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Carbon-neutral: just one part of a sustainable business

Rebecca Fay | 05 July 2016 |

In 2005 “carbon-neutral” was an unknown term. One year later, the Oxford Dictionary made it the Word of the Year. As part of the driving force to put the term on the tip of the tongue and front of strategy, The CarbonNeutral Company (now Natural Capital Partners) had identified a clear business interest. Eleven years on, Stephen Killeen, Chairman and CEO of Natural Capital Partners, describes how carbon neutrality is just one part of a much wider sustainability remit for global businesses.

Carbon-neutral: just one part of a sustainable business

Going beyond carbon neutral

Last year The CarbonNeutral Company rebranded to Natural Capital Partners because our name no longer represented everything we do. We are a solutions provider for companies that want to reduce their environmental impact through carbon offsets, renewable energy consumption, water stewardship or biodiversity protection.

In 2005 carbon neutrality was a radical concept. The early pioneers of corporate sustainability goals focused on carbon emissions. But aligning emission reduction goals and the bottom line were two contradicting strategies because the efforts were expensive. And at the time, climate change pledges were for the public, not the private sector.

Historically, companies have been focused on meeting a reductions goal and using carbon offsets to achieve that, but as awareness is increasing, this is changing. Becoming carbon neutral is not just a transaction; companies are offsetting their unavoidable emissions as part of a much broader sustainability vision that addresses multiple environmental and social issues throughout their supply chain.

Life Cycle Assessments and renewable energy

We are working with clients now on Life Cycle Assessments for products which include carbon, energy and water, and on documenting their energy consumption so they can understand where renewable energy opportunities lie.

A lot of corporations want to get off the grid for a variety of reasons. They want renewable energy to, for example, supply their data centers. By taking them off the grid, they can ensure security of supply and cap the price.

Technology is also accelerating these changes and making renewable energy consumption more predictable. The price of solar power has come down, and storage technology is making future pricing of renewable energy more predictable.

Developing resilient communities

Companies are working hard to source their energy and water supplies sustainably while improving efficiency and reducing usage. Not only this, but they are innovating to build a strong sustainability strategy that contributes towards achieving global climate change targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the last 24 months we have seen more and more companies going beyond their operational footprint to address their own supply chain across the world. Carbon finance projects offer a great solution for this challenge, delivering verified outcomes that companies can measure and track and in a wide range of locations. So we can build a program that works with local communities to enhance livelihoods and increase prosperity, regardless of whether the companies’ or their suppliers’ offices are in Europe, the US, China or Africa.

Carbon neutrality is part of the solution

COP21 and Climate Week 2015 successes are the culmination of years of efforts by climate change pioneers. COP21 reinforced the concept of carbon neutrality. Governments have stepped up and are setting carbon emission targets. Companies have stepped up and realized that they need to engage governments to have a say in how the targets will be achieved and ensure a positive environmental, financial, and operational impact. 150 corporations signed the We Mean Business pledge and then there is the Renewable Energy Buyers Principle. We are hearing less about the scientific debate and more about what we are going to do about climate change.

Tailoring the approach for greater impact

Today sustainability makes sense for business. Now we are seeing the public and private sector pragmatically improving their reputation in the world, ensuring that they have a positive impact on the environment, and influencing internal and external stakeholders. These companies want to go even further than governments initially proposed.

With our teams in London and the US and clients and partners all over the world, one contact in Natural Capital Partners can cover companies’ global needs regardless of the geography or environmental focus. This gives us a global approach and helps us be their trusted partner. Understanding the companies’ needs is critical for our experts to deliver the right carbon management solutions, water stewardship programs or environmental instruments for their specific business goal, whether that’s meeting an operational reduction target, building supply chain resilience, or aligning with specific citizenship and sustainable development goals.

Agreements have been made and now they have to be implemented. Governments are not going to be able to do it all and businesses want to be part of this.

This article originally appeared as a Q&A on ECOHZ, and is republished in article form with permission.