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Develop a low carbon strategy for your business

Develop a low carbon strategy for your business

Many companies in Scotland are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and transition towards being low carbon operations. This guide explores what low carbon and net zero mean, why it’s worth developing a low carbon strategy for your business and how you can do this successfully.

Many experts view climate change as a defining issue of our time.

Impacts like shifting weather patterns have the potential to threaten food production and livelihoods worldwide, alongside risks of rising sea levels and flooding.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 saw 196 of the world’s governments commit to preventing dangerous levels of climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2C.

Assessments suggest that, without concerted efforts from governments, citizens and businesses, climate change will likely exceed 2C. This could have a significant effect on people and ecosystems across the globe.

What is net zero?

Many companies set net zero emissions as their target. If a company reaches net zero, it means that its business activities result in no net impact on the climate from greenhouse gases.

This can include the removal of any remaining greenhouse gas emissions using carbon offsetting.

In this video, David Rennie (Head of Trade at Scottish Development International) talks about net zero and our commitment to helping businesses realise their net zero ambitions. 

Low carbon economic opportunities

The move towards more sustainable business models is underway globally and gaining speed. Every sector in every market will be transformed.

Scotland’s climate change legislation is world leading. The Scottish Government has a target date for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. These commitments show that Scotland is accelerating its transition towards a low carbon economy. 

Companies, ranging from multinationals like Unilever and BP to Scotland's leading sustainable SMEs, understand the important role they must play in reducing operating, product and supply chain emissions. They also recognise the vibrant economic opportunities presented by a low carbon business model.

What is low carbon?

'Low carbon' is shorthand for a reduction in carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases (GHGs) like methane, nitrous dioxide and CFCS. 

By converting all of these emissions into 'carbon dioxide equivalents' (CO2e) you can easily compare your company's overall greenhouse gas impact using one figure.

Put simply, if you reduce the CO2e of an activity, you lower its global warming impact. 

Wind turbine at Energy Park Fife Methil Level

Why adopt a low carbon strategy?

Companies across Scotland are aiming to reduce carbon emissions and, in many cases, become net zero operations.

There are many benefits to developing a low carbon strategy.

By minimising the carbon footprint of your business, you can cut energy costs, increase sales, find new markets, support customers' low carbon goals, improve employee morale and reduce overheads through efficiency savings.

Calculating your carbon footprint: what you should know

Emissions are broken down into three categories by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol:

  • Scope 1: All direct emissions from the activities of an organisation or under their control. This includes fuel combustion on site, such as gas boilers, fleet vehicles and air-con leaks.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by the organisation. Emissions are created during the production of the energy that's eventually used by the organisation.
  • Scope 3: All other indirect emissions from activities of the organisation, occurring from sources that they do not use or control. These usually create the greatest share of the carbon footprint. They cover emissions associated with supply chain impacts, business travel, procurement, product use and final disposal.

You should include their direct (Scope 1) and indirect (Scope 2) energy emissions when you lay out your low carbon plan. However, depending on which standards they follow, some companies choose not to include all Scope 3 emissions. It's crucial to clearly state what you are including in your strategy.

If you sign up for the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), PAS 2060 or the GHG Protocol Scope 3 Standard, all significant Scope 3 emissions are included in calculations. 

To report on the GHG emissions associated with your business activity, you'll have to convert your carbon emissions into 'activity data' like:

  • Distance travelled
  • Litres of fuel used
  • Tonnes of waste disposed

You can find the latest UK Government conversion factors for reporting GHG emissions on the GOV.UK website. 

The carbon footprint of individual materials can be found using the free Idemat app.

Download the Idemat app from the Idemat website

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is the practice of putting funds towards organisations that help the environment by lowering or reducing carbon emissions. Reforestation projects are one example. 

It's best to use a verified scheme (for example, Gold Standard schemes) where possible, with additional environmental and social benefits. 

Trees and woodland in Galloway

Creating your low carbon strategy

So, how do you start to build a robust and practical low carbon strategy? How can you embed good practice and ensure all operations understand and reduce their carbon impacts?

Although each strategy is unique, the following guidance covers some common and crucial considerations.  

Contact us

If you’re interested in finding out more about the topic of this guide or any other aspect of making your business more sustainable, our sustainability team are here to help.