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Net Zero Guidelines: Clarity for Decarbonization

Discover specialized support for your organization in adopting net zero guiding principles.

Maintaining a liveable planet by ensuring that climate change-induced global warming doesn’t surpass 2 degrees Celsius depends on getting to a state of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

As such, most countries, and many organizations within them, are working towards net zero. There are a variety of different approaches available to organizations looking to create net zero transition plans in pursuit of achieving net zero by 2050.

One such approach that draws on the existing landscape of major net zero standards and initiatives to harmonise best practice in one place is the ISO Net Zero Guidelines.

Countries, industries, governments and individual organizations of any size and in any jurisdiction can all align on common goals and plot their route to decarbonization, courtesy of these guidelines.

We connected over 1200 organisations from over 100 countries to develop the guidelines through the consensus-based model that the international standards system is based on.

The guidelines help industry and society respond to help industry and society respond to the pressing challenges introduced by climate change, namely the need to transition the entire economy to renewable energy and achieve net zero, and to bring clarity to what credible, best practice net zero action looks like.

The guidelines help to provide clarity to governments, sectors and individual organizations like yours regarding the actions that can be taken to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net zero by 2050.

These guidelines align with and support the goals originally laid out in the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France in 2015. Uniquely, the Guidelines also align with all 10 recommendations in the UN’s Integrity Matters Report to avoid greenwashing.

They provide specific recommendations for incorporating net zero guiding principles in to all organizations and explain how your organization can effectively contribute to the global efforts to tackle climate change.

The guidelines cover all 7 aspects of net zero action, including: prepare, measure, target, reduce, remove, report, and impact, and feature 10 main guiding principles:

  1. Alignment
  2. Urgency
  3. Ambition
  4. Prioritization
  5. Decision-making based on scientific and indigenous knowledge
  6. Risk-based approach
  7. Credibility
  8. Equity and justice
  9. Transparency, integrity and accountability
  10. Achievement and continuation of net zero

The Net Zero Barometer in the UK

BSI produced an annual report in 2023, the Net Zero Barometer, which surveyed over 1,000 senior decision-makers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. The key findings from the report were that:

  • Awareness of net zero targets and their importance has almost tripled
  • There is a good level of confidence across organizations around reaching net zero
  • Cost is still the main obstacle to action, and;
  • Organizations can gain added value and a competitive edge by pursuing net zero.

Achieving net zero is going to be a complex challenge that will look different for every government, organization and sector around the world.

In the UK, many SMEs are grappling with economic factors that might impact their efforts to attain net-zero targets. Issues like the cost of living and energy availability have emerged as potential challenges for sustainability initiatives.

Common challenges on the path to Net Zero

According to the Net Zero Barometer report, 33% of SMEs cited their supply chain as a major obstacle on the path to decarbonization.

Scope 3 emissions cover a wide range of issues including business travel, waste disposal, and purchased goods and services, including power sources.

The indirect greenhouse gases in Scope 3 emissions can be created through the generation of heating, steam, or cooling used by an organization, which makes them some of the trickiest emissions to reduce.

How you can take action

The Net Zero Barometer report reveals that UK-based SMEs show strong enthusiasm for achieving net zero goals yet are seeking assistance to navigate the path ahead.

The report highlighted the following key findings regarding their approaches:

  • 24% are using standards to help them reach their net zero targets.
  • 16% have applied for certification of their green initiatives.
  • 16% have acquired standards for their green initiatives.

These actions are all great indicators of the commitment of SMEs to work towards a net zero future.

Here are our five recommendations for SMEs like yours on the path to net zero:

  • Shift the culture by fostering collective eco-consciousness.
  • Work together to achieve collaborative sustainability goals.
  • Use standards as the benchmark for measuring sustainable progress.
  • Become a trusted partner in advancing sustainable practices and initiatives.
  • Plot a course and chart your journey towards a greener, sustainable future.

By leveraging third-party platforms like The Carbon Disclosure Project to share information, transparency becomes a valuable tool for your organization, aiding in the alignment and accountability of your sustainability commitments.