In a carbon-neutral future, everybody wins

Solaris Paper Pty Ltd

By Steve Nicholson, Director of Sustainability
Thursday, 14 February, 2019


In a carbon-neutral future, everybody wins

In 2030, the world will look back at COP21 and the signing of the Paris Agreement with one of two mindsets.

Those with ‘Mindset A’ will understand that it was a monumental step forward in the fight against climate change, where governments and businesses around the world realised climate change was bigger than one country or organisation and worked together to reduce greenhouse emissions and the rising global temperature. Those with ‘Mindset B’ will think the Paris Agreement was too ambitious a task in expecting governments and businesses around the world could work together to balance economic and environmental ambitions.

For the sake of future generations, we should hope ‘Mindset A’ prevails. However, the odds are not looking positive with carbon emissions set to increase for the second consecutive year, rising 2.7%, reaching a record high of 37.1 billion tonnes1.

Governments and businesses must start acting now in order to reduce and offset the greenhouse gas output they create. The end goal for businesses must be achieving carbon neutrality. Carbon neutrality is the reduction or offset of any carbon emissions that an organisation produces so that the net emissions will be zero. Typical carbon emission sources include burning fossil fuels in production facilities or emissions from trucks carrying freight. For the forestry industry, general logging represents a cost to emissions because less carbon can be stored by trees.

Becoming carbon neutral

For an organisation wishing to become carbon neutral it must first create a detailed measurement of their carbon output. Organisations must consider every aspect of their business, from any vehicles used for transportation, to what stationery is used in the office. Analysing the whole supply chain is crucial. Only once an organisation understands how much carbon it is emitting, and how it emits that carbon, can plans be put in place to reduce or offset carbon outputs.

Once calculations have been made, organisations must take action to reduce carbon emissions. Turning to renewable energy such as solar or wind to power facilities such as production plants or office buildings is a logical first step in reduction. Organisations should also consider the products they use during production, or in the office. Purchasing products and raw materials which are certified carbon neutral can help reduce overall carbon output.

Once as many reductions have occurred as possible, businesses can further offset carbon by supporting projects that help to reduce global carbon emissions, such as wind farms, hydro power, methane capture or reforestation and forest protection.

Responsible forestry enterprises should make reforestation a priority, achieving carbon neutrality by replanting any forestry they harvest. Over time, this will offset the carbon capture lost from harvesting forests.

Benefits of carbon neutrality

Achieving carbon neutrality provides many benefits to organisations that commit to reducing their environmental footprint. Three key business benefits include enhanced brand reputation, stronger market share and reduced operating costs.

Research shows that customers are more supportive towards brands which are environmentally responsible2. Achieving carbon neutrality will enhance brand reputation and, as a result, lead to stronger market share. As consumers look to purchase environmentally sustainable products, they gravitate towards brands and products that they know are being produced without an imbalance of carbon entering the atmosphere.

Furthermore, as more retailers place sustainability requirements on the type of products they stock, products which are carbon neutral will become more appealing to retailers. Some are already planning to place restrictions on products which don’t achieve specific sustainability certification and requiring products on shelves to be carbon neutral could not be too far off. Businesses failing to achieve carbon neutrality will fall behind and off shelves, resulting in reduced revenue.

Businesses need to consider the long-term outcome when embracing carbon neutrality. Despite an initial impact from investment in carbon-neutral services, businesses will reduce their operating costs in the long term. As businesses turn to some form of renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions, energy bills will decrease due to the reduced costs of renewable power. Reduced operating costs means reduced expenses, equating to more profit. It’s a win-win for executives, and the environment.

We’re all in this together

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement should be a key priority for all governments and businesses. Increases in emissions raise the global temperature, affecting people, plants and animals. It will be much better to be remembered in history as the generations that saved the planet.

References
  1. http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/
  2. https://www.themercury.com.au/business/consumers-are-increasingly-looking-for-ethical-products-that-wont-contribute-to-problems-like-landfill/news-story/0f9b5ccea92a57ac1cd3ddf19f5be7f

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/leonard_c

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