The drive to net zero – how to become net zero as a start-up

As the climate crisis becomes more recognised, businesses should consider being carbon neutral in the drive to net zero.

With the release of its Net Zero Strategy, UK government has set out how it will deliver on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. As part of that strategy, the government is looking to UK businesses to start taking the necessary steps towards a greener future.

With start-ups and smaller businesses accounting for around 99% of the business population Opens in new window and estimated as being responsible for 50% of UK business-driven carbon emission,  Opens in new windowthey can make a major contribution towards reaching the country’s net zero goals. Taking action on climate change as a start-up may help both the environment and be a smart commercial move.

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What is net zero?

Net zero is defined as the point where the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released into the earth’s atmosphere is balanced by the amount that is removed. Achieving a balance between the input and the output may help reduce global warming. Carbon dioxide is the most common form of GHG emitted in the UK, making up nearly 79%  of all GHG emissions Opens in new window.

Net zero can often be confused with carbon neutrality. Being carbon neutral involves offsetting the amount of carbon your start-up business produces. Activities such as planting trees, for example, are considered as carbon-offsetting. Carbon neutral, however, doesn’t necessarily mean reducing carbon or lower overall greenhouse gas emissions. It mostly involves offsetting carbon emissions, even though overall emissions continue to increase globally.

Net zero focuses on reducing overall emissions. In light of the government’s pledge for net zero by 2050, many start-ups are starting to examine at ways to reduce their carbon emissions.

Why is net zero important for start-ups?

As the government launches the Together for our Planet ‘Business Climate Leaders’ campaign Opens in new window, there’s a drive for businesses, especially smaller ones, to cut their GHG emissions. Part of this campaign will allow smaller businesses access to some of the UK’s most prominent business and climate experts to get the support they need to take practical steps towards net zero.

Going net zero can may have benefits for a smaller business, in addition to helping the environment. Benefits may include:

  • Lowering running costs and saving money through more effective use of resources.
  • Attracting investors and new customers keen to invest in sustainable businesses.
  • Gaining a competitive advantage, especially for environmentally sensitive tenders.
  • Potentially accessing certain finance and tax benefits Opens in new window.

Start-up steps towards net zero

There’s a lot you can do as a start-up business when embarking on a net zero journey. From recycling your plastic bottles to turning the heating down, small changes can make a big difference and we’ve set out some examples below. There’s support available to start-ups for most changes and swaps, including guides and information through to grants and loans. Check your local authority to see if you can apply for sustainability grants, which can help pay for upgrades such as better building insulation.

1. Control energy use

The cost of heating can rise around 8% for every 1°c increase Opens in new window. Be mindful of overheating the office and consider turning down your thermostat to lower your bill. Reducing the amount of energy you use will also reduce the impact on the environment and lower the emissions emitted. Insulating your building could also save up to 2,100 kg of CO2 per year Opens in new window – a significant amount of GHG.

2. Switch energy suppliers

Switching energy suppliers may help reduce your bills and reduce the amount of GHG emitted. Some energy suppliers offer renewable energy tariffs, using solar panels, wind and hydropower to source their energy. You can even go one step further and install your own solar panels for your energy use. Various grants are available in different regions of the UK that can support you with funding for energy efficiency.

3. Recycle

Recycling as much waste as possible can help reduce pollution. Recycling plastic helps reduce the need for more plastic creation, which contributes to the emission of CO2. Recycling paper and cardboard minimises the impact on forests and woodlands. Reducing waste may also be beneficial for the environment. Opting for sustainable and reusable products and materials can lower CO2 emissions and reduce the waste going to landfill, which can produce GHGs such as methane.

4. Change transport habits

Commuting continues to be a crucial activity for workers, and it significantly contributes to the increase in climate change. Consider swapping to electric vehicles where possible, or encourage staff to carpool and take public transport to reduce their carbon footprint. Consider applying for cycle to work schemes Opens in new window to encourage a greener commute.

5. Green grants

Green grants are schemes to help support individuals and businesses trying to go greener. There are grants available for various changes, such as installing solar panels or swapping to an LED light system. The government provides updates on the latest schemes and grants Opens in new window, but you could also try Save Money Cut Carbon Opens in new window, Business Growth Hub and Small Business to find grants in your area.

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