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What Would Carbon Neutrality Mean for Small Businesses?

No matter the size of your company, there are certainly steps you could be taking to move closer to the elusive dream of net zero. In no way is the path to carbon neutrality easy, but bearing any costs and challenges now could secure the future success of your business.

Businesses of every size and sector have a part to play in the race to rein in our global greenhouse gas emissions; in an effort to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C in the next 10 years, per IPCC recommendations. But, while sustainability is a focus for many already, the goal of complete carbon neutrality seems unattainable for most small business owners. 

With concerns surrounding its commercial feasibility overshadowing decisions, I’ll explain how taking active steps towards becoming a carbon-neutral business can help, rather than hinder, your operations.  

The goal of a carbon-neutral business is to achieve a zero carbon footprint. In order to do this, the business must put measures in place to reduce its harmful greenhouse emissions to net zero — balancing them out by investing in activities that create the equivalent carbon savings elsewhere or using a mixture of both to get to net zero.

The benefits for small businesses

In an age when a lot of businesses are just about ‘doing their bit’ for the environment and some are even greenwashing, taking your efforts to the next level can set you apart from competitors — as consumers become increasingly discerning with their choices, a business taking steps towards net zero now will be well placed to attract customers in the years to come. 

Often, the costs at the start of the journey towards carbon-neutrality initiatives are enough to put some businesses off. For example, green energy tariffs are usually pricier than typical rates and large capital investments are usually required for solar panels or a sustainable initiative to offset your emissions.  

However, this is not to say that financial savings won’t be made in the long run. For instance, despite the expense of solar panels, monthly energy bills are reduced and any surplus energy produced can be sold back to suppliers, which will generate additional income for a business. 

Companies can also seek to save money when implementing changes. Using a consultancy service such as Smarter Business to compare energy suppliers or to identify opportunities to reduce waste and become more efficient can also save a business thousands in bills. By seeking professional help and advice, you can find out both the best ways to make your business more sustainable.

So, with improved marketability and cost-saving opportunities, there is potential for a business to become more profitable. This, along with clear environmental benefits that go far beyond the business itself, is perhaps the greatest incentive for companies to become carbon neutral.    

Achieving carbon neutrality

Although simple steps⁠ such as introducing recycling bins and eliminating single-use plastics⁠ are useful, carbon neutrality requires much larger and strategic decisions from top-level management. Therefore, given the challenging nature of the goal, embarking on a journey to net zero can seem daunting for smaller businesses. However, there are many practical activities that any business can use as a starting point. 

1. Choose clean energy 

Clean energy refers to energy supplied from a renewable source, which could include solar or wind. A business has two options — either switch to a clean energy supplier or to produce its own by having solar panels installed, for example.

Rather than supplying renewable energy, some contracts support sustainable initiatives instead — such as the business purchasing the same amount of renewable energy as it uses or investing in a solar or wind farm. 

2. Reduce waste, increase efficiency 

Reducing waste and becoming more efficient through small, strategic changes can have a big impact on a business's carbon footprint. 

For example, by introducing simple policies — such as turning lights off overnight, switching to energy-efficient equipment and cleaning air filters — you will not only save on energy bills; you can also reduce the amount of emissions that need to be offset in order to achieve net zero, reducing the investment you make in the process. 

3. Invest in a carbon-offsetting initiative 

Despite the number of actions they take, some businesses will still have unavoidable emissions. In these cases, offsetting them by investing in initiatives aimed at reducing global carbon damage allows a business to still achieve net zero. 

Carbon offsetting is regulated by a number of standards, notably the Gold Standard. Businesses can invest in impactful and certified carbon-offsetting initiatives through a credible provider — such as forest regeneration, safe water campaigns or clean cooking projects in poverty-stricken communities. Businesses are then awarded carbon credits in return for their investment, which measures their contribution to carbon offsetting.  

This route to carbon neutrality often has a global impact, which is an incredible achievement for any small business. 

In no way is the path to carbon neutrality easy, but it is worth it — as bearing any costs and challenges now could secure the future success of your business. No matter the size of your company, there are certainly steps you could be taking to move closer to the elusive dream of net zero. 

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