By Sean Barker
Forbes , September 14, 2022
As we continue to see devastating examples of climate change worldwide, it’s time for companies to fully commit to attaining carbon neutrality. The climate crisis can no longer be ignored, and the companies that actively work to help offset their carbon emissions—particularly startups and small businesses in their growth phase—will lead the charge as we enter a crucial time in climate history.
Carbon neutrality is easier said than done. It’s time-consuming and takes real commitment from the top down. It’s not a one-and-done exercise; it’s ongoing and never-ending. To be successful, it needs to be woven into the company culture and bylaws and considered in almost every business decision.
From the start, we were serious about making our carbon footprint as small as possible. When we wanted to understand in detail what our impact was, and what we could do about it, we decided to hire an environmental consulting company to help us build a model and measure all aspects of our impact and to create and execute initiatives to reduce it. The plan was: measure, then reduce.
For other companies interested in investigating their carbon footprint, here’s what to do. First, you measure the following:
- Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse (GHG) emissions whose origins are supervised or run by an organization, such as output from company cars, boilers, etc.
- Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions directly related to buying electricity, steam, heat, or cooling for the office. Even though scope 2 emissions happen at the office, they’re actually counted in the business’s GHC inventory.
- Scope 3 emissions are the consequence of usage from assets not regulated or run by the business, but what the organization indirectly affects. Scope 3 emissions include all sources not in scope 1 and 2. Scope 3 emissions usually represent most of an organization’s total GHG emissions.
Second, you create a plan to reduce. While measuring is essential, the real question is: What do you do about it? Now that you have an inventory of what you are producing, you can identify areas for improvement. You can affect the items you control, such as printing, commuting, who you purchase from and what you are buying. But what about the things that you cannot reduce, such as essential work travel, power and temperature control of your offices?
Here are four ways to help your small company measure, reduce and offset carbon output, and get closer to net-zero emissions.
1. Develop A Corporate Travel Policy
Business travel is one of most companies’ biggest culprits of carbon emissions. To help curb emissions, leadership and HR need to work together to develop a travel policy to clarify better when in-person meetings (training, business meetings, strategy meetings, etc.) are necessary or collaboration tools can be used to engage virtually. Then provide helpful guidelines to encourage less travel where operationally feasible.
Popular Science has these tips for business owners: “Encourage employees to carpool when commuting or offer the option to work from home when possible. And if you have to travel by air, choose direct flights and economy class seats, as they have a smaller footprint.”
2. Evaluate Remote Versus Office Work
The pandemic changed remote work forever and forced most companies to invest in better tools for collaboration and adapt to a remote-first workforce. Post-pandemic, remote and hybrid work continues to be the preferred employment methods for many companies. But as more leaders debate the pros and cons of in-person appointments, it’s important to keep overall emissions in mind. For many businesses, there are significant advantages to having people working together in an office location for operations and application development. Thus, it’s necessary to continually evaluate whether operations and application development can be geographically dispersed.
Choosing not to have employees go into the office prevents daily commuting and lowers an office’s electricity and natural gas consumption. This avoids a significant amount of carbon output yearly compared to office work.
3. Get Buy-In From Your Staff—And Your Customers
Given that commuting is relevant as more people return to in-person work, think about creating an initiative to encourage employees to carpool and leverage public transportation. Consider providing incentives, like extra incentives or bonuses, to increase this behavior this year and beyond.
Striving for net-zero emissions shouldn’t just be a ploy to attract new customers, but it’s certainly not an insignificant benefit. Many climate-conscious consumers might be swayed to use your product or service after seeing how dedicated and committed you are to becoming and staying carbon neutral.
4. Offset, Offset, Offset
Once a business measures its carbon output for a specific time and has reduced the items that they are capable of lowering, they are left with carbon emissions they cannot directly affect or are simply a cost of doing business; therefore, the only current option is purchasing carbon offsets.
While offsets are not entirely the answer, they help fund renewable energy, the planting of trees and other environmental programs that can benefit the planet. Where there are no alternatives, ensure the carbon offsets you purchase are tied to a registry, such as Gold Standard marketplace, American Carbon Registry, Verra or Climate Action Reserve.
Per Popular Science, companies can support offset programs that remove carbon, methane and other excess emissions or lessen reliance on non-renewable resources. These projects include wind farms, landfill gas capture and reforestation.
I believe attaining carbon neutrality is attainable by most small companies. It just takes time, dedication and an ongoing commitment by leadership to stay focused on the world’s most urgent goal: fighting climate change.