How to Become a Carbon Neutral Organisation

This blog is for any organisation wishing to become carbon neutral or net zero. You may have made this commitment, now you wish to enact it. We tell you how here.

To become a carbon neutral organisation, the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by the organisation needs to match the amount absorbed from the atmosphere through carbon sinks.  To achieve this an organisation needs to decide on the scope of GHGs included in the registry of emissions, assess the quantity produced from that scope and then calculate the amount absorbed from any carbon sinks.  

Once this data a trajectory to carbon neutrality needs establishing by considering how GHG emissions may be reduced or mitigated. This assessment and trajectory then needs to be communicated well.

Assessing Scope of Emissions Included

GHG emissions are broken into three scopes:

ScopeExample inclusions
Scope 1 – direct emissions from owned or controlled sourcesBuildings: Annual oil, gas and LPG for heating.Works: Annual oil, gas and LPG to deliver any other works.Transport: Fuel consumption of fleet vehicles
Scope 2 – indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling.Buildings: usually electricity usage.Transport: Electricity consumed by fleet vehicles.
Scope 3 – all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.Company associated transport: Business mileage in cars (lease or staff owned), train, bus or flights.Commuting transport: Mileage for commuting staff & volunteersSupply chain: Products purchased, leased or franchised, carbon impact of sold products.Waste: Quantity of waste per year.

The only internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality, from the Carbon Trust, sets a minimum requirement to assess Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with Scope 3 being encouraged.  To achieve ‘net zero’ scope 3 emissions needs to be included. 

Better Century recommends including scope 1 & 2 emissions, as well as scope 3 emissions where they are easily measurable.  Where possible avenues for gathering data around other scope 3 emissions become a means to communicate your commitment to suppliers, creating influence along the value change.  This will be important for consistency within your commitment and public relations.

Assessing Quantity of Emissions

DEFRA releases conversion factors to calculate emissions, and there are standards set for methods to calculate emissions from ISO14064.  Establishing a robust means to calculate emissions will ensure that when the organisation communicates its method to carbon neutral, it is robustly supported in methodology.

The common methods to assess carbon emissions are detailed in the below table, with grey areas showing the difficulty in calculating Scope 3 emissions, which may be addressed through surveys or policy requests, helping influence the supply chain.

SourceCommon Factors in Calculation
Buildings (Tier 1)Annual oil, gas and LPG to heat buildings
Buildings (Tier 2)Annual electricity usage
Transport (Tier 1)Fuel consumption of company fleet vehicles
Transport (Tier 2)Electricity consumed by company fleet vehicles
Transport (Tier 3)Business mileage in cars (lease or staff owned), train, bus or flights (from expense claims)Mileage for commuting to work (from survey)
Waste (Tier 3)KGs of waste per year (by type)
Supply Chain (Tier 3)Supplier mileage to deliver goodsCarbon emissions of products purchased, leased or franchisedCarbon impact of sold products
Investments (Tier 3)Estimate emissions from investments

Assessing Quantity of Emissions Sequestered

If an organisation owns land it may use standards set by ISO14064, to calculate emissions sequestered from that land holding.  The other means to sequester carbon are carbon offsetting schemes, which are controversial.  If carbon offsetting schemes, with natural sinks, were required by an organisation, we would recommend using gold or woodland carbon code standard.

To calculate emissions sequestered from land holdings, it is necessary to have data on the quantity of different habitats.  Academic data associated with specific habitats is then used to calculate carbon sequestering potential of those land holdings.

Reducing Emissions

The most significant sources of GHG emissions are likely from buildings and transport.  Below details possible mitigations for each of the common sources of carbon emissions.

Buildings (Tier 1)Insulation & draught proofingSource of heating fuelRenewable heating
Buildings (Tier 2)Electricity supplyElectricity production (e.g. Solar Panels)
Transport (Tier 1)Education on vehicle usageFleet moved to electric
Transport (Tier 2)Renewable electricity
Transport (Tier 3)New transport policiesHire electric cars for long distance travelNew commuting schemes
Waste (Tier 3)Waste reduction target
Supply Chain (Tier 3)Set new purchasing standards
Investments (Tier 3)Move to carbon neutral investments

Improvements on buildings may provide significant cost savings as well as carbon reductions, allowing for a solid financial case to be made for these improvements, which may well attract funding.  Transport may be achieved by moving slowly to electric and by setting policies and targets.

Establishing a trajectory of carbon emissions savings results in commitments to policy or expenditure.  The best method of creating a trajectory is to list possible mitigations and their emissions savings, assess the natural pathway to change (e.g. retiring of vehicle or boiler) and list the cost of the mitigation alongside annual savings, and payback periods.  

Once this business case has been done the organisation can choose when it will make these mitigations, allowing it to set a trajectory to emission reductions, and carbon neutrality.

Communicating Carbon Neutrality

The organisation needs to communicate three things:

  • Why the organisation believes achieving carbon neutrality is important
  • How it’s carbon footprint has been and will continue to be assessed
  • What it will do to achieve carbon neutrality in line with its commitment

It is common for an organisation to create a web page to explain this, so it may be referenced in other pieces of communication.  To offer assurances the organisation should opt to achieve high levels of transparency of scope, methods and results.

To maximise upon the PR benefits of carbon neutrality the organisation should also consider publishing data on its carbon footprint and mitigations put in place in a given year in it’s annual report, as well as celebrating ongoing changes through social media.

Accreditation for Carbon Neutrality is possible to offer alternative assurance, but this comes at considerable cost.  The Carbon Trust holds the only international standard for Carbon Neutrality, the PAS 2060.  They will review the data used for calculations and provide accreditation alongside use of logos, for the cost of £7,000+ (depending on the level of information assessed).

Better Century’s Help to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality needs to be in the DNA of the organisation, not an outsourced annoyance.  We therefore help to fill skills and resource gaps, with the aim of empowering internal resources to deliver this work. 

The services we offer are therefore flexible.  We provide the following method (from which organisation can pick and choose):

  • Initial consultation to determine scope of assessments and discuss methodology.
  • Data sheets for organisations to provide data necessary to deliver the assessment.
  • Surveys and questionnaires to engage staff, volunteers and suppliers.
  • Assessment of carbon footprint to ISO14064 standards, including quantity of emissions produced and sequestered.
  • Site visit to assess buildings energy efficiency and potential for different forms of heating.
  • Creation of mitigations sheet detailing business case for adoption, with recommendations for carbon neutral trajectory.
  • Work with external bodies to enable accreditation.
  • Written piece for website.
  • Training of staff and provision of spreadsheets to calculate ongoing carbon footprint.
  • Workshops with staff and other stakeholders to identify popular recommendations.

Outside of the Carbon Neutral activities, Better Century can also support the communications team in providing content to encourage organisations staff and customer base to make changes to reduce their own carbon emissions.

To learn more email or set up a meeting with him here.

Use tools like the NetPositiveLifeApp to become carbon neutral

Additionally, using a tool like the NetPositiveLifeApp is the perfect solution to support an employee engagement campaign that supports individual action on climate and nature. Staff can make their own net positive life plan through free accounts paid for by the company.

Click here for a 2 month free trial

This perk allows employees to learn about the solutions, subsequently inspiring action. This then leads to more support for workplace action to become carbon neutral.

You will get a dashboard where you and your employees can see the number of actions and impact of actions taken by the team, helping encourage everyone to do more. You can also use this data in your sustainability report or share it with stakeholders to show the impact of your staff engagement campaign.

It’s a proactive step toward understanding and mitigating your environmental impact. Check it out here:

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