
How do SMEs reach Net Zero?
To achieve Net Zero, SMEs should consider the following steps:
- Assess Emissions: Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the organisation’s carbon footprint, including direct emissions (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from energy consumption (Scope 2) and value chain activities (Scope 3). This assessment will help identify emission sources and enable to organisation to set reduction targets.
- Reduce Emissions: Implement strategies to reduce emissions, such as improving energy efficiency, adopting renewable energy sources, optimising transportation, and managing waste effectively. This may involve investing in energy-efficient technologies, upgrading infrastructure, or implementing sustainable practices.
- Offset or Remove Emissions: Some emissions may be challenging to eliminate completely. In such cases, SMEs can offset their residual emissions by investing in verified carbon offset projects, such as reforestation. Please remember, offsets are only encouraged after an organisation has made significant progress of reducing 90% in emissions first.
- Collaboration and Partnerships: SMEs can collaborate with suppliers, customers, and industry networks to collectively work towards Net Zero goals. Sharing best practices, knowledge, and resources can accelerate progress and make the transition to Net Zero more feasible.
It is necessary for businesses, including SMEs, to pursue Net Zero to combat climate change, reduce their environmental impact, and contribute to a sustainable future. Achieving Net Zero emissions is crucial for meeting global climate targets, limiting global warming, preserving ecosystems, and ensuring the long-term viability of businesses in a rapidly changing world.
If you’re an SME that needs some support to reach Net Zero, we can help!
Contact us today to arrange a no obligation phone call with our Sustainability Consultants: