With 88% of customers wanting brands to help them be environmentally friendly, going ‘carbon neutral’ is fast becoming a compelling disruption for retailers to seriously consider. 

It doesn’t have to take months to start on your journey to becoming carbon neutral, nor does it have to be complicated. When I launched my previous business, I was determined to make it sustainable from day-one and to make the business carbon neutral, but there were so many barriers. Two years later, co-founder Joanna and I launched trace – we’re on a mission to help businesses of all sizes become carbon neutral by making it easy, quick and affordable.

Carbon management is about understanding how and where your business’ emissions are being created. This involves first measuring your emissions, in order to reduce them as much as possible. Those emissions that can’t be avoided, at least in the short-term, can then be ‘offset’ in order for the business to become ‘carbon neutral’.

As carbon emissions occur across almost every aspect of a business, the scope of measurement and offsetting differs from business to business, depending on how far down your sustainability journey you are, and what can be achieved operationally and financially.

The benefits of a business becoming carbon neutral far surpass just the positive impact on the planet.

Customer appeal without greenwashing

It’s no secret that aligning with the eco-cause has become a common tool in the marketer’s toolkit, with many brands tipping into dangerous ‘greenwashing’ territory, making vacuous claims that customers quickly see through.

The benefits to businesses of going ‘carbon neutral’ continue to grow as more customers become conscious of the link between their purchase habits and their carbon footprint. And becoming a carbon neutral brand is so much more than jargon or a label – it’s tied to real sustainability projects, many with certifications from trusted organisations such as Gold Standard and South Pole.

Projects can range from biodiversity restoration, to community wind farm investments, tree planting and clean water supply initiatives – all of these linking back to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, meaning your impact goes even further. The cherry on top? All of the projects come with incredible stories of innovation and progress that you can share with your customers, so they can see the real and positive impacts of their purchase decisions.

Staff engagement

Like customers, staff are also seeking employers with values that align to their own, to be part of something they can be proud of. And it takes every person in a business understanding their role in reducing emissions to create effective, sustainable change. With this in mind, some companies are helping employees offset their personal carbon emissions (on top of those they contribute through their work) as part of their benefits program through platforms like PerkBox.

Efficient sustainability decision-making

It’s a tried and tested axiom – “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!”. No matter what stage a business is at on their sustainability journey, understanding your impact through real data is the best first step.

With the right information about where your business’ carbon footprint is being created, leaders can make informed decisions about where to prioritise reduction efforts and understand exactly what each tonne of carbon is costing and what that investment is going towards. This is more powerful than tokenistic approaches like simply planting a tree for every purchase, which don’t reflect a company truly understanding where in their operations emissions are created.

What’s important to remember throughout this process is that, inherent in the complex nature of how emissions are measured and the developing nature of the voluntary carbon market, offsetting is inevitably an imperfect system. However with the right due diligence and experts by your side, it is a positive step of climate action.

Trace is already working with several brands to help them on this journey, including offering employee engagement programs to bring entire organisations together to work towards their goals.

Catherine Long is CEO and co-founder at Trace.

Feature image: Trace co-founders Catherine Long and and Joanne Auburn.