What do the Net Zero Scopes really mean for my small business?

Using Circle of Influence frameworks, Net Zero can be split into three simple essential scopes: What can you Control, What can you Influence, What is a Concern..

Cities and countries all over the world are committing to net zero targets. However, the mechanics of achieving net zero are pretty complex and technical.

There are essentially three different “Scopes” that all of your emissions fall into:

  • Scope 1 – Direct
  • Scope 2 – Indirect
  • Scope 3 – Everything else

In this article, I wanted to look at these targets using a simple framework to help business owners understand more easily what they can do to get started.

Circle of Influence

Before we get to that, I’d like to introduce one of my favourite approaches which I often turn to when feeling overwhelmed.

Covey’s “Circles of Influence” consist of three overlapping circles:


What things in your life or work are concerning you? This may be anything from paying your VAT return, through to litter in your neighbourhood.


What can you influence? This may be from starting conversations with staff members, to how you present yourself to people you meet.


What can you directly control today? These tend to be behavioural changes you can directly make – such as buying different products, changing your diet or turning off email notifications.

The key takeaway is to focus on what you can control and influence. By being proactive and spending your energy in this area, you will be more successful in achieving positive change than if you were to focus on things beyond your control. 

Back to net zero. The sheer amount of impacts your business has is overwhelming, but they are not all equal. You cannot change the recycling policy of the factory where the products you sell are made, but you can choose whether or not to stock those products based on the information available.

By bringing in the Circles of Influence we can start to group emissions into priority actions so that we can start with to make the most proactive progress.

Looking at the Net Zero Scopes, we can quickly see that they align well with Covey’s circles of Concern:

Scope 1 Emissions – What can you Control?

These will vary from one business to another, but generally include anything that you Create:

  • How do you get to work?
  • Do you burn gas/fires on the premises?
  • What vehicles do you use? 
  • Do you operate on-site boilers or biomass?

Scope 2 Emissions – What can you Influence?

These are slightly broader emissions on which you have limited power to impact. For example, you cannot control the energy grid, but you can influence the type of energy used by ensuring you sign up with a renewable energy supplier, thus increasing the demand for cleaner power.

  • What do you Consume in your business?
    • Energy – is it renewable?
    • Resources – Do you use recycled paper, plastic-free envelopes, etc.?
    • Food – Are you encouraging staff to shop local with limited meat consumption?
  • Can you influence your staff habits through incentives such as promoting cycle-to-work, supporting public transport costs, limiting international travel or installing Electric Vehicle charge points at work?
  • Can you install solar panels at your premises, or switch to renewable energy providers?
  • Do you use energy-efficient (e.g. LED) lighting?

Scope 3 Emissions – What is a Concern?

These really are the motherlode of emissions and will be often out of reach for your company. You cannot control the planes that EasyJet uses, or the fact that your phone is made from rare earth minerals from China.

To give you an example, Kraft anticipated 90% of their emissions are Scope 3, and Starbucks 96%. These emissions are under Kraft’s control and influence, but cannot be influenced by a small business. However, they would remain a concern for that small business.

While you can influence some of these, they are often things you cannot directly impact on, so you should focus your energy on Scope 1 and 2 emissions in the short term.

Once these have been achieved, you can start thinking about your Scope 3 emissions, as you may then be in a better position to influence them.

For larger companies, Scope 3 emissions may fall under their control or influence, but many small business owners will not be able to directly change the recycling policies of their suppliers or the materials used.

To address a concern, look at how you can influence or control other elements. You can’t change where a new laptop is made – but you can decide to buy second-hand instead of new.

  • What products do you purchase, and from where do you source them?

In Summary, the three scopes define your emissions you have:

Scope 1 – Created

Scope 2 – Consumed

Scope 3 – Everything Else

What do the Net Zero Scopes really mean for my business? 

So, what do net zero scopes 1 – 3 really mean for your small business? They mean that you should be focusing on the elements you can actually impact, and be aware of what you cannot.

Over time this will change, and as you progress towards net zero your business may shift and new “Scopes” come into a position of influence. 

For now focus on your scope 1 and 2 emissions in technical terms, or in practical terms, what you can control and influence.

Get started here.

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