How to Avoid Common Net Zero Mistakes

Changing the way you make decisions will have far more impact than any single decision you make. We outline the common mistakes people make to keep you on the right track with your net zero journey.

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Whether you’re starting off on your net zero journey or have already made good progress it’s important to avoid these common mistakes small businesses often make:

  1. Lack of communication. Be brutally honest in your environmental policy by saying exactly what you are and aren’t doing.
  2. Swapping instead of reducing. Reduce as much as possible rather than just opting for ‘green’ alternatives.
  3. Losing momentum. Embed net zero into your business rather than thinking of it as a one-off task.
  4. Not collaborating enough. Look around and ask yourself who can I collaborate with? These might be people in your sector, or your suppliers. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind as we transition to net zero and so the more collaboration the better!

Let’s look at how to avoid these mistakes in a bit more detail:

Mistake 1 – Lack of communication

Transparency is key. It’s crucial to communicate where you’re at on your transition. You should most definitely have an environmental policy page on your website and try to communicate answers to these 3 questions:

  1. What have you done?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. What can’t you do?

Remember we are all transitioning to net zero and so no one expects your business to be perfect straight away.

It’s important to focus on all areas of your GHG emissions too. For example, don’t just focus on communicating your efforts with recycling, what about packaging or transport?

It’s also a good idea to be transparent with your team. Frequent conversations and meetings around net zero will help to keep up momentum and excitement around your transition.

Mistake 2 – Swapping instead of reducing

You should aim to reduce consumption in all areas of your business. Don’t just replace items with “green” alternatives but look at genuine ways of reduction. For example, instead of replacing your current paper with recycled paper try to cut it out completely. Look at ways to reduce paper usage such as stop sending return slips or promotional flyers with every order.

It’s better to reduce your emissions than to carbon offset them so always ask yourself is an eco-friendly swap really necessary or can I find a way to cut it out altogether? Check out our article on alternatives to single-use plastic bags for examples of this. 

Image source: Pexels

Mistake 3 – Not maintaining momentum

We understand how busy small business owners are and how easy it is to lose momentum with net zero when you have a million other tasks to be getting on with. However, your net zero transition is crucial to long term profits and deserves to be a key part of your business plan.

To start your momentum you should set ambitious net zero goals. For example, why not set targets before 2030? Think about your advantages as a small business; you can include your whole team in decision making and make changes a lot faster than larger companies. Therefore, why not aim high? Worse can scenario, you miss them – but you’ll miss them anyway if you set them too far in the future.

Once you have set your ambitious targets, communicate and publish them so that you are accountable. Meet with your team on a regular basis to avoid setting targets and then continuing business as usual. As a net zero leader you should aim to cultivate an environment where your team is excited to discuss your transition and are comfortable to share their concerns and reflections.

While net zero tasks might seem daunting, now is the best time to get started and gain momentum with your transition.

Mistake 4 – Not collaborating enough

While some businesses are more ahead on their net zero transition than others we are all on a similar journey and collaboration is vital to everyone’s success.

Remember your Scope 3 (indirect emissions from your value chain) are someone else’s Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned sources) and 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy) and so the more we collaborate the quicker we will reach our targets.

Focusing on your Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions allows you to take into account your whole value chain. You should aim to work with net zero suppliers. If your existing suppliers do not have a good enough environmental policy or are not doing the work to transition, then consider new suppliers that are.

Consider how your business can be a part of the circular economy. For example, how about selling on any left-over materials? This will reduce your waste, help another business access cheaper materials and increase profits.

Do not underestimate the benefits of collaboration. We can’t ignore Scope 3 emissions and by addressing them you are helping to ensure that no one is left behind as we all transition to net zero.

Image source: Pexels


All in all, you should be taking the long-term approach. Ask yourself what is going to make the most impact in the long run? It’s about creating systemic change so remember changing the way you make decisions will have far more impact than any single decision you make. 

If you avoid these common mistakes then you will be on the right track with your net zero journey. 

Sarah Patton
Author: Sarah Patton

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