Way back in 2015, the
United Nations made a pact to actively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This
pact is known as the Paris Agreement and is a clear sign that cutting carbon is
a top priority on a global scale.

People, businesses,
corporations, families, governments – we’re all responsible for looking after
our world.

Since the 90s, the
Earth’s surface temperature has risen nearly 1°C because of increased levels of
CO2 in the atmosphere. Although 1°C might not seem like the most alarming
figure, in 2016 scientists predicted that if the earth’s temperature rose any
more than 2°C, the atmospheric balance would be so out of kilter that human
life would become difficult to sustain – we’re already half-way there!

If you’re looking to
start a business, or want to transform your current company into a
carbon-neutral, environmentally conscious operation, now more than ever is the
time to do so. Strike while the iron’s hot, and before the world gets even
hotter…

Coined in the early
1990s, ‘carbon neutral’ refers to a process that doesn’t add to the net
atmospheric increase of harmful emissions (namely CO2). Achieved via a combined
effort of carbon offsetting and the use of renewable, emission-free resources,
carbon neutrality is an environmental step in the right direction that every
business should be taking.

 

What is a carbon
neutral business?

Requiring more than
popping a few strategic recycling bins about the office – in the hope that your
staff will take the initiative to separate their paper from their plastic –
running a carbon-neutral business entails a whole host of proactive, yet
achievable, steps.

But, before we get
into the nitty gritty, what exactly does running a carbon neutral business
mean?

According to the
Oxford English Dictionary, carbon neutral means: “making or resulting in no net
release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, especially as a result of carbon
offsetting.”

At Startups.co.uk, we
leave no stone unturned! That’s why we asked Will Richardson, founder of
Environmental Management Consultancy Green Element, for his expert advice on
what carbon neutral means in the business world:

“If you are a carbon
neutral company, it means that you as an organisation are not producing any
emissions from a net producing point of view. However, the interpretations of
how this is achieved and calculated can vary.”

Although, going
carbon neutral does entail a bit more than simply waving a magic investment
wand. It’s best to think about how all aspects of your business can reduce its
carbon footprint. Using an environmentally sustainable energy supplier is a
good start, but there are many more steps to take on the path to complete
carbon neutrality.

As far as business is
concerned, think balance. If you put CO2 into the atmosphere, then somewhere
along the line, you’ll have to balance out the emissions by removing the exact
amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as you put into it.

This is simpler than
you might think. The easy way to counteract your carbon emissions is to invest
in an environmental initiative. VEEV, for example, is the first carbon neutral,
alcoholic spirit brand and donates 1% of its sales to Rainforest Preservation
and environmental causes to balance out its carbon footprint. This is known as
carbon offsetting.

Carbon offsetting is
an action that compensates for the carbon dioxide your business emits through
participating in schemes, or funding programmes, that remove the equivalent
amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

If you’re scratching
your head for ideas on where to invest to offset your carbon footprint, we
recommend looking into tree planting schemes or rainforest preservation as a
good starting point. Or, companies such as EcoAct run a service to help you
find the perfect location for your offsetting investment.

 

Why should a small business go carbon neutral?

Heightened levels of
CO2 in the atmosphere are bad for the planet for all sorts of reasons, many of
which you will already be aware of. But, did you know:

Each year, 40bn
tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere – averaging out to a whopping 5.5
tonnes per person? Granted, this might just sound like a few abstract facts and
figures, so put it this way: if a day’s worth of CO2 were to form a film over
the surface of the earth, the film would be the thickness of a piece of paper
(70 microns) by the end of the day. After a year, the film would be 31mm thick,
and, after 50 years, the film of CO2 would be the thickness of 1.55m.

As CO2 is a gas, it
floats off into the atmosphere rather than forming a solid ‘film’ as such, but
you get the picture: globally we produce enough CO2 every day to coat our
planet with a layer of what is, essentially, a poisonous gas.

We’re literally
suffocating the planet with our CO2 emissions, so making sure that our impact
is as minimal as possible is everyone’s responsibility, business owner or
otherwise. And, what with World Earth Day just around the corner (falling on the
22nd April, to be exact), there’s never been a better time to ride the eco
business wave.

Aside from the clear
environmental benefits to carbon neutrality, it comes with some pretty awesome
perks as well as reducing the damage inflicted on the planet.
 

1. Save money

Firstly, taking big steps towards improving your business’ energy
efficiency levels will save money and the planet. Something as small as
implementing a ‘lights off at night’ policy will cut costs and your carbon
footprint. For example, corporate giant P&G have reportedly saved $500m
through implementing energy efficiency measures alone – with more savings
forecast for the future. 

