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How to create a Net Zero action plan

08th February 2022, 08:02
Net zero
How to create a Net Zero action plan - The Growth Hub

As with any strategy, what gets measured gets improved. By formalising your Net Zero journey into an action plan, you give yourself a much greater chance of achieving your goals

Step one: Define your scope

Before you can set targets and timeframes, you need to know your starting point - your baseline - from which you can benchmark. Knowing your current position will allow you to put a line in the sand and establish any progress from here on out. The industry standard for measurement is known as your Carbon Footprint.  

How do I calculate my Carbon Footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere as a result of your business activities; it is the universal measurement by which you can assess your impact and track your progress. Without calculating and monitoring it, you won’t know the impact that your changes are having (and therefore how close to achieving Net Zero you really are). Different greenhouse gases contribute to climate change in different ways, which is why the footprint always expresses the footprint in units of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent. 

Carbon footprint is calculated using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which categorises your emissions into three areas, known as scopes:

  • Scope One includes direct emissions produced by your business – such as fuels burned on-site or by company vehicles, refrigerant gases emitted from coolers or air conditioners, and any manufacturing or industrial emissions from your processes.
  • Scope Two includes indirect emissions, most typically from the electricity you purchase to power your business. 
  • Scope Three concerns further indirect emissions like waste, business travel and commuting, plus also the impact of goods and services purchased in your supply chain.

As a minimum the footprint must include Scope One and Two. You should try to include as much Scope Three as possible - but this is the complex part of everyone’s footprint.  Initially start with what you can realistically quantify, or make reasonable estimates about

At the outset, review your business activity - where do you operate, what energy do you use; what assets do you have, how do you travel, what do you purchase. This will determine what you may be able to include in Scope Three.

To get access to a range of tools to support you, join the SME Climate Hub.

Step Two: Gather Your data

What information do you already have to hand that can be used - utility bills, meter readings, mileage and travel expense claims?  Try to collate data for a whole 12month period - even better if this aligns with your financial year.  If only partial data is available, it may be ok to up-scale this to the reporting year. If there are gaps between the planned scope of the footprint and available data, develop a plan for how these data will be collated in the future. Some of the data will also be held outside your organisation - engage with your suppliers and customers and explain your why: they may already be able to tell you the carbon footprint of their goods and services, or you may inspire them to calculate their footprint too.

After gathering your data, calculate your total impact using tools, like those provided by the SME Climate Hub. With the information from this calculator, you will be able to track your progress towards Net Zero.

Step Three: timelines and targets

With your carbon footprint, you are able to project when you might realistically be able to achieve Net Zero. From here, work backwards to set interim timelines and targets in pursuit of your ultimate goal. As a starting guide, achieving Net Zero by 2050 could require halving the footprint every decade: 50% lower by 2030; 25% by 2040; and 12.5% by 2050 (the remaining emissions addressed through carbon natural or technical draw-down schemes). Early wins may be easier to come by. Achieving Net Zero sooner will require a more aggressive and ambitious strategy.

Roadmaps should be clear, time-bound, and costed – taking into account each key step of the Net Zero action plan. And whilst these should be developed by those with the relevant expertise, co-creation of such plans will allow for greater personal investment and alignment from each department of your business. Involve change-makers and influencers from the outset in order to win their loyalty and teamwork throughout the process.

Don’t forget to keep your roadmap updated with changes in policy, technology, budgets, and other changeable factors.

Step Four: revise, revisit, readjust.

Your Net Zero action plan is a living breathing document. Use your carbon footprint calculations to continually track progress towards your milestones – and make the necessary adjustments along the way. 

Remember that what works for one business may not work for yours – the solutions you choose must be tailored (and tested) for your organisation. Don’t throw money at a problem that may not need solving, or at a problem that will give you a limited return on investment. Look for low hanging fruit first, there’s nothing like some early wins to empower your staff on your journey together. With some skin in the game, they’re far more likely to embrace the more difficult habitual changes that will embed net zero into your organisation.

Again, keep a close eye on the changes in policy, technology, budgets which may impact your choices.

What else can I do?

As a Gloucestershire business, you have plenty of options:

Complete our climate survey: so that we know your biggest barriers and can put the right support in place to help you overcome them.

Make a climate commitment: join thousands of fellow SMEs in the same position and work together to make changes to fight climate change.

Bookmark our Net Zero page: this is where The Growth Hub will be publishing news, events, research, and resources to help local businesses.

Get in touch for support: speak to our dedicated Net Zero team, who can answer questions, make introductions, and find the answers you need. Email: for support.

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