Net Zero: What is It and Why Should I Care?

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We have all heard the term net zero. But do you know what it actually means? Or why should you, a business owner, care about it?

If you aren’t particularly interested in topics such as climate change or sustainability and don’t regularly look for information about it, terms like net zero, circular economy or carbon footprint can be confusing.

But hey, if you’re reading this blog post, it means you want to change that! You want to be more aware of these things and what changes you can make in your business! And to help you with that, we have prepared this guide that explains what net zero is, what UK targets are, why you should care about it and whether there are any benefits for your business.

wooden cubes with words net zero on top of green cloud

What is net zero?

Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.

Greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide being the main one, are harmful. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere but stop the heat from going back out into space. Over time, this trapped heat has contributed to global warming and climate change.

Carbon dioxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned to meet our energy demands. The carbon emissions produced through industry, transport and agriculture are especially significant and are making things worse. That’s why the main goal of net zero is to help lessen these effects and limit global warming to levels that are safer for our planet.

Knowing how harmful those greenhouse gases are, you might wonder why we are aiming for net zero and not for real zero. This is because a real zero would mean eliminating emissions completely which is simply impossible.

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming and become net zero by 2050. This target means the UK must reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 100% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050.

Is carbon-neutral and net zero the same thing?

A lot of people often use the terms ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’ as they mean the same thing. However, that’s not correct.

Being a carbon-neutral business means you’re offsetting the carbon emissions you produce. This could be done by planting trees or supporting renewable energy programmes.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re net zero. Why? Because you might not be reducing carbon emissions, but only offsetting them. As mentioned earlier, net zero is about helping to reduce the greenhouse gases already in the Earth’s atmosphere.

a woman holding a seedling
Photographer: Nikola Jovanovic | Source: Unsplash

Why should I care?

After recent events such as extreme heatwaves, forest fires and floodings, there are less and less people doubting climate change. In fact, there should be doubts at all!

It’s clear that every single one of us, including businesses, needs to do more to address our contribution to global warming and make changes that would help us avoid the worst effects of climate change.

If your business isn’t green yet, now it’s a great time to start prioritising more sustainable choices and lead your employees, customers and even your competitors by example!

However, we understand that as a business owner, you always look for options that are best for your business. Options that would increase your profits, lower costs, attract more customers, speed up the delivery process etc. This means that the best options are not always the most environmentally friendly and leading to net zero.

But did you know that taking action on climate change can actually help you grow your business, bring new opportunities, create new jobs, attract investors and help you adapt to the challenges of a changing planet?

Also, with 80% of UK residents stating that they are either “fairly concerned” or “very concerned” about climate change, it’s easy to see that consumers would rather support sustainable businesses.

Moreover, sooner or later, regulations will demand changing the way businesses work and the level of negative impact on the environment they have. This is why it’s best to start acting now, so you can take one step at a time and make sure your business is prepared!

wind turbines on a field. if you want to move towards net zero, you might want to switch to using renewable energy
Photographer: Appolinary Kalashnikova | Source: Unsplash

How do I start my net zero journey?

No matter how small or big your business is, if you’re looking to start your net zero journey, having a strategy for how you’re going to achieve net zero is essential. That’s why we run the Innovation Green programme.

Innovation Green is aimed at those with ambition and drive to make a difference in their organisation. By attending this course, you will:

  • Develop methods to make your business economically, environmentally and socially sustainable
  • Develop an understanding of climate change, sustainability and environmental protection
  • Acknowledge the roles that business and industry play in protecting the environment
  • Reduce your business’s environmental impact by more efficient use of resources