If you are confused by the phrases ‘Net Zero’ and ‘Carbon Neutral’, this is an excellent article.

For a company –

Net Zero incorporates all emissions involved with the process of the business, including things outside of your direct control, like suppliers.  It incorporates:

  • Scope 1 – Direct carbon emissions from company-owned and controlled resources
  • Scope 2 – Indirect carbon emissions from a company’s utility-provided purchased energy
  • Scope 3 – Indirect carbon emissions (not in #1 or #2) that are part of the value chain, including waste, travel, commuting, purchased goods/services (both production of product-related and non-production-related), transportation/distribution (from both suppliers and customers), fuel/energy (not in #1 or #2), capital goods (equipment, building), investments, franchises, leased assets, used/sold products, end of life treatment.

Carbon Neutral has fewer barriers and occurs when a company is making, or creating, no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, especially as a result of carbon offsetting.  In effect, a company can become carbon-neutral by defining its carbon footprint and purchasing carbon offsets.

We like to view carbon neutrality like training wheels on a bicycle – Your parents gave you a bicycle for your birthday and you want to ride it, but you need those training wheels.  It initially feels great.  But, pretty soon, you want to be able to ride that bike without those training wheels.  We view carbon offsets as the training wheels – they get you to where you want to be instantly, but they are not what you want to use forever.  You don’t want the expense, nor do you want to continually ‘buy’ your carbon neutrality.

We believe you should use the following process for you company:

  • Become certified sustainable via a program that meets the criteria discussed in this PPP.  If you pick the right one, it will also serve as a foundation for the rest of the work discussed below;
  • Quantify your carbon footprint via a professional who is certified (as an Auditor or Lead Auditor) in both sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. This person should not only quantify your carbon footprint and help you purchase legitimate, globally-recognized and respected, carbon offsets; but also help you adjust your sustainability program’s project plan to, over time, become less dependent on those offsets, ultimately not needing them at all;
  • Start your ESG program, using your sustainability program as foundation (it is the E and, if you picked the right program, will also help you with the S and the G);
  • Build your ESG program slowly, not expanding faster than you can manage;
  • Quantify your entire Net Zero score via a professional who is certified (as an Auditor or Lead Auditor) in both sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. Again, you want your sustainability program to do most of the work for you and if you selected the right one at the beginning, it will;
  • Start your Net Zero pursuit, using your sustainability program as foundation.

Many organizations look at sustainability, carbon neutrality, ESG and Net Zero as independent things and attack them as one-offs.  However, if you start with a globally-accepted sustainability program that can serve as the foundation for the others, you can grow at a pace that is comfortable for your organization and the entire process is less expensive, less time consuming and far easier.