You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘carbon neutral’ in relation to climate change. This term is used when a business, brand or event offsets its emissions to the point where its carbon footprint can be considered ‘neutralised’ or balanced out.
Carbon neutrality has an important part to play in the fight to achieve the target of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to 1.5°C. If you want to understand more about carbon neutrality and how to become a carbon neutral business, read on for everything you need to know.
What does carbon neutral mean?
Some definitions of carbon neutral refer to an individual or company reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – and many climate-conscious businesses do indeed do this as part of their carbon neutral journey.
However, reducing emissions is not strictly necessary for an organisation to become carbon neutral, as long as they have ‘offset’ their emissions. This is done by funding projects in other parts of the world which avoid, reduce or store carbon – such as investing in renewable energy projects to produce carbon neutral electricity.
To be credible, these projects must be verified by well-respected external organisations, such as VCS or Gold Standard. Check out our article on carbon offsetting for more information.
A business achieves carbon neutrality once they have purchased verified carbon credits equal to or above the amount of carbon they emit (1 carbon credit = 1 metric tonne of carbon removed, prevented or stored). They can then be said to have compensated for or ‘neutralised’ their emissions.
However, they are still emitting greenhouse gases, so this should not be seen as the end goal. Instead, carbon neutrality should be viewed as the first, important step on the journey to ‘net zero’, where operational changes are made to prevent at least 90% of a business’ emissions.
Ideally, the ultimate destination of this journey should be ‘climate positive’, where your business benefits the climate through regenerative action and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. How great would that be?
What is carbon neutral certification?
Carbon neutral certification is an official acknowledgement of carbon neutrality. The ACCC has strict rules around trade marking certifications of carbon neutral standards.
One example of certification is the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Certification. This is awarded by the Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program to organisations who can sufficiently demonstrate they have achieved carbon neutrality, via an official audit.
Achieving Climate Active Certification is a rigorous process and can be a barrier for SMEs wanting to improve their environmental impact. At Trace, we believe the important thing is to do the work, so we focus on helping you to become carbon neutral, rather than to achieve certification.
Don’t worry – we still provide you with badges to display if you want to let customers and employees know about your carbon neutral status. We’re sure you’ll want to shout about it!
How to be a carbon neutral business
A business becomes carbon neutral when it has offset all its carbon emissions. This involves purchasing carbon credits, which support verified emission reduction projects. To make this easier, you may want to enlist the help of a broker, or a specialist company such as Trace.
The first step is to measure your carbon footprint, a process through which Trace can guide you. You will need to consider everything from the energy used in your factories and built environment, to the transport emissions from your staff, to the transportation of your goods and services.
We will then work out a plan of action for reducing these emissions. This may involve anything from switching to LED lightbulbs in your offices to full-scale refurbishments and technology updates.
In the meantime, we’ll calculate how many tonnes of carbon you still need to offset to reach carbon neutrality. We will then purchase the required carbon credits on your behalf and award you with your carbon neutral status.
Head to how to become a carbon neutral business for more information, or contact us – we’re always happy to answer any questions.