We breakdown the net-zero journey into six key steps
Now you know what net-zero means, it’s time to put the theory into action. Here’s the six-stage pathway to reaching corporate net-zero.
While it may seem linear, the process is circular and dynamic. You will need to revisit each stage a number of times before achieving long-term science-based targets and becoming certified as net-zero. That’s all part of the journey.
There must be an acknowledgement that your business can be part of the solution and needs to change. Net-zero doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a transition that needs a long-term commitment. It requires systematic processes and structural changes across the entire value chain. So the relevant internal stakeholders need to understand the reasons for change and buy into the process.
Calculation is key to understanding your starting point, identifying emission hotspots in your value chain and seeing the greatest opportunities for reduction. This stage is repeated throughout your journey to net-zero (typically on an annual basis) to measure performance against your targets and the impact of your reduction strategies.
Strategy and Target Setting
Once you’ve measured your emissions and established a starting point, you can begin to analyse your footprint and identify a suitable transition strategy to decarbonise your operations. Strategy and target setting should be done in unison. There is little point in setting targets if you don’t know how to achieve them. Every business is unique, and what may be a suitable target for one business may be unrealistic for another. By developing a strategy alongside targets, you can assess their feasibility. Likewise, science-based targets complement strategy as they guide your level of ambition, hold you accountable and provide a measurable indicator of success.
Reduce and Engage
Once a strategy has been established, it is essential to start implementing the plan by following a logical and achievable set of steps. This is not an overnight process and must also align with your business environment to be economically sustainable. Working with your supply chain is essential, as for many businesses up to 90% of emissions can come from the value chain. While this makes things more challenging, there are steps that you can take to support sustainable procurement and reduce your indirect emissions.
The penultimate stage of net-zero occurs after significant reduction has been achieved, and it’s the removal of unavoidable emissions through buying and retiring carbon removal credits. Under the SBTI Net-Zero Standard, only up to 10% of your overall emissions against the base year can be removed in this way. You can only become certified as net-zero if you're using carbon removal credits as opposed to avoidance credits. You may, however, use carbon avoidance credits throughout your journey to becoming net-zero, to offset your emissions while implementing emissions reductions to achieve carbon neutrality. It should be emphasised that carbon neutrality is a stepping stone to net-zero and is a supplementary action to mitigate the effects of your current emissions. Net-zero should remain your long-term goal.
Once you’ve taken action to reduce your emissions and potentially become carbon neutral, you will return to the calculation stage to assess the difference your changes have made, then re-evaluate your strategy and next steps. You will likely have to go through this cycle a number of times before you have achieved the required level of emissions reductions and transitioned to a state of net-zero. Then it’s time to really celebrate, as you can be certified as net-zero under the SBTi.
How can Ecologi Zero help?
Crucially, whilst undertaking their net-zero journey, businesses need to begin to prioritise people and planet, rather than just profit. This pathway may seem daunting but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to simplify the process with our very own carbon accounting tool. Ecologi Zero ® has been designed to remove the barriers that prevent small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from starting their net-zero journey.
Ecologi Zero lets you calculate and analyse your footprint for free, using simple interactive dashboards. We also plan to introduce new features in the coming months, to support you through strategy development, target-setting and emissions reduction. Plus, you’ll soon also be able to support beyond value chain mitigation and carbon avoidance projects through Ecologi’s Impact Shop.