Going net-zero in 2022

Can net-zero be achieved by SMEs?

As the government sets 2050 as the year for the UK to become a net-zero nation, we look at the ways small and medium businesses can contribute to this goal, and the benefits it could yield for them.

  • 24 May 2022

What does net-zero mean?

Net-zero is the cutting of all greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring your activities reduce more of these gases than they produce. Activities to offset the greenhouse gases you produce might include: planting trees, investing in renewable energy, or changing habits and policies around company travel.

In June 2021, the UK became the first major economy to legally commit to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve this ambitious target, all businesses, large and small, will need to make changes to the way they operate.

Net-zero vs carbon neutral

Though similar, net-zero and carbon neutral should not be used interchangeably. The key difference is that carbon neutrality focuses on carbon emissions only. Net-zero describes efforts to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions, including: methane, low-level ozone, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs, and of course, carbon.

How can net-zero be achieved?

Many company owners find themselves asking: "when it comes to net-zero, what can I do?" It may seem like only large blue-chips and multinationals can make any kind of impact, but there are also steps small and medium-sized businesses can take to help the country achieve net-zero by 2050.

Improve your websites

Older websites with slow response times, or those with user journeys that are difficult to follow often result in visitors spending significantly more time on the site than is necessary. By streamlining your user journeys and upgrading your websites to use the latest technologies, you can help your website visitors reach the desired end of their journeys in fewer clicks and less time. Not only is this more energy efficient, but it is also a better experience for your users.

Monitor your vehicles' movements

Many companies will be considering upgrading their transport and logistics fleets over the next few years to use electric vehicles. For some, this will be a significant investment, and one they will be keen to see results from. One way to gain these insights - and to optimise existing vehicle fleets - is to invest in smart telematics systems. Monitoring your vehicles from a remote location, you can track driver behaviours, and take corrective actions to prevent energy wasting habits, such as excessive engine idling.

Telematics solutions help you plot the best routes ahead of scheduled journeys, and alert you to any deviation from these routes. Many systems will also allow you to set up bespoke geofences, and will alert you if vehicles travel outside the perimeter of these geofences. All of this helps you to ensure essential journeys are undertaken in the most energy-efficient and cost-effective ways possible.

Other changes to your company's vehicle and travel policies could include: encouraging staff to use public transport to get to work, or introducing a cycle-to-work scheme.

Shorten your supply chains

Acquiring the products, components, and suppliers that are essential for your business can significantly increase your greenhouse emissions. By sourcing these assets locally, you can help reduce emissions, save on transport costs, and contribute to the improvement of the local economy.

Due to their geographic proximity to your business, local suppliers may also have a better understanding of the market you are operating in, and be able to provide closer support if needed.

Cut out unnecessary comms

We've all heard the saying "that could have been an email" about long, time-wasting meetings. But while emails may save time, they are not emissions-free communications. In fact, in 2019 OVO Energy estimated that if every adult sent just one less email a day, some 16,433 tonnes of carbon could be saved every year. That's the carbon equivalent of 81,152 flights from the UK to Madrid!

The most common type of unnecessary email is one which requires no action. A quick "Thanks", or "Have a good evening" adds a personal touch to our interactions, but also increases our emissions. Solutions to this are varied. You could provide training for your staff in energy-efficient emailing. Technological approaches might include the implementation of automated email monitoring, which prompts the user to consider whether they really need to send an email if the monitoring software detects the wordcount is below a predefined threshold.

With increasing numbers of employees working from home, it is understandable that many companies want to try and maintain friendly and conversational communications, even if pleasantries are superfluous to the task. Messaging apps may provide a more energy-efficient way to achieve this. There are many off-the-shelf options available, or you could consider having a bespoke application built to meet the specific communication needs within your business.

Reduce energy usage

Perhaps the most obvious way to reduce your greenhouse emissions is to reduce the amount of energy your business uses. But how can you identify where energy savings could be made? Smart energy meters could provide the answer. Many energy providers already offer smart meter installations, or you could opt for a bespoke option to monitor specific parameters and metrics.

Smart energy meters can provide you with important insights, like when your highest energy usage periods occur on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis; and which areas of your business generate the highest energy demands. Armed with this information, you can start to assess energy wastage, and make appropriate changes to the ways your business consumes energy.

Consider your location

Do all of your staff need to be in the office five days a week? Could you allow some or even all team members to work remotely? Doing so could reduce the number of cars on the roads, helping to lower carbon emissions. Dispensing with office premises altogether would also dispense with the associated heating, lighting and other energy costs that keep the building running.

For many companies, working remotely can seem like a daunting, alien concept. Concerns about monitoring staff productivity, security of data and servers, and maintaining a cohesive approach to tasks often make business owners reluctant to adopt a partial or fully remote working model. There are a number of technological solutions to these obstacles, ranging from messaging software to facilitate communication across a range of channels, to secure data storage solutions that ensure all company and client information is safely stored.

Business benefits

Experts believe that achieving net-zero emissions will help prevent catastrophic global warming, and ensure a sustainable future for us and the planet. Putting a plan in place to make your business net-zero now will put you well ahead of the government's target date of 2050. As the target date approaches, we are likely to see increasing costs associated with carbon fuels, as incentives are introduced to encourage greener energy usage. Public perception is also changing, and a company that can demonstrate its commitment to sustainable practices is likely to gain the edge on any not-so-green competitors in terms of customer interest and loyalty.

To find out more about how the latest technologies can be tailored to help your business achieve net-zero, drop us a message, or call us on +44 (0 8456 808 805 today.

It may seem like only large blue-chips and multinationals can make any kind of impact, but there are also steps small and medium-sized businesses can take to help the country achieve net-zero.
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