Untangling the climate vocabulary

There are currently multiple terms floating around regarding the climate and our relation to our emissions. This can be especially complicated for companies, who want to communicate their efforts to do good for the climate, but want to avoid confusion and even being accused of greenwashing. Therefore, it is important to use the right terminology with the right intent. Let’s figure this out!

The way forward for companies include some balancing

What does carbon neutral mean?

“Carbon neutral” is something (like a product or a company) where the carbon emissions it causes are balanced, or compensated for, elsewhere. The result is that no additional CO2 reaches the atmosphere because of this product/company.

In order to call something carbon neutral, we must first measure the emissions that it causes, and make a careful documentation on this (GoClimate uses the GHG Protocol to measure the carbon footprint of companies). Then, efforts to reduce the emissions are implemented. This is obviously important because all emissions need to be drastically lowered to save the climate, but also to demonstrate commitment and integrity. Finally, the emissions that for some reason cannot be immediately abated are compensated for by offsetting (see our previous post of types of offsets). It is also important to note that all emissions throughout the life cycle and value chain should be included, not just the emissions from your own chimney.

There are two international standards which define carbon neutrality – ISO 14021 and PAS 2060.

Climate neutral is often used interchangeably with carbon neutral. Some argue that climate neutral distinguishes itself by including all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and not only carbon. However, the common practice is that non-carbon GHG emissions are converted into CO2-equivalents, to make for a fair comparison and easier overview. Therefore, carbon neutral is in practice usually also climate neutral.

Which direction should your company go in?

What does Net Zero mean?

The IPCC defines net-zero as that point when “anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specified period”. The Paris Agreement sets out the need to achieve this balance by the second half of this century.

The process for becoming Net Zero is therefore fundamentally similar to being carbon neutral – emissions need to be measured, reduced and balanced. The difference lies in the level of ambition and as a consequence, the execution. The reductions should follow a serious plan to be aligned with the Paris Agreement, which implies reducing emissions by at least 50% every decade. The offsets to compensate for the remaining emissions need to be of the type called permanent removals, which actually binds atmospheric carbon dioxide and stores it with confidence in its stability (see our previous post of types of offsets).

The requirements for what can be classified as Net Zero is an ongoing work, currently driven by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Their comprehensive paper Foundations for Net Zero gives a solid description of the common ground, and which challenges still need to be resolved regarding this concept.

Climate positive

There is currently no common standard definition of climate positive, and sometimes the expression climate negative is even used to define the same idea. This is however built upon the concept of carbon neutral (climate neutral), and means that what it refers to (a product, usually) has been compensated for with more offsets than it actually causes. This means that the product comes with added climate benefits.

Business as usual

In this context, business as usual means to continue operations as if climate change didn’t concern you at all. We can all do better than this!

Hopefully this breakdown made these concepts clearer to you. If there are other terms you come across and would like to see included here, please leave us a comment below!

Climate-proof your business

Why should a company act on climate change?

We are all part of the problem, so we can all be part of the solution! Since the causes of climate change are deeply rooted in our way of living, change needs to happen on all levels in society. From the governments setting the right direction, all the way to end consumers who choose what to purchase. In the middle, companies should align with the global goals, and provide products and services which are truly sustainable and don’t harm the planet.

What should companies actually do?

The first step is to understand how the company is contributing to climate change. The best way to do this is to analyze its operations and find out where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arise (in production, from energy consumption, or in the value chain?), and quantify the impact on the climate. GoClimate helps companies follow the international reporting standard to accurately measure the GHG emissions.

Once the company knows their climate impact, it is time to set a goal in line with the Paris Agreement to keep the increase of global temperature below 1,5°C. Knowing what emissions are caused in our base year (the first year we measure), we can set the ambition to reduce the emissions. At this point, we also know which part of the business is causing the most emissions, and GoClimate offers guidance on how to reduce these emissions in the most efficient way possible. Then, we can follow up on a yearly basis if the company is successful in reaching these goals.

A way to take responsibility for the emissions that cannot be abated immediately, is to offset the emissions. This is done by purchasing a corresponding amount of carbon credits from projects that avoid emissions elsewhere, or in some cases capture carbon from the atmosphere. GoClimate offers offsetting from high-quality projects certified by Gold Standard

Sidrap Wind Energy Park in Indonesia
With carbon offsetting, we make sure that this wind farm is being paid for, to the benefit of the local population in South Sulawesi, Indonesia

What are the benefits of doing this?

First and foremost, we do our part in ensuring a livable planet for ourselves and our children. As if this wasn’t enough, we simultaneously risk-proof our own business by understanding if we are currently a part of the problem, and how we can be part of the solution.

