2. Plan

Resources for making a net zero business plan, strategies for reducing emissions as much as possible & credible offsetting for the rest.

Making a net zero business plan – Why and How

Across the globe, a large gap remains between ambition and action among organisations with climate targets. Organisations are racing to set targets but the proof is in the details. Making a net zero business plan which includes specific operational implications allows organisations to credibly signal to investors, consumers, and the public that it will achieve the target and sustain itself in a net zero world.

For some businesses with low operating costs and low baseline emissions, a net zero business plan seems as simple as switching energy providers to a clean power option and opting for clean or local transportation for employees. These plans are still worth making as businesses may find unexpected efficiency and savings, and opportunities to use their skills and resources for the wider purpose of achieving net zero in the world. This may include ways to engage with their partners on taking climate action or business opportunities in the shifting landscape under climate change. As we will outline in the ‘Partner’ section, joining the race to net zero may bring businesses a wider network of partnerships with collective lobbying power. 

For other businesses, especially those with heavy operations, long supply chains and large associated emissions, a net zero business plan in terms of direct operations may involve a more complex process. Some of the emissions associated with a business may be hard-to-abate, meaning that the clean technology for replacing the process is not available yet at scale or close to cost parity.  In these cases it “may be” rational for a net zero business plan to include a strategy, even if temporary, for offsetting those emissions, at least until a clean technology is available. A good example of a situation like this is emissions associated with necessary international flights for which there may be few clean alternatives available yet. That said, it is commonly agreed upon minimum criteria in the climate expert community that offsets should only be used after every effort to reduce emissions has been made. There are also principles for net zero aligned offsetting that can help companies ensure that their offsetting strategies are credible and aligned with the global goal of achieving net zero. 

Net zero business plans also require justifications as to the equity considerations raised in setting and achieving that goal. If an organisation has the capacity and/or if they are associated with historical emissions, there are strong arguments from an equity perspective to set more ambitious targets in terms of timing (well before 2050) and in terms of scope (ensuring the target is being achieved as far as the business has reach or leverage).  Other equity considerations may relate to concerns for how new green markets are developing and the environmental or social impacts of sudden high demand for new raw materials, land and resources required to achieve net zero at a global scale. 

Given that net zero may be a long-term target which may rely on new innovation or innovation outside the scope of one’s business, it is understandable and important for a net zero business plan to outline places of remaining uncertainty or reliance on others. By doing so, businesses can help signal to policymakers, and market leaders where investment is yet needed to research, scale solutions and to ensure that all sectors and businesses are not relying on the same limited resources.  

In summary, credible net zero business plans will include specific operational implications, reduce emissions before offsetting, be justifiable in terms of equity, outline reliance on other actors, and outline future uncertainties. These are also included in the minimum criteria set by the UNFCCC – High Level Champions’ Race to Zero Campaign.

Below you can find vetted, case studies, scientifically credible tools, reports, and frameworks to help you make your net zero business plan. 

 Plans in the race to zero wilL
✅Make a net zero business plan
✅ INclude specific operational implications
✅Reduce emissions before offsetting 
✅ Justify your plan from an equity perspective  
✅outline reliance on other actors
✅outline Future uncertainties    

What Have Others Done?

Examples of Scottish farms that have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to the changes brought on by the climate crisis. Farming for a Better Climate focuses on five guiding principles: Use energy and fuel efficiently  Develop renewable energy ... Find out more

Doing Our Bit (NFU Cymru)

A collection of 26 case studies from farmers across Wales documenting their efforts to reach net zero by 2040. Each story falls under one of three pillars: Productivity improvements and better resource use Farmland carbon storage in soils and vegetation Boosting ... Find out more

Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance

Convened by the UN, the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance seeks to transform member investment portfolios to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. 29 institutional investors make up the alliance, representing over $5 trillion in assets. The alliance also works with other ... Find out more

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System

(STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Universities are given tools on reporting and benchmarking allowing them to be rated on a scale of Bronze to Platinum. Find out more

Campus Sustainability Hub

The Campus Sustainability Hub is a one-stop shop for AASHE members to access toolkits and resource collections about all aspects of sustainability in higher education, from academics to operations to governance. Find out more

Net Zero for Corporates

It’s widely used, but do you know what net zero means? Net Zero for Corporates gives you the answers to this and other net-zero questions Find out more

Carbon Trust footprinting guide

The Carbon Trust footprinting guide is a tool to measure, calculate, and communicate your carbon footprint. A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event, or product. Their guide explains ... Find out more

Do more for your business


Resources for pledging a Net Zero target

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Resources for making a Net Zero business plan

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Resources for taking immediate action toward achieving Net Zero

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Resources for reporting your progress

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Resources for partnering with other organisations and sectors to ensure a global, coordinated Net Zero future 

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