The path to becoming Net Zero

On the 27th of July, Commsbank attended the Imperium Experts ‘Net Zero for Leaders’ training course delivered by Net Zero International. It was a one-day programme that provided us with an insight into what Net Zero is and how it can be achieved. When we embarked on the course, we had very little understanding of Net Zero and how small tasks can have a significant impact on the environment. The numbers on paper can be overwhelming and it’s easy to slip into the mindset of overthinking your every move and how it’ll effect your carbon footprint. Lauren, Commsbank’s Junior Communication Executive, has reflected on her learnings and shares what business owners should be conscious of in the years ahead.

What is Net Zero?

“In a nutshell, Net Zero is the world’s solution to tackling climate change. You may have noticed that the world’s getting warmer, this has turned the temperature up on the government and companies who are striving towards the Net Zero goal. Some of us (including myself) may see the warm weather as a time to celebrate when it should be a call for action. For those of us in Scotland, the completion date for the goal to become Net Zero is 2045. Although this is over twenty years away, it’s essential we view this as an opportunity to plan rather than panic when the deadline comes around.

“To reach Net Zero, we must start by reducing the Green House Gases (GHG) that we’re emitting into the atmosphere. The next step is to give what we take, by pulling as much carbon out of the atmosphere as we put into it, it’s as simple as that.

“The difference between carbon neutral and carbon negative is important to remember. Carbon neutral is any point where your business reduces its emission, and carbon negative is when the business takes out more than what it puts in. According to science-based targets (SBTs) to be truly Net Zero, you must reduce the emissions you produce by 90%, with only 10% of these being offset.”.

Why is it important and how can I measure my carbon footprint?

“The impact of climate change is irreversible and catastrophic, not just for you but also your business. Around the world there are workshops, factories, offices, and many more workplaces being affected by the extreme weather changes. This is just the beginning, as time goes on there will become more implications which could affect us more than we know.

“Measuring your carbon footprint isn’t as tedious as it sounds, there are three scopes which you can measure to get an accurate result. Each scope covers the volume of GHG emitted when travelling, selling products, even your next company coffee:

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions. We emit these through the burning of fuel, air conditioning, and freezers.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect from the fuel that we buy. This includes electricity, heating, and water systems.
  • Scope 3 emissions are also indirect, although, they are caused by activities not owned or controlled by the business. This includes your employee’s travel, how you invest your money, what happens to the product at the end of its life cycle and turning the raw materials into the final product. The majority of emissions in a business will sit in Scope 3, if you’re not measuring this and your business has pledged to be Net Zero it could be a reputational disaster!

“There are different technologies in place to make measuring your businesses carbon footprint easy. An example of this is carbon accounting, this works out how much C02 your business is emitting into the atmosphere by taking the three scopes into consideration. You can use carbon accounting to not only demonstrate to customers and stakeholders how you’re combatting climate change, but also to track your progress.”

What can I do?

“Collaboration is key. From suppliers to consumers, think about how their carbon footprint affects you and your business. Be open with your suppliers and work together to find solutions on how you can both be more environmentally friendly in a way that makes sense for your business.

“Learn to adapt and plan! Although the journey to becoming Net Zero may seem strenuous, there are many ways your business can achieve small wins along the way. Small changes, like taking a reusable cup to your favourite coffee shop or using public transportation instead of a car, can make a difference. If you plan, you’re more likely to feel at ease when more policies come into play.

“Honesty is the best policy. By making sure that you’re providing relevant and correct information, you’ll protect yourself from potential ‘greenwashing’ accusations. Greenwashing occurs when a company spends more time and effort promoting themselves as sustainable than they do reducing their environmental impact. An example of this is when a business says that their products are ethically sourced, although they have no proof to back the claim up. In some cases, a business may not even realise that they’re greenwashing until it’s too late. For example, when a business changes its packaging to be more recyclable, while this sounds great in theory, the business cannot control whether the packaging is actually recycled. By sharing false claims, greenwashing can mislead customers and be damaging to the environment.

“Before it’s too late you should look at implementing a Net Zero strategy in your business which can be reviewed annually to measure success and readjust goals.

“Offsetting your carbon footprint is no longer about who can plant the most trees. There are now more efficient ways to give back to the environment, helping your community is one example. Educating and giving back to your local community is an effective way to share knowledge and repurpose items that you no longer need. This creates a circular economy which is an economy where you reduce as much waste as possible by reusing or repurposing resources. An example of a circular economy is when a business donates its spare wood to a school in the local community, which uses the materials to make bird boxes. It’s a great way to reduce your negative environmental impact and connect with the local community. Although, offsetting should only be used as a last resort as it can be complex to manage and is currently not governed.

“As someone who often works from home, I would’ve thought that my impact on the environment would be minimal, however I’ve found myself thinking about how each step I take is releasing emissions in some way. Who would’ve thought that sending an email would release carbon?! There’s still a long way to go in terms of reducing global emissions, although the Net Zero for Leaders course gave me insightful knowledge on how I can work together with my colleagues to do better.”

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