Pathway to Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Blog

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time – and an unprecedented opportunity for business transformation.

10 November 2020

5 min

#Blog #Sustainability #Global

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time – and an unprecedented opportunity for business transformation. By embedding sustainability into their strategy, businesses will future-proof their markets and build resilience and innovation into their products and supply chain.

Why do businesses need to reduce carbon emissions?

Carbon emissions absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth's surface, increasing the global temperature.

In 2020, atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases are the highest ever recorded and are predicted to keep rising unless we dramatically reduce our carbon emissions.

It is no secret that people are demanding their businesses and government take sustainable action to protect our environment from climate change. The best strategy we have to reduce these impacts is to decrease the levels of carbon in our atmosphere. This is a large challenge, that is best tackled in two parts. Firstly, we’ll need to reduce and offset our emissions with existing technology and methods. This addresses the immediate need to buy us time to work on part two; removing carbon from the atmosphere to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, using currently unknown technologies.

Food & beverage manufacturers will play a vital role in reducing our emissions and are expected to. Customers worldwide are making this clear with their wallets.

Nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment 1.

Cows grazing

The dairy industry plays a key role

The global dairy industry must play a role in reducing emissions throughout the supply chain and on-farm. Pasture-based farming nations like New Zealand (NZ) continue to be world-leaders in sustainable dairy-farming practices and low-carbon dairy products, for example, the on-farm carbon footprint for Fonterra’s milk production in New Zealand is about one third the global average 2. However, there is still more work to be done as 48% of NZ’s total emissions come from the agricultural sector.

Not only can NZ continue to reduce and offset carbon emissions at-home, but we can share our technology, products, practices and learnings beyond our borders.

New Zealand businesses are already playing their part in reducing emissions and developing techniques that can be shared globally. In 2018 the Climate Leaders Coalition launched with 105 Chief Executives from NZ’s largest businesses, including Fonterra. They were coming together and committing to act on climate change. It was a signal that climate action had moved from being a strategic business ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must do’. Increasingly, it signals that

businesses that do not act on the climate will be left behind by customers and stakeholders looking for leadership.

Initiatives by climate leaders show that while the journey to net zero might be a challenging one, all businesses can take effective action. The critical step is the first one, to measure your emissions and identify the best place to start.

Consumers want to know your products are sustainable 

Sustainability is a concern for many consumers, and they want to know the companies that make their products are taking it seriously. 53% of global consumers believe food & drink brands should be doing more to protect the planet 3 and 45% said they had already changed their diet to lead a more sustainable lifestyle 3. Research by UK organisation, Carbon Trust, found that 

67% of consumers supported carbon labelling on products, which showed whether the manufacturer was measuring and reducing their carbon footprint 4

In order to show consumers that your business and products are supporting sustainable initiatives, and reducing carbon emissions, you must first measure your emissions, and make a plan. We need to balance total global emissions to zero by 2050, in order to avoid more than 1.5°C change in global temperature.

Two men outside factory

Measure your emissions and make a plan

Toitū Envirocare is New Zealand’s leading environmental certification organisation. We work with companies such as Fonterra to measure, offset and reduce emissions. Our mission is to catalyse NZ businesses to reach our net-zero 2050 goal. We offer carbon management and carbon-neutral certifications for organisations, goods and services, farms and building operations, including all the tools you need to measure, reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Toitū carbonzero programme requires its members to continually reduce emissions, not just offset them. However, we understand that significantly reducing emissions will take time. Offsetting your unavoidable emissions with high-quality carbon credits can play a vital role in reducing overall emissions immediately while longer-term reduction goals are achieved. 

A carbon credit is a financial instrument that represents a unit of carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. One carbon credit is equal to 1 tonne of CO2e. Carbon credits are awarded for projects that store, avoid or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. These carbon credits can be purchased by GHG emitting businesses to help balance emissions to net zero and keep the carbon credit project funded. 

Conclusion

The future of business is decarbonised. Consumers and stakeholders are expecting businesses to take climate action, and those that don’t risk being left behind. The first place to start is to measure and manage the emissions from your organization or product and then put in place effective reduction strategies. High-quality carbon credits can be a great way of offsetting your carbon footprint while you invest in longer-term reduction projects.

  • [1] https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/was-2018-the-year-of-the-influential-sustainable-consumer/
  • [2] https://www.nzmp.com/global/en/about-nzmp/sustainability/low-carbon-dairying.html
  • [3] FMCG Gurus, Sustainability Survey 2019
  • [4] https://www.carbontrust.com/news-and-events/news/research-reveals-consumer-demand-for-climate-change-labelling

The author

Becky Lloyd

CEO Toitū Envirocare

Becky is Chief Executive of Toitū Envirocare, a New Zealand-based business providing environmental programmes and services to organisations in New Zealand and overseas. Based on science and backed by proof, Toitū’s carbon certifications give organisations the tools to reduce their emissions and take meaningful climate action. This month we are talking to Toitū Envirocare (pronounced: Toy-Too) about their carbonzero certifications, and why they believe both carbon reduction and offsetting will play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change and realising our net carbon zero future.