FutureX Plus / March 31, 2021

Net Zero: Getting Started is more important than getting it right

image of a power plant

With talk of Net Zero targets and the COP26 being held in Glasgow in November, there is a lot of excitement and energy around the role of business in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. 

96% of businesses in the UK have less than 9 employees. These businesses are the backbone of the economy, and are also the ones able to pivot, adapt and make change happen most easily. It’s  vital that this group is empowered to take action on climate change and reduce their environmental footprint.

However, when I’ve been speaking to owners there’s been a lot of confusion and anxiety, and as a result of this, a lack of action. 

This “analysis paralysis” comes in the form of one common question: where on earth do I start?

In this article I want to highlight ways you, as a business owner, can get started and join the race to net zero.

Where do I start?

Should you change your energy supplier, remove all plastic from your business, or stop printing things on paper? Should you work from home full time, change lightbulbs, or insulate your office?  

No decision is equal, and some changes will have greater impact than others. 

But that isn’t the point. Making any of these changes will put you one step closer to net zero, and one step closer to being a greener company. Taking your first step on the journey is far more important than trying to plan out the perfect roadmap. 

You will likely make a wrong decision, and that’s okay. These decisions are complex and will change with time as new solutions come to the market. That doesn’t stop the power you have as a small business owner to get the ball rolling and be proactive, rather than reactive. 

Over the next 5 to 10 years I expect we will see some form of carbon budget or taxes come into play, with businesses expected to have accountability for how much resource of the natural world they are using. Doing nothing now means you will need to comply in the future. Acting today ensures you’re ahead of the game and will be in a stronger position as a result. 

Perfect is the Enemy of Progress

The topics are complex and there is not always a clear answer. Some plastic alternatives will have higher carbon emissions on the environment than plastic does, and it’s easy to spend all of your time researching this to try and make the perfect decision.

My concern is that getting tied up in these decisions will cause people to stop making as many changes as they could. Self doubt will creep in, and it becomes much easier and safer to do nothing and carry on as you are, rather than make the change.

We see this with topics such as electric vehicles, where concerns over battery production causes doubt around their adoption. The point is not that EVs are perfect, but it is that they are far more sustainable than the existing alternative

There is no perfect roadmap, and every business is different. While there are common things you can do (change energy to renewable, reduce how much you drive and fly, etc) 

Be Thoughtful

This is why it’s important for you to change your everyday thinking, rather than seeing this as a to-do list that once you have ticked all the environmental boxes that your journey is over.  

Every decision you make in your business, you should consider the environmental impact, just like you would the financial. What is the environmental cost of choosing the cheaper plastic packaging, or the envelopes made from virgin paper?

If you can be thoughtful about every decision you make, you are taking constant, repeated small steps towards net zero. As new products come to market, you can change direction and make better decisions. 

By failing to act, you will instill a culture of complacency and change becomes a threat rather than an opportunity.

Once you’re on this journey, you can change direction once you have found a better alternative, or perhaps realise that you made the wrong decision.  

However, if you don’t get started, we’ll never make progress and instead we will all be complacent, paralysed by perfection. 

How Do I get Started with Net Zero?

So, where do you get started?

Firstly, change the way you make decisions and make sure you’re being thoughtful on a daily basis with decisions. Every minor and major change you make is a step in the right direction. It also means that if you weren’t perfect and made the wrong choice before, you can correct that and continue with your journey. 

Secondly, visit small99.co.uk/start for a list of common changes any business can make.

This is a journey. We don’t need to solve all emissions now, we have 9 years to refine our decisions and make better ones. What is important is that we get started now, and change how we make decisions to include environmental costs as well as financial.

Adam Bastock

Founder, Small99