Becoming net zero as a business – the journey towards carbon neutrality
October 23, 2020
Many businesses are prioritising sustainability and moving towards a greener future. Recently, there have been more conversations around carbon neutrality, with a particular focus on organisations achieving ‘net zero’ status. Industry task groups have been formed, government bodies and scientists are coming together all in pursuit of carbon neutrality.
It is clear that as a society we need to address our contribution to global warming and do all we can to protect the future of the planet and its inhabitants. There has to be widespread change and businesses have a crucial role to play if we’re going to avoid extreme climate change. You need to adapt and that’s where Ignite Energy can help.
In this article, we’ll look to unpick what net zero actually means and demonstrate how Ignite has the experience in energy efficiency projects and the long-term integrated approach to energy management to help get you there.
What does net zero mean for businesses?
It is important to have a clear understanding of what net zero means for your business and organisations in general.
edie defines net zero as “achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere of the earth”.
This definition is clear enough, but there are a range of ways of measuring your carbon emissions and tracking the impact of your efforts to reduce them. Targets can be everything from the overall goal of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero to science-based targets.
So, all businesses need to find ways to reduce their energy consumption, improve their energy efficiency across all sites, and take steps to offset any emissions. However, the precise details and complexity involved varies dramatically between industries. More energy intensive businesses, as Energy Manager Magazine states, are likely to be “heavily reliant upon grid decarbonisation or sourcing much of their energy consumption through self-generation or PPAs.” And for those businesses with large and complex supply chains, collaboration is going to be key.
It makes sense to form a strategy and a clear timeline towards carbon neutrality. More on this later.
It’s important to remember that how you approach carbon emissions and net zero goals as an organisation can impact your reputation amongst customers, investors and partners. It’s vital to take action, but in a way that will make a genuine difference.
UK’s net zero target
In 2019, the UK Government set a legally-binding net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050. It was the first G7 country to legislate (in the Climate Change Act) a commitment to remove its net contribution to climate change. It’s worth pointing out that this does not include emissions from the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping.
If this net zero 50 target is to be met then government policies will need to be brought in and organisations will need to make a “fundamental change to their business models and operating practices”, according to an UK Energy Research Centre report.
The costs are going to be high too if the target is to be met – £1 trillion is the accumulated annual investment required according to then-chancellor Philip Hammond. Despite the significant investment, it should have an overall positive impact on the economy as well as tackling the climate emergency.
Heating and transport are areas where urgent action is required, and many believe that grid decarbonisation is crucial if the UK is to meet its target.
Some businesses have been quick to respond to the government’s targets, forming their own net zero strategies and setting their own targets. edie carried out a survey of 502 UK businesses and found that almost half are aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030. A total of 8% claimed they had already reached this milestone. Other businesses have ambitions in this area but the reality of transitioning, given all the interdependencies is complex and requires expert external support. Ignite are here to help.
For more insights read this Q&A over on the Carbon Brief.
How to make your business carbon neutral
If you’re going to transition to net zero as an organisation, you need transformational change. The other thing you need is external support. You may wish to join one of the many industry-specific coalitions and task groups that have been formed. As net zero targets and challenges vary between sectors, this makes sense.
A combination of science-based targets and a clear roadmap to reaching net zero status by 2050 are required. The key focus is in reducing demand for energy and improving energy efficiency.
It is also clear that we need a shift in attitude, a wider societal change to make net zero possible, where we see a reduction in demand for carbon-intensive activities. As an organisation, you need to encourage this shift in mindset at all levels of the business.
Here are some other areas that will help move your business towards carbon neutrality:
- Onsite power generation & battery storage – you may want to reduce your reliance and demands on the National Grid. Although generating your own power and developing your own battery storage capability represent a significant investment, it’s a way to improve business resilience, give energy managers more control and move organisations towards net zero. It can also lead to demand-side response (DSR) where surplus energy can be sold back to the grid for extra revenue to invest in sustainability projects.
- Switch to electric – the transition to electric heating and adoption of electric vehicles as a move towards decarbonising transport are key. This needs to happen in combination with significant growth in alternative forms of low-carbon energy generation like renewables.
- Buildings with strong energy performance ratings – having ultra-efficient buildings, ideally net zero buildings, across your estate provides the foundations for carbon neutrality.
- Encourage greener ways of working – find ways throughout your business where you can reduce your impact on the environment.
- Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – this technology prevents 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels from entering the atmosphere. It also has carbon-negative potential. For more information visit Carbon Capture & Storage Association.
