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How small businesses can become carbon neutral

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To solve the problem of climate change, we all need to take account of our personal carbon emissions and make continued efforts to reduce them ourselves, including small businesses.

Carbon neutrality, or having a net-zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon removal or simply eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether.

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Therefore, it’s essential to reduce carbon emissions in order to reach climate neutrality. If no improvements are made, climate change will damage economies, promote resource scarcity, and drastically increase the cost of doing business.

As a small business, you can use your tools and resources to help reduce your carbon footprint and better the world. Learn more about ways you can become carbon neutral and the benefits of doing so.

Practical Steps for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

At first glance, this may seem like an intimidating task for your small business. However, there are many realistic actions you can use as a starting point. As a business owner, you may be wondering what the practical steps are that small businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprints. A wise place to start is to get on board with the three R’s, which are to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Configure your office accordingly and make it easy for your employees to do so. These principles can be applied to all areas of your business, including from packaging, to office supplies, to operations, and supply chains. You can skim the access by always choosing to reduce and reuse first and foremost.

Another practical step for reducing your carbon footprint is to educate yourself and your staff on the matter. Make it known and an initiative throughout your company that this is an important topic for you and that you want to see people participating. Encourage an open dialogue on the subject, brainstorm new ideas, and put policies in place that promote sustainability.

Your small business might want to purchase carbon offsets or invest in renewable energy as well. If investing in renewable energy is a challenge, you can reduce your consumption by using high-efficiency lighting and powering off all electronics when not in use. Carbon offsets are a form of trade. When you purchase an offset, you are funding projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They can even be tax-deductible, depending on what company you purchase them from.

Is Becoming Carbon Neutral Realistic?

Carbon neutral is when a company that’s carbon neutral (or carbon-free) is removing the same amount of carbon dioxide it’s emitting into the atmosphere to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, usually by purchasing carbon offsets or credits to make up the difference. As for going carbon negative, it’s when a company removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases (the phrase “climate positive” has been used interchangeably with carbon negative). The latter requires going beyond achieving carbon neutrality. Studies have found that consumers are buying sustainably marketed products, not just saying they want them. It’s possible and realistic to achieve this goal if the small business itself is willing to implement impactful changes that will allow for the company to become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

Key Challenges

Although it may be a possible and realistic objective overall, that doesn’t mean there aren’t or won’t be challenges to face and overcome. In fact, there are a few key challenges facing small businesses that want to develop into low carbon or carbon neutral companies. Deciding where to start when facing so many challenges is a daunting prospect. For example, who should take responsibility, what are the most important actions to take first, and how do you measure progress, to name a few.

When there aren’t best practises in place, businesses feel overwhelmed and may end up doing nothing. There’s a lack of clarity about how to measure carbon reductions accurately and report results. A consistent basis for carbon measurement needs to be in place so that all businesses are working from the same baseline. You need to know how to obtain the right kind of data and if it’s good enough. You also need to be able to ensure your carbon footprints are credible and trustworthy. Finally, overcoming cost barriers and changing behaviours are additional challenges that need to be addressed.

Key Benefits

Even though there are challenges that small businesses face in becoming carbon neutral, there are also key benefits to small businesses if they can achieve net-zero carbon emissions. A reduction in carbon emissions is one and the same with reduced energy costs. Energy costs money, so by cutting emissions and switching to cheaper, renewable energy, businesses will better be able to manage budgets. Over time, businesses will become more profitable too due to the simple changes they’ve made.

It’s also a way to set your small business apart from your competitors and win over more consumers. Going the extra mile or step can create distance between you and the other small businesses out there, so you stand out in a positive manner. The truth is that consumers become increasingly discerning with their buying choices and loyal to the companies who take climate change seriously. A business taking steps towards net-zero now will be well suited to attract customers in the years to come. Therefore, with the improved marketability and cost-saving opportunities, there’s potential for your small business to become more profitable in the long run.

If your small business supplies larger companies you may also find yourself mandated to become carbon neutral as part of your supply chain contract. My media company Capital Business Media produces a consumer magazine for Aston Martin Lagonda and it is a contractual requirement that we are carbon neutral.

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages

These are a few practical ways small businesses can become carbon neutral. While there are obvious challenges, there are also key benefits that should spark your interest and get you thinking about how you can change your habits and policies.

There are not only advantages for the company itself, but also the environment and the people. No one is saying that becoming carbon neutral is easy, but it is possible and worth it. You should now feel more equipped and confident to begin having the tough conversations in your office and figuring out a game plan for tackling this critical initiative.

Richard Alvin

Richard Alvin has a number of investments across the media and fashion sectors. Entrepreneur of the year in 2014 Richard is also Group MD of Capital Business Media and SME business research company Trends Research, regarded as one of the UK’s leading experts in the SME sector and an active angel investor and advisor to new start companies in addition to being the host of Save Our Business the U.S. based business advice television show.

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