As the journey to Net Zero increasingly starts to feel like a sprint, the urgency to make changes to decrease the effects of climate change becomes non-negotiable. Net Zero is not one person’s responsibility, it is everyone’s – and if a huge collective effort isn’t made, the impacts will be felt by every person in every corner of the globe.

Both individuals and businesses alike mustn’t underestimate the influence of their actions. Knowing where to begin when the market is oversaturated with information can be overwhelming, and the first step is often the hardest. Therefore, our experts at Amber have outlined the initial steps to take when moving towards Net Zero, to ensure a smooth and straightforward transition into decreasing your carbon output and, ultimately, saving the planet.

1.   Set your baseline

Measuring and understanding energy usage is the first step to reducing it. This allows businesses to know their baseline, enabling them to set energy reduction targets (e.g. decreasing energy usage by 10% year-on-year). Only once these initial processes have taken place can businesses take the correct steps to reduce their energy consumption.

2.   Change employee behaviour

For every organisation your staff are a key asset and must be brought into your vision. The benefits of engaging staff to change their behaviour can be tangibly measured, often with clear financial savings. The key is to create a supportive system to ignite ideas and integrate best practice. The first step is to understand the quick wins and to deliver these. This can be supported by championing employees to instigate change, generate motivation, and deliver measurable outcomes. Changes need to be made at every level to support the Net Zero targets, and by encouraging employees through collaboration, Net Zero can be a positive change for good within companies, with benefits beyond solely the environmental.

3.   Monitor progress

Monitoring and verification are crucial in feeding into organisations’ overarching Net Zero targets. With waste kept to a minimum via consistent monitoring, opportunities to implement Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) can be identified and implemented. These vary from low cost to no cost, with actions such as behaviour change and building optimisation, to CapEx projects, including upgrading to LEDs, or more efficient heating. The success of these initiatives can be defined by utilising data gathered and being integrated into your Net Zero pathway. This ongoing loop is a vital step in reducing energy costs, becoming more efficient, and allowing organisations to meet Net Zero targets.

4.   Use renewable energy sources

The most common way to procure renewable energy has typically been to choose a green tariff from an electricity supplier, meaning that consumption is backed by Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs). These certificates are purchased from renewable generators, rewarding them for their clean energy. However, certificates alone are not truly an investment, as they do not necessarily result in additional generation being added to the grid. More recently, businesses have looked to procure renewable energy via Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with a generator or by investing in projects directly. PPAs can provide an effective hedging mechanism to protect businesses from the volatility of commodity markets.

5.   Invest in Net Zero tech

PPAs are just one method to approach Net Zero tech investments and are particularly appropriate to premises either owned or with long-term leases. These ownership structures can support larger investments such as onsite energy generation (e.g. rooftop solar PV). Landlords are now having to follow mandatory requirements to improve their EPC ratings. Therefore, where sites are more energy efficient, lease renewal, asset value, and higher savings are more likely.

Alternatively, grants are available at both regional and national levels, where government will fund up to 70% of energy efficiency projects, such as LED upgrades and control improvement.

6.   Remember Scope 3

Scope 1 and 2 usually only account for approximately 20 to 30% of an organisations’ emissions; the remaining are classified as Scope 3 and includes all the emissions associated with your product and service, right until its end of life.

The amount of data involved is colossal and most inhouse Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) teams need additional support to create a reduction plan for the 15 Scope 3 categories. It is crucial to start measuring elements now to create a baseline and to reduce the burden of complying. Making small changes in how, or what, data is collected will allow Scope 3 processes to be built and associated carbon to be measured, monitored, and reduced.

7.   Know the relevant legislation

Environmental legislation is a fast-moving, ever-changing landscape. Where some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), charities, and businesses have already tested the waters by reducing their environmental impact, local, national, and international governments are enshrining these minimum standards in legislation and regulation. For example, the Task Force for Climate Disclosure (TCFD) is beginning to become a requirement for more businesses year-on-year. TCFD requires companies to mitigate and plan for climate-related risks and opportunities in a tangible (e.g. flooding) and more intangible (e.g. climate change migration) approach. The questions and requirements posed by UK and international law ensure climate is considered in boardrooms across multiple industries, and therefore reach the forefront of business agendas.

Regardless of the size of the initiative, progress is progress, and implementing the aforementioned steps is the best place to begin. Whether you follow one of the above tactics, or all seven, you will be joining the movement to be part of something bigger.

The best time to start your journey to Net Zero was yesterday, but the second best is today.

Contact Amber to learn more about taking the first steps of your Net Zero journey.

To find out more about Amber and the services they provide to the retail industry, click here.

This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.