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Shifting gears to net zero: Why climate neutrality is not enough

Making progress towards a sustainable future requires companies to go beyond climate neutrality.

Timo Müller
Timo Müller
February 14, 2023 | 3 min

In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in companies making climate neutral claims as they strive to become more environmentally responsible. While this is undoubtedly a positive step, it’s important to remember that becoming climate neutral should only be seen as one step on the longer road to achieving net zero emissions. In fact, companies should be wary of simply resting on their climate neutral laurels and instead focus on making real progress towards a sustainable future.

Set meaningful climate goals

Becoming climate neutral means that a company has achieved a balance between the amount of carbon it releases and the amount of carbon it removes from the atmosphere. This is typically done through a combination of reducing emissions, investing in renewable energy, and offsetting any remaining emissions through carbon credits or other mechanisms.

While achieving climate neutrality is a positive step, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end goal. In order to truly combat climate change, companies need to go beyond simply offsetting their emissions and instead work towards reducing their emissions to as close to zero as possible.

And that’s not all! In our community we place a big emphasis on looking at the challenge through a more holistic lens: Instead of simply asking “How can I avoid emissions and reduce my impact?” Ask yourself “How can I help make a positive difference? How might I use my specific superpowers to help change the game for the better?” While your options on the reduction and avoidance spectrum are often limited due to external factors, the options to make a positive difference are endless. They span from activating your team and partners towards working with your customer and user base. Join campaigns, talk about it, be an active agent of change!

Communication is key

One of the reasons why companies need to be careful with climate neutral claims is that the term is often used in a way that is misleading or confusing. For example, some companies may claim to be climate neutral by offsetting their emissions through projects that are not truly additional, meaning that they would have happened anyway without the offset funding. Others may only offset a small fraction of their emissions, while continuing to produce high levels of greenhouse gases. We have witnessed various scandals in the offsetting industry over the past couple of years. Supporting good climate projects with funding is never wrong, it's only when this support is used to justify or continue exploitative business practices that we run into problems. To avoid greenwashing accusations, we recommend to simply look at offsets as an additional action in your "sphere of influence", instead of using it to calm yourself into a "neutral" state of mind...

To truly make progress towards a sustainable future, companies need to focus on reducing their emissions through measures such as energy efficiency improvements, switching to renewable energy sources, and investing in more sustainable production processes. This is a much more challenging task than simply offsetting emissions, but it’s also much more meaningful in the long run.

Another reason why companies should focus on more than just climate neutrality is that offsetting is not a long-term solution. While it may be a useful tool in the short term, the reality is that we need to reduce our emissions as close to zero as possible in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. Companies that are only focusing on climate neutrality are essentially kicking the can down the road and delaying the difficult but necessary work of reducing emissions.

Action must always come first

In conclusion, while becoming climate neutral is a positive step, companies need to be wary of using this term as a substitute for real action on climate change. To truly make progress towards a sustainable future, companies need to go beyond offsetting their emissions, instead focus on reducing their emissions as close to zero as possible and aim to make a positive difference through their actions. By doing so, they can play a meaningful role in combating climate change and creating a more sustainable future for us all.