All businesses need to reach what's known as 'net-zero' by 2050 – that’s the law. Net zero is where greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are ‘balanced’ or ‘cancelled’ by greenhouse gas removal out of the atmosphere, creating carbon neutrality. In other words, we reach net zero when the amount we produce is no more than the amount we remove. Increasingly though, net zero is being viewed by climate scientists (at best) as a temporary, transitory step on the path to what’s now known as ‘real zero’ or (at worst) as greenwashing.So what is real zero, and how can you ensure that your business is working towards it? When it comes to climate change, how do you know if a business is making it or faking it?
At Futuretivity, we define real zero as:
Real zero means that zero emissions are created or released, stopping carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere. Real zero requires a near-complete transformation of how society currently produces, consumes, and lives. This means switching to 100% renewable energy (with no fossil fuels burnt and no carbon offsets), and behaving more efficiently, environmentally consciously and less wastefully. Many organisations will be able to achieve zero emissions (across Scope 1, 2, and 3), although the challenge is whether we can achieve universal real zero CO2 emissions by the 2050 target. Real zero is also known as true or absolute zero.
In other words, the only way out of the climate crisis is to get to real zero.
Real zero is the goal, but given our current operating model, we are a long way off. Since real zero means stopping emissions before they are put into the atmosphere and even the greenest technology has some embedded emissions as part of the manufacturing process, real zero requires significant change. For businesses, this means transforming how we design, manufacture, produce, distribute and even market our products and services. From our production and operations to our supply chain, ensuring our energy and transport systems are based on renewable sources with no fossil fuel use and no offsetting is what’s needed.
Given that the road to real zero isn’t smooth, how can your business navigate its way through the maze of greenwashing to achieve environmental, social, and commercial success?
7 Ways to Ensure you can Make it not Fake it
1. Net zero is just a first step: understand that net zero is a necessary opening move towards collective climate action for companies and countries, but it is not the end result. Commit to meeting the net zero goals by 2050, designated by the Paris Agreement.
2. Avoid carbon offsets: they may be a seemingly easy option, enabling you to continue emitting the same amount of carbon whilst branding your business as acting sustainably by planting trees and funding reforestation projects, but If you are not reducing your emissions and continuing business as usual it’s greenwashing.
3. Measure your carbon baseline: know the carbon burn of your entire business. Make sure emissions are identified in all areas of your manufacturing, operations, building practices, employee transportation and more. Understanding the true picture is important. You may have unintended emissions.
4. Set quarterly targets to lower your emissions: companies should begin by setting goals to become more carbon neutral and continue to optimize their plan to become carbon negative as more technologies and solutions become available. Sign up to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) and the UN Global Compact (UNGC). Decarbonise, decarbonise, decarbonise.
5. Have a sustainability strategy and roadmap: all businesses need a plan to reach real zero, that is at the heart of the overall business strategy and objectives. Work with sustainability specialists to develop and deliver the strategy and roadmap. Achieving real zero requires specific expertise, knowledge and experience.
6. Create a participatory green culture: achieving real zero requires collective action. Engage your employees, partners, and stakeholders. Behaviour change is difficult but necessary. Sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. Again, you may need external expertise to help you develop a collaborative green company culture.
7. Become a climate-positive business. This isn’t just about how you can minimise your negative impact on the planet. How can your business make a positive contribution to the planet and society at large and embrace climate positivity? By taking a leadership role, you can ensure that your business not only survives but thrives. Remember, sustainability is key to profitability - it’s big business, a $12 trillion per year kind of big. That’s why forward-looking companies are using climate innovation to up their game and they’re already seeing returns of up to 80%.
By taking these 7 steps, you are putting your business on the path to real zero, giving you the sustainable advantage you need to address the challenges and opportunities of our changing world - ensuring you make it not fake it.
Futuretivity delivers climate positivity with vibrant, socially impactful commercial power. We recognise that the how-to of sustainability can be overwhelming, so we empower businesses with actionable roadmaps, skills for the future and meaningful connections to succeed. Being a conscious business needn’t cost the earth nor cost your business.
For more inspiration and insights on sustainability for business go to futuretivity.com/resources If you are a company that needs help with sustainability in your business book a call with Futuretivity now and get sustainability delivered.