Some other positive effects are:

·      Attracting more talent – employees care about the company they work for! This is true for new hires as well as for retention of the existing team.

·      More customers – this gives an advantage over competitors, as sustainability becomes a key parameter when choosing suppliers and service providers

·      Sustainability efforts also offer a marketing advantage

GoClimate is your partner

Reach out to us, and we can help you understand what this would look like for your  company and offer support based on your needs. GoClimate will be there to answer any and all questions, and make this journey as smooth as possible for you. Get in touch by sending us an email at [email protected]

READ MORE: 

The 1.5°C Business Playbook helps organizations to set a 1.5°C aligned strategy and move to action. It focuses on simplicity and speed and is anchored in the latest science

Science-based targets show companies how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Our team is growing and doing more good for the climate than ever before!

We have recently almost doubled the number of team members at GoClimate, with three new co-creators that allow us to proceed even faster and more efficiently towards our goal of creating a better tomorrow and a healthier planet.

Alexandra Palmquist is GoClimate’s climate advisor who came to us from the United Nations Development Programme in Bolivia, where she worked on climate and environmental projects. Previous positions include the European Commission in Belgium and the NGO We Effect, where Alexandra was stationed in Mozambique. Alexandra will work with measuring and reducing both individual and corporate climate impacts, and review of the climate projects we finance. Outside of work Alexandra recharges her energy by going running or dancing tango!

Tove Westling is the founder of the London-based PR agency VARG, which has worked with the establishment of brands such as Dagmar, DAY Birger et Mikkelsen, Filippa K, CDLP and Samsøe Samsøe on the British market. Tove has also been responsible for the agency’s focus on sustainability, and managed Vestiaire Collective’s PR in Scandinavia. With us, she works primarily with increasing climate commitment both locally in Scandinavia and globally. Beyond the climate issue, Tove’s heart is pounding for animal rights, above all with a commitment to stray dogs around the world.

Emma Bäckström is a trained civil engineer in media technology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and has most recently worked as a developer at Mentimeter. At GoClimate, in addition to development, she also works with user experience and product development of our web service. In addition to saving the world, Emma wants to pet dogs and go running in the woods!

Besides the fact that we find it so exciting to have a living, growing team, we are extremely happy about what climate benefits this entails – as we can see that the number of co-creators is directly related to how much difference we make for the benefit of the climate. In 2017 we contributed to 660 avoided tonnes of CO2e per co-creator, in 2018 18, 000 avoided tonnes and in 2019 36,670 avoided tonnes per co-creator. We look forward to expanding the team further in 2020 and thus make even more positive difference!

Save the planet one digital meeting at a time

Digital meeting

Why digital meetings? Well, the transport sector is the fastest growing contributor to climate emissions, currently responsible for 14% of the total co2-emissions in the world. It is clear that we need to decrease transport emissions drastically if we are to reach the Paris Agreements goals – to limit global warming to below 2 degrees.

The good news is that there are many simple things we can do to decrease these emissions; things that we as consumers and businesses can act on right now.

One of the easiest things we can do – that not only helps stop climate change but also can save us money and time – is to simply travel a lot less. For companies doing business where meeting people face to face is key, this means swapping from physical to digital meetings.

And even for the ones of us not yet affected by the urgency of the climate crisis, in the current day and age of the Corona virus, digital meetings have never been more relevant.

So how to do good digital meetings?

  1. Choose a good video-service. At GoClimate we use google-meet and whereby.com, but there are lots of other similar services available. Our experience are that these services have improved drastically the last couple of years, coping with disconnects and audio-discrepancies a lot better than good old Skype did 10 years ago.

  2. Secure a good internet-connection. This is a must. There are few things as frustrating as interruptions during the meeting, compromising the flow of the talk and increasing the risk of misunderstandings. One thing that helped us with this aspect was to switch the wifi-channel, so it’s a different channel than the other wifis in our office-building.

  3. Get a high quality camera, microphone and speaker. For meetings with multiple participants this is also a non-negotiable. At GoClimate we were sponsored by Konftel with a brand new C20Ego-kit. We are delighted with the increased quality of video/audio and thereby the improved overall experience of our meetings as a whole. Thank you Konftel!

  4. Make sure everyone can participate on equal terms. This means, even if you have only one person joining on distance, you cannot use a whiteboard that this person cannot see or contribute to. Resolve this by using tools like Miro, the virtual whiteboard! Everyone needs to have equal access.

  5. Partner up! Another system that works well for us when we have only one person remote is to use a Buddy in the real meeting, who ensures that the remote collaborator is effectively included, and uses their computer as the channel for communication (the video connection).

If you want to read more tips to make distance meetings work, Konftel wrote a great guide here.

And if you still need to travel, make sure you at least carbon offset your emissions!