Back in 2016, 190 of the Fortune 500
companies made a combined saving of close to $3.7bn. How? Through energy
efficiency initiatives, that’s how. And, being clean and green isn’t just good
for your overheads, it’s great for investment prospects too. Barclays, for
example, have noted that bond portfolios featuring clear goals for
sustainability have shot those with weak environmental targets right out of the
water in the past seven years.

 

 2. Retain and
attract employees 

Showing that you’re eager to engage
with environmental issues will help to engage and inspire staff – motivating
your team to pull together in a combined effort to reduce your business’ carbon
footprint. Cycle-to-work schemes, work-from-home days and a robust in-office
environment policy will all help to show to your staff that you’re a business
that cares.

For more information on how to run your
business more sustainably, be sure to check out the Startups’ suite of pages
focussing on green and social business.

Not to mention the fact that if you’re
building your business, you’re probably recruiting. A recent survey shows that
millennials want green jobs, and they want them now.

The Department for Business, Energy and
Industrial, Strategy (BEIS) found that 65% of 16-24 year olds would prefer a
job in the green economy. This equates to around 3.7 million young people who
are looking for, or would be interested in, a job with a clear environmental
focus.

Fresh out of college or university, the
millennial talent pool is awash with desirable skills well suited to the fast
pace and change-driven attitude of any start-up business. So, if you’re looking
to make yourself as attractive as possible to the young millennial
professional, you’d better pull your carbon-neutral socks up.


3. Attract new customers

It’s not just your current staff
that’ll be motivated by your carbon-reduction mission – potential customers and
future talent will also be attracted to a greener policy. In fact, research
suggests that 55% of consumers are willing to pay higher prices for goods from
environmentally conscious companies.

Conscious consumerism is taking off in
a big way and you really don’t want to be left behind, so get ahead of the
curve and reap the financial, moral and social benefits carbon neutrality can
offer.

 

How does a small business become carbon neutral?

The six simple steps
to carbon neutrality are as follows:

Step 1: Calculate
your carbon footprint
Step 2: Reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible
Step 3: Offset the remaining carbon by investing in a cause or programme that
actively reduces global carbon emissions
Step 5: Gain carbon neutral accreditation
Step 6: Publicise your move to carbon neutrality using social media, your
website and any other marketing means at your disposal

Hungry for more
detail? For the best possible, in-depth advice on how to become carbon neutral,
we also caught up with an expert: Studio Republic’s sustainability officer,
Halina Myers. Here, Myers shares the story of the small marketing agency on a
big environmental mission to carbon neutrality:

What are the first,
most achievable steps to running a carbon neutral business?

“First, it’s
important to get a baseline calculation to work with. It’s really simple to get
your carbon footprint calculated. This will help you to understand your
business’ carbon emissions whilst benchmarking you against other organisations.

“Next, you offset. It’s
a really good opportunity to make a genuine difference in the world, so choose
something meaningful to you and your team.

“However, running a
carbon neutral business is about more than calculating and offsetting your
carbon emissions. You have to have a long term view to reduce the amount of
carbon you produce at source. Last year, for example, Studio Republic produced
3.63 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and has set a target to reduce this to 3 tonnes
of CO2 emissions by the end of 2019.”

Studio Republic
offset five tonnes of CO2 by donating to a Ugandan Borehole Rehabilitation
project, could you tell us a little more about that?

“To offset our carbon
footprint, we wanted to choose a scheme that allowed us to make a positive
social and environmental contribution – sustainability does, after all,
encompass people too.

“We chose the Ugandan
Borehole Rehabilitation project because the positive impacts of this project
are countless. Borehole water is safe and does not need to be boiled, which greatly
reduces the need to gather firewood to purify it. This saves firewood and
prevents the unnecessary release of carbon emissions.

“Also, the borehole
rehabilitation and maintenance in Lango sub-region, Uganda, will be the very
first programme to implement the new Gender Equality methodology from the Gold
Standard.

“We chose to offset
more carbon than we produced because we wanted to make more of a positive
impact. It’s not a necessary step, but if you have the means to do so, we would
highly recommend it.

“Choosing a project
that is meaningful to you, your team and your business is really the key
takeaway from our experience with offsetting. We advise sitting down with your
team to get everyone’s input into choosing what scheme to opt for – your staff
will feel great about it and really feel part of something good.”

From a recruitment
perspective, why do you think millennials are more likely to be drawn to
businesses with strong sustainable promises?

