Five steps to net-zero carbon emissions for small firms

  • 26 Mar 2020

By Steve Shine, executive chairman at Anesco

The UK Government has set a legally binding target for the country to become ‘net zero’ by 2050. In layman’s term, what this means is that by that date there needs to be a balance between the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the country is producing, and the total emissions being removed from the environment.

With businesses responsible for around 18 per cent of the country’s emissions, it’s going to take positive action by everyone – from the largest multinational to the smallest sole trader – if net zero is to be achieved. The good news is, going ‘green’ isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business too.


The following steps will help small firms get to net-zero emission:

No-cost solutions

There are lots of small things you can do that will have an instant impact – and they won’t cost you anything! It may sound obvious but turning off lights and appliances when you’re not using them, installing motion sensors, and keeping furniture away from radiators and vents will all reduce your energy use and benefit your carbon footprint. Knock your thermostat back by just 1 degree and you could save enough energy to print 40 million sheets of A4 paper!

If you have fellow employees, get them onboard and encourage them to play their part in reducing energy use and their use of consumables. Make it easy for them to recycle in the office (paper, food waste, plastics, drinks cans etc), and encourage car sharing or using Skype for work meetings to reduce your transport emissions.

Low-cost suggestions

Regular servicing of heating and air-conditioning systems and the cleaning of filters will both contribute to reducing your energy consumption, as well as extending the life of your appliances. 

Having an old central heating thermostat, or having your thermostat in the wrong place, could also see you using more energy than you need to. For example, your boiler could be firing up unnecessarily if the thermostat is in an area where the temperature fluctuates, such as near a door. Check too that your office or workplace has effective insulation, including around pipework and valves, and appropriate draught exclusion in place. If there’s a gap, plug it!

Also take a fresh look at your lighting, which can be responsible for up to 40 per cent of a building’s electricity use. Compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs can make wise investments. LEDs not only last around eight times longer than conventional lamps, they also have the potential to reduce electricity use by between 65 to 85 per cent.

Buy green energy

If you’re not in a position right now to invest in your own, onsite renewable energy scheme, such as solar panels, then in the meantime think where the energy you are buying comes from. Many suppliers now offer green tariffs and can let you know what power sources are included in the mix.


Some tariffs will be ‘100 per cent renewable’, while others will have renewable energy as a percentage of the total. Just be aware that some tariffs will be greener than others. The Energy Saving Trust has some good advice on this.

Review your supply chain

Look at your wider purchasing decisions too, whether it’s your printers and paper, packaging, catering supplies, manufacturing components or other consumables. Check whether your suppliers are employing environmentally friendly and energy-efficient working practices within their own organisations.

Does the paper come from FSC sources? Are print and photocopying cartridges refillable and/or recyclable? What’s the carbon footprint of your drinks cups? Are the delivery trucks dual fuel or electric powered? There are lots of opportunities for improvement here.

Invest in renewable energy

Investing in your own renewable energy supply on-site is one of the best ways to improve your carbon footprint and lower your energy bills for the long term.

For example, solar panels remain the most popular renewable technology in the world. They’re low maintenance, silent to run and can be fitted onto any suitable rooftop, including commercial and domestic buildings, garages and car ports.


The cost of solar panels has fallen dramatically and there are some great cost savings to be had long-term, with the panels potentially providing up to 75 per cent of your power needs. When installed alongside a battery storage unit that can store the energy being generated and release it when you need it most – also helping you avoid paying peak prices for the energy you do need to buy – the benefits can be further enhanced.

Generating your own energy means you can also expand your business, without needing to rely on the grid and the available electricity supply.


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