Net Zero Strategy
Net zero means different things to different organisations, but all large businesses need a net zero strategy. And the priority of any net zero strategy is to decrease energy consumption and demand as well as exploring carbon negative options. You need to consider where time-based targets sit alongside science-based targets when looking to achieve net zero emissions as an organisation. Ignite will work closely with you to develop a carbon neutral strategy.
How will Ignite help my business achieve carbon neutrality?
Ignite are here as your long-term strategic partner in energy decarbonisation. We will be with you every step of your journey towards net zero status, providing powerful data, innovation, and exceptional customer service. We offer your organisation the following:
- Extensive industry knowledge
- Real-world experience in achieving carbon-related and sustainability goals
- Custom data collection and reporting for actionable insights and compliance
- Recommending and delivering customised energy efficiency projects
There are three primary ways that Ignite Energy will help transition you to net zero status. These form the core part of our net zero strategy, where we balance energy efficiency and demand reduction along with the adoption of carbon negative behaviours, offsetting carbon emissions, and green energy use.
We work closely with your energy teams, sustainability teams and finance departments to develop a net zero strategy that works for your organisation. It’s a balance between achieving immediate cost-saving and being prepared to invest in the technology and projects that will make a net zero future a possibility. This is something energy and sustainability managers struggle with and we’re here to help.
We will look at these in more detail here.
Reducing energy consumption
The first step in any move to carbon neutrality is to reduce consumption and demand for energy. This means looking at energy efficiency. It all starts with the right data and then acting upon it.
Data analysis & management
Ignite use data to understand how, when and where you use energy across your estate. We have a proven track record of collecting and analysing powerful data for large multi-site businesses, and identifying problem sites.
We share customised reports so your energy team has a full picture of usage and insights that can help with forecasting. This data has to be the starting point for strategic planning, proactive energy management and selecting the right efficiency projects to move you towards your net zero goal.
Energy efficiency projects
Ignite has a track record of adopting the latest technology and being able to implement energy efficiency projects at scale. As and when technological advances are made, you can rest assured that we will be working to integrate them into your offices and outlets, and reducing consumption further.
We use your data along with years of experience to propose the energy innovations that make sense for your business, tailoring it to your precise needs including targets around carbon emissions.
Any net zero strategy needs to get buy-in from C-suite and senior executives as well as engage your workforce. Without high level buy-in many vital projects don’t get implemented – we can work closely with you to make the case for ongoing investment. Our energy management approach and energy efficiency projects always consider the financial impact.
Our aim is to create a culture of innovation around energy usage throughout your organisation. Our energy efficient projects look to engage your employees and users, inspiring behavioural change as well as delivering the technologically-advanced energy savings.
Pets at Home energy projects
Pets at Home have been carbon neutral since 2017. Ignite helped them to reduce energy consumption by 34% across their estate, procure energy from renewable sources and offset remaining carbon emissions to achieve this important milestone.
Green energy procurement
It’s vital that energy managers review how they source their energy, especially when working towards net zero status in an unknown and uncertain future. Switching to green tariffs seems like an obvious step.
Procuring green energy is an easy way to make your organisation more sustainable, but in isolation it is not enough as it does not directly lead to a decrease in energy consumption or demand. That’s why it forms just one part of Ignite’s net zero offering.
New Look’s journey to carbon neutrality
Ignite partnered with New Look and helped them become the first global fashion retailer in the world to achieve both the Carbon Neutral Gold Standard and UN Climate Neutral Now Participation. We procured REGO-backed energy for the majority of their estate, combined with Carbon Offsetting for a small number of sites that were on Landlord Recharging arrangements, so couldn’t be guaranteed as coming from renewable sources. Read more about our work in helping make New Look carbon neutral.
Where you can’t procure all green energy or you wish to offset carbon used elsewhere in your organisation, Ignite can help. Finding effective ways to compensate for unavoidable carbon emissions has a role to play in attaining carbon neutrality.
Ignite are experienced in the accredited offsetting schemes out there and can help you find the right one for your needs. It’s worth pointing out that offsetting is only a small piece in the carbon neutrality puzzle – it’s much more powerful and effective to focus on tackling energy efficiency and reducing overall demand.
Contact Ignite today – your Net Zero Strategic Partner
Through the adoption of emerging technology and data-driven insights, we drive real change in large businesses. We provide your business with the edge, enabling your net zero goals through unrivalled levels of service. Our aim is to work closely with energy and sustainability managers to achieve your long term net zero goals. Our account managers offer outstanding customer service and form relationships that make even the most ambitious targets realisable. Speak to us today on 0333 023 2222 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.