31 oct 19

How major companies are achieving their carbon neutral goals

Trailblazing companies are using a wide variety of methods to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.

For these pioneers in the fight against the climate emergency, cutting carbon emissions is not enough, no matter how ambitious their targets. Instead, they are reducing the environmental impact of every area of their operations, and then investing in carbon offset schemes or buying carbon credits to ensure they make no net increase to global warming.

What’s most impressive is that some of these businesses operate in industries where carbon dioxide emissions are unavoidable.

Lyft buys carbon credits

The ride-hailing firm Lyft, for example, has committed to full carbon neutrality, offsetting the carbon impact of every one of its rides. In the 12 months to May 2019, the company bought 2,062,500 metric tons of carbon offsets, a costly investment to underpin its green credentials. Moreover, the company is only purchasing renewable energy for each office space, driver hub, and electric vehicle mile on its platform.

Sky's renewable future

Media giant Sky has been carbon neutral since 2006, using an independent third party to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions, which are due largely to electricity and its vehicle fleet.

Since 2016, Sky has only purchased renewable energy, and a series of internal initiatives have achieved a 55% reduction in the company’s carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit of revenue) by cutting energy consumption, travel, waste and water use, as well as improving fuel efficiency across its vehicle fleet. The company has also financed more than 30 emissions reductions projects that build low carbon sustainable development around the world.

Fiona Ball, Group Head of Inspirational Business & Sky Ocean Rescue, Sky, said: “It’s important to show leadership around climate change issues, demonstrating our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment and being a responsible business.”

2030 target for Siemens

Multinational conglomerate Siemens has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, and set bold targets to electrify many of its fleet operations in Europe. It is also on track to ensure all Siemens production facilities and buildings worldwide have a net zero-carbon footprint by 2030. By 2020 the company will have invested €100 million in energy efficiency projects at its own sites, and a further €45 million in what it calls ‘decentralised energy systems’, such as wind turbines, photovoltaic plants and energy storage at its customers’ sites. These initiatives will push Siemens towards a balanced CO2 record by 2030, and it will buy carbon credits to compensate for any additional emissions.

IKEA's circular economy

Furniture manufacturer IKEA is going one step further, targeting ‘carbon positive’ status by 2030. This is no mean feat, given the high volume of wood used in its products and the fact that trees are the world’s primary source of carbon capture and storage. The Swedish multinational will not rely on carbon offsets to achieve its goals, but instead plans to store carbon in land, plants and its products.

IKEA is heavily invested in the concept of the circular economy, ensuring its products are designed from the outset to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled. It is also working towards 100% renewable energy use, and is working with its supply chain to cut. The company is even increasing the choice of plant-based foods as alternatives to its famous meatballs, given the high carbon emissions of beef cattle.

Willmott Dixon's carbon neutral construction

In the UK, construction firm Willmott Dixon was the first in its sector to achieve carbon neutrality, back in 2012, and has invested in a number of projects around the world to offset its emissions. Transport accounts for more than half of its carbon footprint, so Willmott Dixon has developed a detailed programme to improve its fleet’s environmental performance. This includes introducing a cycle purchase scheme, as well as advantageous cycle and car share mileage payments, and investing in videoconferencing to reduce business mileage. The business's company car choice list includes a maximum emissions cap, and a bonus scheme to incentivise staff with car allowances to choose lower emission vehicles.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning