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The road to Net Zero Carbon has begun.

Time for change: Net Zero Carbon Q&A with Dr Stephen Finnegan.


Have you started your roadmap to Net Zero Carbon?

Every organisation in the UK is required to reduce their carbon emissions — but what does that look like and how imperative is to get started right away?

Arete Zero Carbon's Dr Stephen Finnegan answers some of the burning questions about the road ahead.

1. What is the UK Government's net zero emissions law and why is it needed?

The UK has legally committed to achieving Net Zero Carbon (NZC) emissions by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised  that if they don’t drastically reduce carbon over the next 30 years, the UK will fail to contribute to the global need to change the course of climate change and limit rising temperatures. But it isn’t just about the 2050 goal. On the 20 April 2021, the UK government set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce carbon emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035.

2. Should all businesses be making changes now?

Simply put, they can’t wait. Businesses that do nothing will see a series of interim measures introduced that will force them into change. Plus, waiting will see competitors gain an advantage. My advice is to start exploring how your business can achieve Net Zero Carbon immediately. It will take time and a small amount of initial investment but you will see new opportunities open up as a result. 

3. What do businesses stand to gain by leading the way to Net Zero Carbon?

First mover advantage is critical. All supply chains will need to decarbonise completely by 2050. Future tenders/frameworks/contracts will be awarded to those organisations with a Net Zero Carbon plan and strategy. On 7 June 2021, new rules set out by the Cabinet Office now require businesses to specify their carbon-reduction schemes in their tendering documents for any job worth more than £5m. Any business applying for the new contracts will need to commit to reaching Net Zero Carbon by 2050 or sooner.

4. What organisations have already started their journey? 

There are a large number of organisations who have either committed or have developed a Net Zero Carbon strategy and plan. A list of those can be seen on the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) website. They are all mapping their supply chains via the standards defined in the World Resources Institute (WRI) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. Measuring what we call Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, covering the total direct and indirect carbon impact of any business. By way of example, Sainsbury's has committed to becoming Net Zero Carbon by 2040 with an investment of £1 billion and review of their entire Scope 1, 2 and 3 supply chain.

5. Is it just big organisations that have started? 

Developing a Net Zero Carbon strategy and plan is not just for large corporate businesses. SMEs make up 99% of UK business, three fifths of employment and half of all turnover in the UK private sector. SMEs are all part of larger supply chains too. For example, having announced its plans to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030, Formula One now requires every part of its supply chain to follow suit. This is why it is also crucial for smaller organisations to undertake a Net Zero Carbon assessment, so that they can continue to win work and clearly minimise their own footprint.

6. What concerns should businesses have about getting started?

Business will clearly be concerned with the time and costs involved in undertaking a Net Zero Carbon assessment, however there is no need to worry.  A typical project will take four to six months to complete and then you will need an annual review and programme to continually target progress and change within the business. You could train some personnel in-house to do this, with or without a consultant to assist. Once you invest the time and commit to a plan, the rest will follow. The journey to Net Zero Carbon will be part of your business for years to come and some things will need to change in your business. I expect the UK Government will slowly introduce tighter restrictions and eventually use taxation to enforce change.

7. What is the first thing a business should do to get started?

Start the process by gathering the board members of your organisation and agreeing to commit to becoming Net Zero Carbon. If you intend to go it alone, the next step is to fully understand the GHG protocol, which is available for free online. You can use the protocol to guide yourself through the complexity of achieving Net Zero Carbon and align all of your data to the categories mentioned. The key to all of this is data and having the numbers available so that you have complete transparency on which parts of your business have the highest and lowest carbon impact. From which you can then develop a plan to reduce that impact to zero. 

Some of the strategies you consider may take years to come to fruition. The key is that you have a plan and that you are demonstrating that you are committed. By getting started now, your business can lead the way to a safe and sustainable future for this generation and the next. 


If you'd rather to chat to someone about what your next steps might be, contact the team.

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