Many organisations around the world have chosen to demonstrate their commitments to climate action and sustainability by becoming carbon neutral. Becoming carbon neutral means that your organisation understands its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions impact and has quantified, reduced, and offset all Scope 1, 2, and 3 emission sources. This is a great first step on your sustainability journey, but what can you do once you have achieved certification?
This article explores ways that organisations can continue to take climate action after becoming carbon neutral certified.
How do you become Carbon Neutral?
The impacts of climate change are being felt all around us. In order to combat these effects, organisations globally are taking action on climate change. Many are setting targets to become carbon neutral or net zero as part of internal emission reduction strategies.
Becoming carbon neutral can now be achieved quickly and easily. Pathzero has streamlined and simplified this process for small and medium-sized organisations. Steps to carbon neutrality include measuring, reducing, and offsetting emissions for a specific reporting period.
Once emissions have been reduced and offset, your organisation achieves carbon neutrality status for the reporting period. You can then communicate your carbon neutral status to peers and stakeholders. However, your climate action and sustainability journey does not have to end here.
Beyond Carbon Neutrality
Becoming carbon neutral is a great first step to support climate action as it signals an organisations commitment to sustainability. By offsetting emissions, your organisation is reducing its impact as well as supporting innovative projects globally that are mitigating emissions. The measurement of an organisations emissions portfolio can also provide a great starting point in understanding key emission sources and further reduction opportunities.
Some companies have decided to take carbon neutrality a step further. Earlier in 2020, Microsoft announced it would become carbon negative by 2030 and offset all emissions from inception onwards by 2050. Ikea has stated that it will become climate positive by 2030, which includes reducing more GHG emissions than the entire value chain emits.
There are many opportunities for organisations to continue on their sustainability journey and go beyond carbon neutrality. This can include by setting more ambitious reduction targets, creating innovative solutions, and working internally to entice further change.
Ways to Take Further Climate Action
1. Set Targets
As we move towards a lower carbon economy, the way we do business is transforming. Many organisations and governments, including Australia, are setting GHG emission reduction targets in order to increase innovation and prompt further change. By setting reduction targets, organisations are able to demonstrate their commitment to taking action and also have a mechanism to measure future progress.
Science Based Targets
Science based targets (SBT) provide a means for organisations to develop a clearly defined emissions reduction pathway by specifying how much and how fast emissions are intended to be reduced by. The initiative encourages organisations to set targets that are ambitious and meaningful in order to drive change. The SBT initiative is a partnership between the UN Global Compact, Carbon Disclosure Project, World Resources Institute, and WWF.
Targets developed by organisations are determined to be "science based" if they address and align with the latest climate science. In line with the Paris Agreement, targets should aim to limit global warming to well below 2oC from pre-industrial levels and attempt to limit warming to 1.5oC.
By setting SBTs, organisations can boost their competitive advantage and become leaders in the climate space. Credible SBTs incorporate an organisations Scope 1, 2, and 3 emission sources.
Once your organisation's carbon inventory has been measured, it can be used to easily identify which emission sources are the highest and have the greatest impact. Your organisation can choose to set a SBT, in line with the initiative's targeted Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Call to Action.
SBT has developed a streamlined approach for SMEs to develop Scope 1 and 2 targets. Although there is no SBT requirement for Scope 3 emission source targets, your organisation can choose to develop its own reduction targets in line with the GHG Protocol Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard. Target setting is a great way for your organisation to continue on its sustainability journey while creating tangible goals.
2. Identify Reduction Opportunities
After reduction targets have been set, it is important to continue the momentum by identifying key emission reduction opportunities. These can initially be developed based on target areas identified in Step 1. Additional actions and opportunities can be included as your organisation works to innovate and reduce overall impacts further.
Some easy and quick changes that can be made to begin reducing your organisation's emissions includes:
- Encouraging staff to work from home to reduce staff commuting emissions;
- Avoiding business travel by using videoconferencing software;
- Reducing office paper consumption by printing only when needed, double-sided, and in greyscale; and
- Switching to LED light bulbs and turning lights off when rooms are not in use.
While identifying emission reduction opportunities, it can be beneficial to involve all employees and stakeholders in these sustainability discussions. When employees are able to provide feedback, this allows for staff buy-in on future initiatives which is imperative to ensure emission reduction activities succeed. Getting stakeholders on board can ensure that there is minimal resistance when pursuing new sustainable opportunities.
Employees may be further inclined to make their own changes and provide additional support for the organisation's initiatives and programs. This can lead to further reductions as employees continue initiatives and drive forward change. Once key reduction opportunities have been identified these should be collated into a strategy.
3. Create an Emission Reduction Strategy
With stakeholder buy-in on your emission reduction targets and future opportunities, organisations should look to develop a formal Emission Reduction Strategy. Your strategy should be approved by senior leadership with specific tangible actions outlined.
The Strategy should:
- Discuss the future direction and objective of your organisation;
- Outline your organisation's reduction targets (including SBT);
- Identify key areas of opportunity;
- Set achievable and realistic sustainability goals including actions; and
- Ensure that all actions are allocated to a responsible person and are time-bound.
Benefits of Developing a Strategy
Key benefits of creating a tangible, scalable, and achievable emission reduction strategy include:
- Increasing competitiveness and profitability;
- Strengthening confidence of customers and stakeholders;
- Reducing uncertainties surrounding regulatory changes; and
- Increasing innovation through development of new practices and technology.
4. Measure Reductions and Impacts
Your Emission Reduction Strategy should be monitored regularly. By ensuring that all actions are time-bound, have stakeholder buy-in, and allocated to a responsible person, you will be able to easily track progress against targets. By tracking progress your organisation can review actions to ensure they are attainable or update actions as required.
Successful sustainability strategies can add value to your organisation by giving you a competitive advantage and allowing you to be at the forefront of innovation and change. Keeping track of industry leaders and updating your strategy with creative opportunities can further your own climate position.
By continuing to measure reductions and impacts you can further communicate and share updates externally through other frameworks. Your organisation may choose to consider to be certified through other international programs or report through other frameworks including:
Each program has different requirements and can allow your organisation to continue communicating your climate leadership position.