Carbon Neutrality for Dummies

Carbon Footprint for Dummies

Carbon Neutrality and What it means for Your Business

There is a lot of talk about Carbon Footprint and being Carbon Neutral, but do you actually know what it means, what impact it has to your business and whether or not you should bother?

Every household and every business, in fact every individual is causing Co2 emission, whether we like it or not and whether we are aware of it or not. If you drive a car, heat a room or consume anything that has been produced consuming energy, you are – directly or indirectly – causing Co2 emission. The amount of Co2 emission you are causing is called your carbon footprint. It’s as individual as a fingerprint (or footprint), as every person and every organisation has different consumption patterns entailing different Co2 consumption, leading to different carbon footprints.

You can calculate your carbon footprint quite easily, using a carbon footprint calculator as available on the internet, e.g. http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.html

The fact that you are causing Co2 emission as such is nothing you need to be ashamed of, it’s quite normal and as a matter of fact it’s unavoidable. The problem is that there is too much Co2 released into the atmosphere, causing the infamous greenhouse effect and global warming.

So what’s wrong if the climate get warmer?

Too much Co2 damages the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which is causing skin cancer. If the planet’s climate is getting warmer, the ice at the poles will be melting, the sea levels will rise, devouring settlements near the waterline. With other words: Your property by the sea-front will be worth zilch, and if you plan to holiday on some Caribbean or Mediterranean islands, do it quick as they are likely to disappear.

When would this happen?

It all depends on the speed by which we manage to deteriorate our environment. Where I grew up as a child, we used to go cross-country skiing; today palm trees grow on the main street. It’s a threat that is likely to affect you during your lifetime but definitely the life of your children.

Ok, so what can I do?

When public enemy no. 1 “Co2” had been identified, pundits started to search for solutions. Since there is no easy way to actually reduce the emission of Co2 or to even stop it dead, it seemed like a great idea to at least freeze Co2 emission levels and not to allow them to increase.

This led to idea of promoting “carbon neutrality”. For every amount of Co2 you are releasing –or causing to be released- someone else has to reduce its emission by the same amount, so the grand total remains the same.

How does it work?

Every company has been given the right to emission a certain amount of Co2, according to its status quo at the time when the concept was put into effect. Those rights are called “carbon credits”.

In order to incentivise companies to reduce their Co2 emissions, their where given the right to sell their credits. So if they manage to reduce their Co2 emission, they can sell the right to release the difference between their actual emission and the amount they are allowed to release, to another company.

This is a congenial idea because at once companies recognised the profit they can make by reducing their own Co2 emissions and selling their rights on to less developed or less capable companies that can’t reduce their Co2 emissions yet.

This maintains an even balance of Co2 emissions, which is carbon neutrality on a global scale and promotes the reduction of Co2.

But there are things we all can do on a micro scale to be carbon neutral, by acting, consuming and working in a sensible way that does not derange the Co2 balance.

Imagine instead of driving by car you could take the bicycle. Consuming green energy only is another example, as is achieving a very high degree of recycling.

Although it might sound like mission impossible, it is actually achievable to be 100% carbon neutral. If you buy products or services where parts of the profits are going to projects that help to reduce Co2 emissions or to plant trees, you are collecting brownie points for your carbon neutrality.

Such products can be found on the web, but to choose a green utility provider is already an option available to everyone.

For those you missed the biology lesson at school: Trees convert Co2 into oxygen and hence are great Co2 killers.

So when you contribute to planting trees or to sustainable forestry management, you are doing something to achieve carbon neutrality.

So by a combination of buying carbon credits and reducing the amount of new Co2 released into the atmosphere by sensible consumption and operational behaviour, one can indeed achieve carbon neutrality. This means in fact that the amount of unavoidable Co2 caused by your existence as a person or a business is offset by your carbon reducing activities.

Why bother?

There is no law telling you to be carbon neutral and there is no punishment if you are not. It’s still hardly controllable and your clients and customers will probably never notice if you aren’t.

But even if you don’t care about skin cancer, don’t live near the water and don’t holiday on an island, there are good reasons why bother. As with so many things, it’s a matter of conscience, and more and more people appreciate suppliers who are carbon neutral, because it makes them feel good buying green products or services, is the right thing to do and keeps the idea and the momentum of environmental responsibility going.

So just as ISO certification, adhering to good business practice and being ethical, being carbon neutral will not buy you new business, but it will become a badge of distinction helping you to brand your business as responsible, ethical and a good partner to do business with. If a supplier has the choice between two otherwise identical suppliers, it’ll be more than likely that those being carbon neutral will win the tender because of the extra feel-good factor they are offering to the client.

And if you are real great, you might want to do just that little bit extra and become actually carbon positive, which simply means you are helping to reduce more Co2 than you are actually causing yourself.

And this is where the ideas becomes real great and starts making a difference, because from this point forward we will reverse the process and make the planet a place better than it is now.

By the way, this article was brought to you by Rembor & Partners strategic consultants, carbon positive since 2007.

Rembor & Partners Ltd. – www.remborpartners.com