What does carbon neutral actually mean?

Going plant-based, choosing walking over driving and turning off the lights: we’ve all heard ways we can cut down our personal carbon footprints. But for a planetary temperature decrease, we need a global effort, and that means going beyond people. We need carbon neutral industries.

Launching a start-up from scratch, with your own finances and personal efforts can seem like a monumental task. Then a pandemic hits and suddenly, solving the climate crisis jumps to the front of the business trends queue. Entrepreneurs can find it hard to tick every box from the very beginning, but ensuring your company is carbon neutral doesn’t have to be complicated, as long as you put back what you take. Here’s how.

Measuring

While it’s good to have a head start, slow and steady will always win the race. The global warming race that is. Reusing waste, carbon neutral factories and local sourcing are three ways big businesses can ensure low emissions, but they don’t ensure neutrality, and they aren’t always realistic for entrepreneurs with low budgets. The first step you can take to tackling the carbon neutral challenge, is measuring your output. Sign up to a membership programme, and talk to auditors or other company leaders, and find ways you can reflect on the emissions that your products create. Being conscious of a tangible number that you need to tackle is the best way to ensure you actually do something about it. It’s easy to ignore something you can claim to be ignorant about, but if you believe in an ethical business world, your output is where you need to begin.

Offsetting

After you have obtained your initial calculations, you should begin drawing up plans about how you want to go about lowering, and eventually cancelling out your emissions. While it is impossible to claim that you will emit nothing throughout your supply chain, you can find ways to counteract these emissions. Think of them as favours you owe to the planet. These are three basic ways companies can offset emissions:

  1. Use renewable energy, certified by bodies such as I-REC.

  2. Switch to video conferences to save on air miles.

  3. Plant a tree for every product sold. Companies like Tree App have plots of land in various countries ranging from Brazil to Indonesia, and are partnering with sustainable companies far and wide. They are seeking to plant millions of trees every year, and by pledging to plant a tree for every product sold, companies are replacing the carbon they emit.

  4. Work with an organization like the planet mark.

Auditing

After you have your number and have outlined ways in which this will be tackled, you can begin to periodically analyse whether your strategies are working. Auditing can be seen as a way of testing or pushing your business targets and it can come in different forms – whether that’s self-auditing, peer auditing, or external auditing. The best way to ensure you are doing it correctly though is to sign up to an auditing body.

Read our piece on ethical manufacturing to find out more. – hyperlink piece when it goes online

Beyond basics

Measuring, offsetting and auditing are general principles for achieving a carbon neutral business but with a looming climate crisis, it’s time operations look for more innovative ways to reach green targets. One final way this can be carried out is by launching company campaigns, and creating a carbon neutral environment in surrounding local communities. By incentivising farmers or cultivators to produce more plant-based materials, or by planting a company forest, well-established businesses can use the experience and influence they have already collated to build a greener world. It doesn’t always have to be far-reaching, but it can be enormously consequential.