Carbon neutrality vs. net-zero: Approaches to emission reduction and compensation

The business benefits of carbon neutrality include sustainability as a competitive advantage and attracting customers, engaging employees, and driving financial performance

Carbon neutral can be achieved through a combination of eliminating, neutralising, or compensating emissions. BlackSalmon/Shutterstock

Carbon neutrality, or achieving a net zero carbon footprint, means balancing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released with an equivalent amount sequestered. To be carbon neutral, sustainable future newsletter Fairmat noted we must remove as much carbon as we add. Carbon sequestration refers to the absorption of carbon dioxide by natural systems like forests, vegetation, soils, and oceans. 

Artificial carbon sinks are currently unable to remove carbon effectively at the necessary scale. While CO2 is a significant contributor to climate change, other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide also play a role. Carbon neutrality and climate neutrality are often used interchangeably, but climate neutrality encompasses all greenhouse gas emissions, not just CO2. 

Knowledge and innovation site Info Q discussed how carbon neutrality refers to eliminating, neutralising, or compensating for total emissions, while net-zero focuses on avoiding emissions without compensation. Martin Lippert discussed sustainability at OOP 2023 Digital, highlighting the two approaches to emissions: elimination and offsetting. 

Related: Pursuing a career in sustainability paves a path for a green, resilient, inclusive property sector

Carbon neutral can be achieved through a combination of eliminating, neutralising, or compensating emissions, whereas net-zero emphasises elimination and later neutralisation. Net-zero is a stronger goal for reducing emissions, explaining why there are more carbon-neutral entities than net-zero ones. Offsetting emissions by planting trees or supporting emission-reducing projects doesn’t solve the problem as it doesn’t eliminate emissions promptly, stressing the need for emission avoidance.

Taking climate action and becoming carbon neutral can bring several benefits to businesses, as listed by Positive Planet. Firstly, customers are increasingly preferring carbon-neutral brands and are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. Secondly, employees are more attracted to companies that prioritise sustainability and are carbon neutral. Thirdly, incorporating sustainability practices can lead to revenue growth and cost reduction. Fourthly, investors are interested in future-oriented businesses that embrace sustainability. Lastly, climate-focused regulations are becoming more stringent, and businesses need to be prepared to comply. 

Overall, becoming carbon neutral is a long-term program with various advantages, including attracting customers, retaining employees, improving financial results, and staying ahead of regulatory requirements. Positive Planet can assist businesses in measuring, reducing, and offsetting their carbon emissions.

The Property Report editors wrote this article. For more information, email: [email protected].