Net zero for businesses: sustainability and profitability.

Net zero for businesses

A comprehensive guide for UK businesses.

We now live in a time where climate change and sustainability are at the front of business discussions around the world. But, how can businesses here in the UK get their operations to align with environmental goals and not compromise their profitability? Is it even possible? 

Well, we are going to look at real world, actionable strategies that not only foster the conditions for a sustainable future but can also enhance your business’s viability as a successful company that puts environmental concerns at its heart.

What does "net zero" actually mean in sustainability?

You can’t go a day without hearing about "net zero" but do you really know what it means (and what it means for your business)? 

Net zero is about achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount we remove from it. 

For businesses, hitting net zero means that your company’s activities result in no net impact on the climate from greenhouse gases. In practice, what that means for most businesses is that your company takes steps to offset any greenhouse gases you put into the atmosphere.

This goal is central to mitigating the impact of climate change and chimes with global efforts like the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit global warming to well below 2°C.

The 3 P's of sustainability: People, Planet, Profit.

When businesses take a look at what they can do about sustainability they often focus on “The Three P’s: People, Planet, and Profit”. 

It’s a great framework to help you focus on practices that will contribute to net zero in a meaningful, real world way. But what exactly should we be looking at?

  • People. Your business should consider the social impacts of your operations, ensuring fair labour practices, and community wellbeing.

  • Planet. You should minimise environmental impact by using resources efficiently and reducing waste and emissions.

  • Profit. You should make sure that while your business implements these sustainable practices, it remains economically viable and profitable.

By following these three goals, your business can create a balanced approach to sustainability that leads to long-term success and ethical responsibility.

Strategies for sustainable profitability.

But enough of the theories and good intentions. What can your business actually do to move towards becoming a net zero company?

Adopt renewable energy. Moving your business onto renewable energy sources like solar, wind, or biomass is crucial for reducing carbon emissions. And the good news is that investing in renewable energy could mean lower energy bills over time. Plus there are government incentives. And do not underestimate how a stronger, greener brand image can help your company.

Get more energy efficient. So once you’re using renewable energy you don’t want to waste it. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your company's carbon footprint. Simple steps like upgrading to LED lighting, optimising your heating systems and improving building insulation can significantly cut energy consumption - and costs.

Find eco-friendly solutions. From reducing paper use to recycling programs, there are numerous ways businesses can adopt green practices. These efforts not only help the environment but also often reduce operating costs.

Supply chain decarbonisation. You don’t have to stop adopting these practices at your front door. Analysing and optimising your supply chain for lower carbon emissions is another step. This involves things like selecting suppliers committed to sustainable practices, using sustainable materials, and minimising logistics emissions.

Sustainable investment and financing. Gaining the backing of investors who prioritise sustainability can drive forward a net-zero agenda. Investment in green technologies and business models can attract not only traditional investors but also those interested in sustainable development.

Employee training and engagement. Encouraging a sustainability mindset in your organisation is vital for long term success. Regular training and engagement activities can help employees adopt and champion sustainable practices in their daily work and beyond.

Net zero business: a success story.

Many UK businesses are successfully integrating these kinds of strategies to not only achieve net zero status but also boost their market competitiveness. 

For example, Tesco have set ambitious net zero targets and are actively working towards them through comprehensive sustainability programs covering everything from energy use to product delivery and packaging.

Tesco set themselves the goal of hitting an 85% reduction in their own emissions by 2030 (and to reach net zero by 2035).

And to work with suppliers and others in their chain to reach net zero by 2050.

And we think that so far the results look impressive… 

They had already reduced overall emissions by 55% in 2022/23. And that includes working with farmers and other suppliers to reduce their emissions too - no mean feat since this isn’t as straightforward when they are outside of Tesco’s direct control.

Challenges and opportunities.

We admit that the journey to net zero is not without its challenges. They’re are hurdles to clear such as initial investment costs, technological integration, and stakeholder buy-in.

However, the journey also presents significant opportunities.

Businesses that embrace sustainable practices often find they are better positioned to adapt to regulatory changes, attract eco-conscious consumers, and increase their overall resilience against climate impacts.

Looking ahead: long-term sustainability goals.

If you’re a business looking to thrive (not just survive) in a future shaped by climate goals, setting long-term sustainability aims is crucial.  Your business aims, guided by the principles of those 3 P's, can be integrated into all your planning and operations. That way, sustainability can become a core aspect of your business model rather than an afterthought just “tagged on”.

And on that thought, it’s worth noting that achieving net-zero status is more than something nice to do. It is a strategic necessity in today’s business and regulatory worlds. By lining up your sustainability goals with profitability, your business could secure a competitive edge and contribute to a sustainable future for everyone. 

Whether you're a small start-up or a multinational corporation, the roadmap outlined here provides a foundation for integrating environmental responsibility into your business practices effectively and profitably.

As we move to a more sustainable world, how will your business adapt and innovate to meet these challenges?

The steps we have outlined here can start you on this crucial transition towards a more sustainable business model. With strategies and insights like the ones shown, we are sure UK businesses will be well-equipped to head into the future, demonstrating that profitability and sustainability can go hand in hand.

If you’re looking for more advice on energy and solutions to make your business sustainable visit eonnext.com/business.

Published 14/05/2024