Carbon neutral, carbon-negative – what does it mean?

As the discussion around sustainability and the environment continues, we currently find ourselves at a decisive moment for the future of our earth. 

The UK government has introduced a series of laws to try and make the country carbon neutral by 2050 and has currently begun dealing with policies that will enable that to happen – such as restrictions on the sale of brand-new petrol and diesel vehicles.

At the same time, businesses are coming to be increasingly familiar with the demand to act to decrease their carbon footprints. 

According to The Carbon Trust Green Business Fund, organisations with fewer than 250 staff members make up virtually 20% of the UK's total carbon output – indicating that their role in the fight versus environmental change is an important one.

So, just how, in a world loaded with conflicting opinions and self-proclaimed experts (as well as misinformation), do businesses understand where to start when establishing their own sustainability targets? With so many sustainability terms being made use of, it can be difficult to know what matters. 

To help, we have broken down the lingo around a few of the most generally used terms and made some suggestions on just how to be more ambitious in sustainability targets.

Carbon Neutral:

To accomplish carbon neutrality means that your carbon outputs – that is, the carbon emitted by your everyday procedures, such as production, travel, and so on – are effectively countered. 

This is achieved by balancing your carbon emissions with methods such as carbon countering – tree planting is the most common choice. This is because trees normally soak up CO2  from the environment, assisting to lower the quantity of greenhouse gas.

Or, alternatively, carbon neutrality can be achieved by adopting 100% renewable energy to power your business, plus ensuring your operations and supply chain are carbon-free, you can then call your business a "zero-carbon" service.

Carbon Negative:

Carbon negative, confusingly also described as climate-positive, goes one stage further than carbon neutrality, aiming to get rid of more carbon from the environment than you emit.

As an example, in July 2020 Microsoft, introduced their goal to come to be carbon negative by 2030. They've outlined a detailed plan on how they intend to do this, indicating they will significantly reduce their carbon emissions. 

Again, carbon-negative has several other terms connected with it, but it is the best goal for companies of all sizes.

What’s Next:

Business needs to take a look at the bigger picture to take the next step to minimize emissions in their processes. However, while cutting down on air travel, using LED light bulbs, and changing to electric vehicles are to be applauded, industry leaders now require to shift their emphasis to getting rid of the amount of carbon that's already in the atmosphere. While this may appear to involve big investments, there are numerous advantages to be gained.

Images: Wirestock Creators /

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