“The statistics show
that 73% millennials are willing to spend more on sustainable products, and
this mentality spreads into recruitment too. Since refocusing our business back
in 2017, online job applications have quadrupled and all of our applicants have
expressed a passion to work with an ethical and sustainable business.

“So much so, that
three quarters of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a
socially responsible company, the same amount consider a company’s social and
environmental commitments when deciding who to work for, and 64% of millennials
won’t take a job if their potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate
social responsibility practices.

“It’s clear
throughout our brand, our business plan and our company mission, that
sustainability is at the heart of everything we do and this has had a massive
impact on our recruitment process.

“We’ve been able to
utilise our sustainability actions as a business tool to bring in new talent,
and generate business: opening up a world of opportunity for us.”

 

Which businesses are already carbon neutral and who is it suited to?

Spearheading the
carbon neutral business movement are some big names in the business world. The
likes of Google, Neal’s Yard and Avis are all touting the carbon neutral flag –
signposting a strong awareness of the environmental impact they have, with a
view to reducing the impact as much as possible.

Even 007 is getting
up on the carbon neutral hype as James Bond, otherwise known as Daniel Craig,
will be zipping around in Aston Martin’s latest zero emissions vehicle, the
Rapide E, in the next Bond movie (now due for release in 2020).

And – as of March
14th 2019 – new kid on the energy provider block, Bulb, has become completely
carbon neutral. Already supplying, and powered by, 100% green energy – Bulb are
now offsetting the 90% non-renewable gas they supply by supporting ClimateCare.

ClimateCare is a
B-Corp that facilitate carbon reduction projects across the globe, including
the building of solar and wind farms in Asia, as well as developing rainforest
protection schemes in Africa.

On the move to carbon
neutrality, Hayden Wood, Bulb Co-founder and CEO has said:
“We supply 10% green gas to all our members and now we’re offsetting the
remaining 90% by supporting carbon reduction projects across the world.”

With companies both
big and small taking the plunge into carbon neutrality, it’s clear that carbon
neutral is a badge of honour that any business can wear.

But, it’s all very
well and good going to all lengths to become carbon neutral, but how do you let
you let the world know that you’re trying to save it, once you’re a carbon
neutral company?

Ideas for advertising
carbon neutrality:

· Pop it on your website

· Publicise on your social media channels

· PR like crazy – press releases, social announcements… The whole
lot

· Make a media splash – if you’re offsetting your carbon emissions
by supporting another company or programme, include them in your press release
and get them to publicise the move too

 

FAQs

Is going carbon neutral going to cost the earth?

If your business
continues to pump CO2 into the atmosphere, then yes, the earth will suffer. But
metaphor play aside, the only costs incurred when your business goes carbon
neutral are whatever you have to spend to offset any emissions. Otherwise,
lowering your carbon footprint will have a positive impact on your business’
bank balance.

Saving on energy
costs is the big business budget tip. Other carbon and cost cutting tricks come
in more nuanced forms. For example, if your business has a fleet of vehicles,
vehicle tracking devices are a great way to improve routes, cut travel times,
save on fuel costs and, ultimately, cut down on carbon emissions. Read the
Startups section on business vehicle tracking for more information on how to
cut carbon and costs, even in your company car. 

What is a B-Corp?
A certified B Corporation (B-Corp) is a business that overperforms in terms of
positive social and environmental impact. Transparency, accountability and
performance are the three key attributes of a B-Corp and, as a whole, B-Corps
are helping to shoulder the social burdens of 21st century life. This is
including, but not exclusive to, lessening the environmental impact of the
business world.

The likes of
Patagonia, the outdoor travel company, are a certified B-Corp. B-Corps are a
growing group making big waves in the business world as they, in the
corporation’s own words, ‘form a community of leaders and drive a global
movement of people using business as a force for good.’

 

Overall

In theory, a carbon
neutral company doesn’t produce any carbon emissions. Modern infrastructure,
however, makes it nigh-on impossible to run an operation that doesn’t produce
any carbon at all. So, for those unavoidable carbon emissions, a business can
choose to offset the levels of CO2 it’s responsible for.

Offsetting comes in
the form of investment in other companies, programmes or schemes that have a
carbon negative impact on the planet and actively seek to reduce the levels of
CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

There are some big
movers and shakers in the business world taking on the carbon neutral
challenge. Search-engine giant Google is even doing its bit for the planet, and
it’s high time we all did the same. It’s simple: reduce the amount of carbon
you already use, then offset the remainder.

In the words of
Halina Myers: “Carbon neutrality, as with sustainability, gives back countless
benefits to businesses across the board, there’s no reason not to go for it.”

 

 

 

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