What are the credentials that support net zero?

Blogs 15 May 2023

Looking to boost your business’ sustainability credentials? Learn about the International Standards (ISOs) and frameworks that you can work towards and what’s involved.

A group of smoking chimneys from a power plant

How can we act to mitigate and prevent the worst effects of climate change? For years, many small to medium-sized businesses have been taking positive steps to reduce energy, calculate their emissions and create action plans to ensure year-on-year achievement of climate change key performance indicators.  

The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27, held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2022, concluded with a breakthrough to help countries with vulnerable climate conditions. However, it was a disappointment to see the insignificant efforts by most of the countries towards their carbon reduction goals. Although the developed countries have agreed to help nations, facing Severe Damage from Climate Change, still it is important that all the countries act towards establishing a system for their industries and business to reduce their emissions.

However, for every small to medium business that has this awareness, there are many more that do not. We’ll focus on the practical standards and frameworks that exist which can support your business to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, show a reduction in your carbon footprint and offer an opportunity for independent audit and verification.  

This is vital to prevent “greenwashing” and to build consumer confidence, as well as stakeholder demand for environmental responsibility. We’ll cover a range of International Standards (ISOs) and frameworks, known as PAS or publicly available specifications, which any small business can purchase and work towards. 

What are the credentials my business can work towards and what do they mean? 

The various ISO standards and PAS frameworks that businesses can work towards to show a reduction in greenhouse gas and calculate their carbon footprint have been available for a long time. Many small to medium businesses may already have achieved them and can adapt them to address the setting of reduction targets for greenhouse gases. 

BS EN ISO 50005:2022 Energy management systems

The price of energy has skyrocketed and is eating into the profits of every UK business. It’s time to take control of your organization’s energy usage and reduce your energy costs - and you can get started now with BS EN ISO 50005. This document provides guidance on how to take a phased approach to establish an effective Energy Management System (EnMS).

Get this free standard from BSI

IWA 42:2022 Net Zero guidelines

Introducing the Net Zero Guidelines, the essential tool for businesses dedicated to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Unveiled at COP27, this free document cuts through the confusion surrounding "Net Zero" approaches. It provides a unified set of definitions, principles, and practical guidance to kickstart your business's journey toward carbon neutrality.

Get this free standard from BSI. 

ISO 14001: 2015 – Environmental Management Standard 

This standard is relatively well known across the small to medium business community. It allows you to sort your key environmental impacts and aspects, then set objectives, targets and plans to mitigate and manage them. The standard requires key performance indicators to be set for all objectives so you can measure your level of success. ISO 14001 is a great way to get going with your carbon reduction journey as nearly all businesses are responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases. This means you can set a reduction target for these and report on them year on year.

ISO 50001: 2018 – Energy Management Standard 

This standard is a route to comply with the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and is focussed on energy management and energy efficiency. As a business, if your energy bills are too high or your energy efficiency is too low then this standard really focuses the mind to reduce consumption and at the same time improving energy efficiency. It is one of the shorter ISO standards that you can use. It allows you to set year-on-year improvement targets for your energy sources such as gas, electricity, LPG, and other fuel oils.

There is also a focus on providing training to your team and subcontractors to ensure everyone can help you to reduce your energy demand. The good news is by working towards ISO 50001 you will reduce your energy bills, save money, save carbon, and give your supply chain confidence that you have energy risk and opportunities under control.

PAS 2060:2014 – Publicly Available Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality

This framework is divided into 11 chapters and does require a lot of input from any business to work through them. However, the effort is worth it as it leads to a carbon management plan, yearly carbon footprint and an independent validation that you are on track to reduce your greenhouse gases.

The 2060 framework can be applied to organisations, events, activities, products, and services including for projects and major developments and towns and cities. Unlike an ISO your business will be audited annually to this framework and all three emission scopes are included. This means you need to apply the Green House Gas Protocol to capture your Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions

ISO - 14068 – Greenhouse Gas Management and Related Activities – Carbon Neutrality

This is a specific standard relating to GHG management and related activities, namely carbon neutrality. The standard was approved around two years ago, in February 2020 and is currently under ‘enquiry’ stage. The standard will continue to go through each key stage of an ISO under development, this includes committee, approval, publication, and review.  

It is expected to see some overlap between the future standard ISO 14068 and existing carbon neutrality specification PAS 2060. We can expect that the core principles including carbon footprint calculations, carbon management plans and offsetting will remain, but will be updated to sit closer with current circumstances, drivers, and regulations.

Additional supporting ISO standards that provide extra guidance include:

  1. ISO 14064-1:2019 Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organisation level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removal 
  2. ISO 14064-2:2019 Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reduction or removal enhancements.
  3. ISO 14067:2018 Greenhouse gases Carbon Footprint of products – Requirements and guidelines for quantification.

There are also sector-specific PAS publications including PAS 2080: 2016 Carbon Management in Infrastructure.

Where do I go from here? 

Taking on either a PAS or ISO to support your carbon management journey will be a challenge. Your senior leadership teams will need to create a budget, provide human and possible technology resources, and commit to year-on-year reduction and energy efficiency targets. The benefits of doing this will lead to cost savings, carbon savings and potential new customer revenues. The growth in the last five years of socially responsible investment has led to many investors checking a company’s approach to environmental management, this includes the strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many investors will only now invest in businesses that have a carbon management reduction plan that is viable, credible, and independently audited.

Next steps 

If your business is seeking sustainability credentials that are independently audited and verified year on year, then working towards an ISO or PAS is the recommended course of action. Both offer a way to show your customers that your product or service has taken into account the greenhouse emissions associated with them, and that your business has a plan to reduce, mitigate or offset emissions.

It is possible to cut your utility costs by being more energy focussed and creating processes that support energy efficiency and shrinking your carbon footprint. For the slightly larger businesses it is also possible to align the above standards and PAS with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adding further credibility and consumer confidence.

Small business sustainability hub

The race to a net zero economy by 2050 has begun. We’re making sure small businesses aren’t left out of the big picture. Visit our sustainability hub today to explore free resources.

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