Are you an entrepreneur or CEO who has a goal of helping your company reflect the sustainability you want to see for the environment? A fundamental way to do this is to lead your company to qualify for climate-neutral certification. Becoming a climate neutral company requires a shift in thinking from leadership to employees.
What does it mean to be climate neutral?
A company becomes carbon neutral when it reduces its carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions it’s responsible for — to zero. Your carbon footprint consists of all the gases you emit that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
To become carbon-neutral, a company must first calculate its carbon footprint and then work to reduce it to zero.
Individuals reduce their carbon footprints through actions like minimizing air travel, eating less meat, driving a more eco-friendly vehicle, using public transportation, and running their homes on as much renewable energy as possible. Companies have to focus on these choices and more to reduce their footprint. They must also offset any required emissions by making better choices in other areas. For example, you may not have a choice but to fly to a conference, but you can reduce the impact of the flight by using public transportation while you’re there.
The internet’s impact on the environment
You already may have considered your company’s carbon footprint, but you may not have thought about the environmental costs of your company’s digital use and web-based services.
Your company’s digital energy use is likely harming the environment, and you probably didn’t even realize it. Data centers use more energy than some countries. The information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem — personal electronic devices, mobile phone networks, and televisions — accounts for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. Experts predict that these emissions will double by 2025. We spend our entire day downloading, viewing, and sharing. The effect these activities have on the environment adds up.
Here’s an easy way to think about it: Every time you or someone in your company performs a standard action online — browsing a website, receiving an email, using an app, or Googling something — you use up data and energy. The more data sent and stored, the more electricity and energy consumed.
To reduce some of this energy usage, encourage your employees to:
- Delete. Deleting emails they won’t need again, apps they don’t use, and photos from cloud drives keep those items from being stored and using energy.
- Unsubscribe. Unsubscribing from email newsletters or mailing lists that they don’t read or need reduces the number of emails sent and stored.
- Reconsider. Email is a significant cause of stress, loss of workplace productivity, and data energy usage. Ask employees to reconsider whether each email they send is necessary. Create company policies that “thank you” or “ok” emails are implied. Do away with email attachments and Reply Alls unless necessary. Also, encourage employees to send texts or use messaging apps to communicate. They use less energy than email. And always compress attachments or images whenever possible.
- Go mobile. Using mobile phones for searches or other functions when possible means using less energy than a computer.
- Conserve energy. Help employees conserve energy by equipping them with energy-efficient office appliances. And provide best practices for unplugging devices when not in use.
Every little bit helps, but companies must go beyond what individual employees do to truly reduce their carbon footprint. One big step you can take is making your company’s website more environmentally friendly.
Powering a typical website for a year produces the same amount of carbon emissions as driving a new car for more than 10,000 miles. The more visitors your website has (a positive in business), the more energy it uses. To reduce your website’s carbon emissions, make sure it is hosted through a data center that uses renewable energy instead of fossil fuel electricity. You can check any site’s host using this tool. CauseLabs also can work with you to reduce your website’s environmental impact.
Now that you have some initial idea of steps to take, let us share what CauseLabs did to become a carbon-neutral company. It can work for your company too.
7 steps to attain climate neutrality
Major companies like Amazon and Apple promise carbon neutrality for the future. Big companies taking steps to be climate-neutral shows that this practice can scale, meaning small companies can do it too —perhaps even more quickly.
Follow these six steps to becoming a carbon-neutral company:
- Measure your current footprint. What is the carbon emission from making and delivering your products and services? You can work with an outside company to become carbon-neutral and receive certification or use online tools to measure this.
- Determine the goal. What goal do you have for your company based on what you now know about your carbon footprint? Do you want to become climate neutral? If so, by when? If you aren’t quite ready to commit to climate neutrality, what level of reduction do you want to achieve, and by when?
- Create a plan. Now that you know your reduction goal, how will you accomplish it? Identify areas within your carbon emissions that can be reduced or eliminated. Include employees in the planning process and get them on board.
- Purchase credits. You cannot eliminate some carbon emissions. However, you can still have a carbon-neutral company by purchasing carbon credits. Carbon credits enable companies to account for their greenhouse gas emissions by paying another organization to reduce their emissions. So your company can make up for your mandatory emissions by investing in another company’s sustainability efforts.
- Purchase offsets. Yes, offsets are different than credits. Offsets are used to counterbalance the use of fossil fuels. The key with credits or offsets is to work with a reputable climate action agency such as 1% for the Planet or ClimateNeutral.org.
- Reduce your use. Implement your plan to reduce your company’s carbon footprint. The plan should include incentives for all employees to reduce their footprints as well as strategies for reductions in overall company practices.
- Encourage others. Communicate about your climate-neutral status and encourage other companies to launch their plans. After all, to truly make a change, we need to be united in our efforts.
How CauseLabs achieved climate-neutral certification
At CauseLabs we believe in being responsible citizens of the planet. To us, taking care of the environment is also caring for people.
In 2020 we became a carbon-neutral company and received climate-neutral certification. We reduced our carbon footprint dramatically by working remotely and using solar and wind power. We host our projects on green servers and partner with vendors who also focus on offsetting their carbon footprints.
We ran into a challenge when we started the process of reducing our carbon footprint. As a fully remote team, we couldn’t figure out how to calculate our collective footprint like we would if we worked together in an office. There wasn’t an existing way to track remote teams, so we created one. Our Emissions Tracker (available on our website), based on trackers for traditional workplace emissions, is a Google Sheet that allows each team member to record their travel and home office footprint.
Our focus on the company’s carbon footprint influenced our team members to make their homes and offices more efficient. As a company, we aim to be carbon negative, which means we have reduced usage and purchased credits so that our company’s operations help the environment.
To start your company on the path to becoming climate neutral, use CauseLabs’s Emissions Tracker to measure your emissions. Then follow the steps above to take climate action. It’s not only possible — it’s the right thing to do for the environment and each other.
Contributed to EO by Sheryle Gillihan, an EO Fort Worth member who is co-owner and CEO of CauseLabs, a socially conscious web agency using technology as a force for good to drive meaningful and sustainable impact. CauseLabs, a certified B Corporation, was recently named a 2023 Real Leaders Impact Awards winner for the third consecutive year.
This post originally appeared on the CauseLabs website and is reposted here with permission.