Getting to Net-Zero: How Businesses Can Drive Actionable Change
Urgency around global warming and climate change is increasing worldwide, with public and private entities feeling the pressure to reduce their carbon footprints.
According to the recent UN Climate Change Report, recent weather events have reached a scale unseen across centuries to possibly thousands of years. The report also found that limiting human impact on global warming requires reaching at least net-zero CO2 emissions, coupled with significant reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.
Colorado is well on its way — with a report from the Colorado Energy Office noting the state is on a trajectory to achieve almost half the emissions reductions needed to meet its 2025 and 2030 goals.
Many private sector companies are committing to net-zero because they feel it’s the right thing to do; others are influenced by clients, customers, and shareholders. All should consider actionable plans to get to net-zero.
Considerations to Kickstart your Net-Zero Initiatives
Once a company has balanced its own emissions with offsets, it has achieved carbon neutrality. The next step — net-zero — happens when the company becomes carbon-neutral across its entire supply chain, including its employees, vendors, and customers. There are financial benefits too (an NYU Stern analysis shows) that sustainability initiatives drive better financial performance.
While these goals seem lofty, companies can start by making small, incremental changes. Following, are a few initiatives to consider when creating net-zero plans:
Improve Facility and Fleet Functionality
Relatively straightforward changes such as reducing facility square footage, making facilities LEED-certified, and reducing water and paper use go a long way toward reducing climate impact.
Companies can also look into electrifying their fleets, which reduces energy costs, improves energy efficiency, and greatly reduces carbon emissions. According to a recent study, accelerating fleet electrification could eliminate more than three billion tons of carbon dioxide worldwide by 2030.
Make Operational Switches
Installing geothermal heat pumps and purchasing renewable electricity are relatively simple operational offsets. Making the switch to solar or wind power can also have a significant effect and prove to be cost efficient in the long run.
Although these technologies generate some limited greenhouse emissions, they pale in comparison to fossil fuels — which have 10 times the carbon emissions as the CO2 equivalents for wind and solar.
Support Grid Decarbonization
Contributing to a greater wind- and solar-based power system should be a collaborative effort among regional facilities. Some companies, for example, have benefited from installing clean-energy technology to power their facilities and then selling the excess capacity to other companies who wish to purchase offsets for their own emissions.
Here in Colorado, companies like Bank of America are also supporting growth in renewable energy by investing in GRID alternatives, which provide equitable access to clean energy in communities throughout the state.
How to Get Started
Here, are some actionable steps businesses can take to demonstrate leadership in climate action and contribute to a low-carbon economy:
Participate in Environmentally Friendly Projects
Net-zero only happens once a company becomes carbon neutral across its entire supply chain. If net-zero isn’t possible for your company, you can still be part of the solution by investing in environmentally friendly projects like refurbishing forests.
Identify Potential Carbon Reduction Opportunities across Operations and Entire Supply Chain
An audit is a great way to determine what you can do on your own and what might require additional financing, such as purchasing renewable energy from wind and solar creators.
Consider Offsets as an Easily Attainable Pathway to Decarbonization.
Even in the case of companies unable to eliminate carbon emissions, some simple steps to offset them include: buying excess solar power capacity from producers, reducing waste sent to landfills by purchasing 100-percent recycled products, or ensuring your vendors have reduced their carbon outputs.
Ty M. Aslin is the Colorado Market Executive for Business Banking at Bank of America.