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Becoming Carbon Neutral: A Quick Guide for Business Owners [2024]

Going green is essential for businesses in any industry. Research shows that 60–70% of consumers will pay more for green products because they prioritize the environment.

Making a business carbon neutral can attract more customers and boost its reputation.

So, how do businesses become carbon neutral?

You can start on that path by reading this guide and following some of the tips we provide:

What Is Carbon Neutrality?

Carbon-neutral companies are businesses with net zero greenhouse gas emissions. This can happen in a few ways. A brand might invest in green energy and zero-waste technologies. After years of upgrading its equipment, the company could eliminate its environmental waste.

A business could also balance its existing emissions. Fixed emissions rates would zero out due to other sustainable efforts. Environmental donations or offsetting efforts would balance out a company’s ongoing atmospheric carbon gasses.

Check out this video by Sustain Life on YouTube to learn more:

How Do Businesses Contribute to Carbon Emissions?

Carbon neutrality for business owners is only possible after understanding how a company contributes to environmental waste. These are a few ways companies directly or indirectly affect the planet, including:

1. They Use Significant Amounts of Electricity

Electric plants power businesses, but they aren’t great for the environment. Each plant produces carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels. Manufacturing plants and factories use high amounts of electricity due to the intense demand from each location’s heavy machinery.

The waste produced from the energy demand outpaces households and smaller businesses. Companies ultimately have a larger carbon footprint than individuals, giving them a greater responsibility when they seek to reduce their emissions.

Environmental waste also increases when manufacturers operate around the clock. Consumer demand may require extensive operating hours, but that doesn’t align with the environment’s best interest. Not while a business relies on traditional electricity plants.

2. They Burn Fossil Fuels for Shipping

Trucks, boats, and planes burn through tanks of fossil fuels to ship goods. They’re essential to business operations, making carbon neutrality challenging for business owners. Innovators are striving for green-energy transportation, but it may take more time to mass-produce successful alternatives.

Carbon waste occurs with each purchase unless a company can afford limited zero-waste shipping methods. It’s an unfortunate aspect of any business’s operations when that company is trying to minimize its carbon footprint.

Carbon Neutral - Concept Stock Image from Canva of boxes waiting to be sent in trucks, and planes

3. They Create Landfill Waste

Businesses need packaging to keep products safe and advertise them on shelves. It’s how consumers recognize products and pick the most appealing items while shopping.

Although packaging is a necessity, it becomes landfill waste after consumers open their purchase. Many materials break down into harmful gasses as they decompose over decades.

Landfill companies also burn waste. When the landfill becomes too full, burning trash produces harmful atmospheric gasses due to chemical ingredients. Packaging waste harms the environment either way, pushing business owners to seek more creative solutions when they want to go green.

How Can Businesses Become Carbon Neutral?

Business owners can start on the path toward carbon neutrality by considering these ideas. They build an actionable way forward that makes any company greener without involving guesswork.

1. Audit Current Emissions

A carbon emissions audit will reveal precisely how much atmospheric waste a business produces. It’s the first step toward carbon neutrality for business owners because it identifies the exact sources of a company’s emissions. Audits typically list carbon waste amounts by location, machine and emission time.

The information is invaluable when companies seek to reduce their total waste. If a business owner isn’t sure how much carbon dioxide their company produces, it’s challenging to determine which green efforts make a significant difference. They might mistake a production process or machine for a major greenhouse gas producer when the problem lies elsewhere.

Image of a triangular road sign warning with CO2 written on it

It may also help the company save money. Experts could spot tire damage before they pop on the road by measuring the carbon emissions of a trucking fleet. Tires comprise approximately 3% of a truck’s operating expenses, so preventative maintenance scheduled after an emission inspection would save the company money while it becomes more sustainable.

Business owners can research greenhouse gas management companies to schedule an audit. Evaluating a company’s emissions may take time, but the data is invaluable when strategizing sustainable solutions. Consider getting quotes from local management companies to determine the most economical resource for making your business more environmentally friendly.

