Starting your journey to net zero

Your environment
Are you starting your journey to net zero? This short guide is designed for small buinsesses wanting to take action against the climate crisis and start their journey to net zero.

The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050, and we’re calling on all businesses to start their journey to net zero now. Businesses play a huge role in the climate crisis and with SMEs (small and medium sized businesses with up to 250 employees) making up 99.9% of the country’s business population, it’s crucial that businesses of all sizes take action. Doing business sustainably is vital for everyone’s future and it can also be really positive for your business. You’ll get more customers, see cost savings, attract brilliant employees, keep them for longer and win more work.

What does net zero mean?

Simply put, net zero means you’re not putting more carbon into the atmosphere than you’re removing. A commitment to net zero means you need to reduce your carbon emissions to the absolute minimum. Once you’ve done that, you can offset any unavoidable emissions through removal offsets. As a general rule, your remaining unavoidable emissions shouldn’t exceed 10% of your baseline year emissions. So, to reach net zero you first need to understand your carbon footprint and then set a reduction plan.

Getting started with this can be daunting, especially for small businesses who don’t have the teams and budgets to set net zero targets and work out how to get there. But whatever the size of your business, you can have a great impact, and we want to help you do that.

Six top tips to get you started

From our experience of working with small businesses for over 20 years, we know that for businesses with fewer than 10 employees or for independent consultants and freelancers, committing to a full training course can be difficult, so we’ve pulled together six top tips to help you get started.

  1. Understand your carbon footprint. Measuring this for the first time can feel like a big task, so start with your electricity and gas consumption and then look at water usage, your waste and how much you’re spending on goods and services. Our climate action toolkit points to free calculators you can use to convert your numbers into tonnes of carbon, and that creates your carbon footprint.
  2. Make a reduction plan. When you have your first carbon footprint, start making plans to reduce it. Look at what makes up most of your carbon footprint and go from there!
  3. Set targets. The day-to-day of running of your business is always going to take your focus away from this, so set yourself targets to keep on track and ensure it doesn’t lose momentum. Achieving net zero is a journey, so map it out and keep going.
  4. Tackle the quick wins first. As it’s a journey, start it off well by tackling some of the quick wins to reduce your emissions such as switching to a renewable energy tariff, choosing more energy efficient light bulbs, turning off lights and appliances when not in use. And consider doing an energy audit of your workplace.
  5. Talk to your suppliers. For many businesses your largest emissions will come from the goods and services you purchase, so talk to your suppliers to see if they’re also starting their net zero journey and consider the most sustainable.
  6. Look for peer support. You’re definitely not alone in starting this journey – you can learn lots and get support from other businesses. We’re here to help with our free resources and community of SMEs, and there are also lots of industry specific organisations there to help, which we can introduce you to.

We can support you to do more!

At Heart of the City, we’re supporting small businesses in the Square Mile to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2040.

  • Our free Climate Action Toolkit is bespoke for SMEs, to make taking action against the climate crisis accessible and achievable. You can access our Climate Action Toolkit here.
  • Our Climate for SMEs: 4 Steps to Action course helps you get on your journey to net zero in four modules. If your SME is based or operates in the City of London, you could be eligible for a free place on the course. Find out more here.

This was last updated in February 2024  by Heart of the City. We’ve created these resources for individual SMEs to use. None of our content is to be adapted, reused or repurposed for commercial use.