From carbon neutral to net zero to carbon offsetting. What do all these words mean? Here’s an explanation of some of the most used jargon.
Sustainability: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental and social.
Carbon footprint (and why it’s a good place to start!): a carbon footprint is the quantification of all activities that release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. For office-based businesses such as insurance brokers this includes heating, lighting and electricity for offices, some business travel such as car mileage or flights, and emissions from employees working from home. By measuring your business’s carbon footprint, you can then work out what the most effective changes are that you can make to reduce it.
Carbon dioxide and offsetting emissions: carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas emitted to the atmosphere where it absorbs and radiates heat. Regardless of where it’s emitted or the source, it will have an impact on the climate. This means that emissions in one place in the world could theoretically be compensated in another by investing in projects that absorb emissions, such as forest preservation, afforestation or carbon capture.
Carbon neutral: any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from business operations and activities is balanced by the equivalent amount being removed.
Net zero: Globally, business, governments and society are on a pathway to reduce emissions so that global warming is limited to 1.5°C, the threshold (as agreed by the Paris Accord) considered acceptable to maintain healthy and sustainable life on Earth.
A business is considered “net zero” when it is able to ensure it removes as many greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere as it creates through its business operations. Greenhouse gas emissions can be removed through nature based solutions like reforestation or through technology like direct air capture. But it’s always better to avoid or reduce emissions in the first place and that’s where your pathway to net zero comes in.