2. Identify Realistic Goals

There are always ways to improve a business’ operation model, but they aren’t always realistic. A business owner might want to upgrade their vehicles to connect with wireless networks, but purchasing newer models might not fit within the company’s current budget.

The same challenge arises when identifying realistic carbon reduction goals. Review the emission audit’s results to locate the most significant sources of carbon dioxide waste. Tackling one at a time will likely be a more manageable plan than overhauling the company’s business operations model.

Remember, carbon neutrality is a long-term effort. A one-time effort won’t make a noticeable difference in the environment. Any business-wide changes must be economically sustainable. Starting with one change allows business owners to make necessary reviews and updates for long-term improvement.

3. Create an Actionable Plan

Drafting a specific action plan makes carbon neutrality for business owners achievable. The key is making the plan as detailed as possible. General ideas are harder to follow, especially if the business has multiple locations and a sizeable team.

Consider listing each audit result that creates the most gaseous waste. Sorting them in order from the greatest greenhouse gas producer to the least points to the best starting point. You’ll know exactly which aspect of your business causes significant environmental damage and requires the most comprehensive solutions.

Setting deadlines to face each problem is crucial, allowing time to practice and refine each reduction strategy. The detailed steps and goals make any carbon neutrality plan doable because there are concrete goals with timely deadlines. Everyone involved in the effort will understand their part and what marks the finish line.

Carbon Neutral - Concept Stock Image from Canva of the audit process audit, to risk assessment, to plans, to compliance

4. Invest in Offset Programs

Changing some aspects of a company’s operational model might not be financially feasible immediately. If a company doesn’t make enough money to invest in solar panels at every manufacturing facility simultaneously, it can feel impossible to go green. However, the environment doesn’t have to wait for long.

Business owners can always invest in offset programs to balance emissions while working toward greener operations. These global programs help the environment in numerous ways. Each donation could fund planting trees that remove carbon dioxide or establishing renewable energy in communities. The carbon dioxide eliminated from each donation would balance a company’s total emissions.

Donating to offset programs in each business’s local community might be more helpful. Any gasses affecting the nearby environment or population would shrink. The company’s immediate impact on the surrounding area would shrink nearly overnight.

Start Toward Carbon Neutrality

Consumers look for carbon neutrality efforts from business owners so their purchases align with their sustainable values. Making progressive changes to prioritize the environment could benefit companies going forward. Researching company-specific waste through an audit can start the process. Afterward, the data will shape each business’s goals to remain green long-term.

About the Author

About the Author - Image of Oscar Collins from ModdedOscar Collins is the editor-in-chief at Modded, where he writes about cars, auto news, and similar topics. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Carbon Emissions Contribute to Climate Change?

Carbon emissions is another term for carbon dioxide waste. The harmful gas absorbs and reflects heat when it reaches the atmosphere. Trapping heat in the atmosphere intensifies weather patterns and melts ice by increasing global temperatures. Climate change would become a lesser planetary threat with fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

What Does Carbon Neutral Mean?

People and businesses become carbon neutral when they have a zero net release of carbon dioxide. This happens when individuals and organizations use green technology to eliminate waste. They can also participate in offsetting programs to pull carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

How Can Businesses Offset Their Carbon Emissions?

There are numerous ways to offset carbon emissions as a business owner. Replacing outdated technology with green alternatives, making biodegradable packaging, and conducting emission audits are a few ways to make the most effective change immediately.

References and Useful Resources

McKinsey & Company: Sustainability in Packaging: Inside the Minds of US consumers

ClimatePartner: Carbon Neutral – What Does That Actually Mean?

Our World in Data: C02 and GHG Emissions by Sector

Carbon Trust: Carbon Neutral Certification

MindsetEco: Sustainability Certifications: Easy Guide for Consumers & Sellers [2023]

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