Is 2021 the year you want to set targets to make your business net carbon zero? Before setting your net zero target, it’s vital that you understand the path to take and begin with small steps to reducing emissions steadily and sustainably.

The first step to take is to determine what net zero means to your business, as one size doesn’t fit all. It can be hard to wade through the levels of definitions to create a credible roadmap that enhances your green credentials rather than damages them.

What does net zero actually mean?

This term describes the balance between the greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Businesses achieve net zero by reducing their emissions and by actively removing greenhouse gases.

Net zero allows for some emissions as long as these are fully offset (as opposed to gross zero which would remove all emissions totally). When carbon emissions are cancelled out by those removed, a net zero state is gained so the lower the emissions, the easier this is achieved.

Why is net zero important?

The UK has a target of reaching net zero by 2050, to keep in line with the commitments of the 2016 Paris Agreement to hold global warming below 2 degrees. Despite the fact that the UK makes up less than 1% of global emissions, it is seen as important to set an example for others to follow. There is also a moral case for reducing emissions as the UK led the path to this state with its role in the industrial revolution.

Where do I begin?

The route to net zero is different for every company and isn’t just the responsibility of large organisations and public sector bodies, even the smallest businesses have a part to play in reducing carbon. A robust strategy for net zero will take into account the risks of climate change to your business, your specific business priorities and input from stakeholders. It is vital that the leadership team is committed to the process and that you have clear systems to measure, monitor and report your background data.

Net zero step by step

There are many non-profit organisations that guide small and large businesses through the process of becoming net zero, such as Climate Care,, BITC and Carbon Footprint.

Put simply, the five steps to take are:

  1. Calculate your carbon footprint using a carbon calculator such as this one. Making net zero a priority is an important statement of intent and collectively sends a clear message to your customers, industry and government.
  2. Reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible. This requires robust systems for collecting emissions and other data. Continually evaluate and improve your internal processes. You will need staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to join your journey and incentives may be required.
  3. Offset the remaining carbon by investing in a sustainable social and environmental programme that reduces emissions. This can be overseas or in the UK and provides wider benefits such as biodiversity, education, health and jobs.
  4. Gain carbon neutral accreditation and benefit from the savings and efficiencies that it will bring, along with the reputational advantage and increased credibility.
  5. Use your marketing tools to promote your net zero status. Share your successes and collaborate with other businesses in your sector.

The responsibility for reducing global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees requires governments, businesses and individuals to pull together and with a target date of 2050, rapid and radical steps need to be taken across all sectors. Is 2021 the year that your business will join many others to drive innovation and commit to net zero?

Sage Accountant Partner Logoiris kashflowFreeagent