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Create a carbon strategy to gain a competitive advantage for your business

9-minute read

Climate change is a complex reality that is disrupting natural ecosystems, societies and markets.

Many business owners have already learned about the physical risks of climate change through experience with record high temperatures, wildfires, droughts and floods. Others are learning of nascent market transition risks as governments, investors and consumers impose new expectations on them.

These disruptions will grow over the coming decade. Companies have been called upon to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions for years. But a commitment to CO2 reduction and clean technology is rapidly becoming the norm for Canadian businesses.

Some of Canada’s largest businesses are notably taking the lead in the new carbon-positive economy. Maple Leaf Foods became the world’s first carbon-neutral food company in 2019. They then joined forces with CN, health brand Celestica and others to create a coalition of like-minded companies to reduce carbon emissions, set science-based targets, be good resource stewards and track their impact on climate.

As an entrepreneur, there are ways to reduce your emissions, take a leadership role in the fight against climate change and support the economy’s transition to a low-carbon future, while carving out a competitive position for your business.

What are the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions for your business?

A commitment to carbon reduction is good for business. As larger companies look to drive carbon from their supply chains and become net-zero emitters, businesses that don’t act could be left out. Firms that seek ways to reduce CO2 are better positioned to compete.

Moreover, customers want to see action on climate change. A 2021 BDC report found that 80% of consumers are willing to pay more to reduce their environmental impact. Emissions reductions can be marketed to clients and consumers to highlight your commitment to the environment. Showcasing how your business is working to reduce your climate burden gives you a competitive edge. In a world where consumers increasingly care about corporate social responsibility, taking action to reduce your climate impact helps you stand out.

Government regulations are getting tighter, as legislators aim to make the transition to a climate-positive economy. Staying ahead of regulatory mandates will ensure your business isn’t disadvantaged by a sudden policy shift.

Finally, by taking a leadership role as an entrepreneur, you position your business to lead in the global fight against climate change and inspire others to do the same.

Four ways to create a positive carbon footprint for your business

Canadian companies of all sizes are taking a leadership position in the global fight against climate change. BDC, in its 2021 report, found that 84% of Canadian businesses consider it their responsibility to protect the environment and are already acting. At the same time, 91% of business leaders say it’s possible for a company to be profitable while reducing its environmental impact. Here are four ways your business can move forward.

1. Encourage a corporate-wide commitment to carbon reduction

Get everyone in your business on board to reduce your carbon footprint. Clearly articulate your commitment to carbon reduction and the reasons behind it. Sit down with employees and clients to explain your goals and seek feedback. With employees working toward the same carbon-neutral targets, it’s easier to identify quick wins and create team synergies to lower your greenhouse gas emissions more quickly.

Much of the work to be done is around behavioral change and that is why employees are critical to your reduction success.

Examine ways to measure the carbon footprint of your business activities, so you can monitor progress. Natural Resources Canada has created a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator that can give you a quick idea of your impact on the environment. Once you have a benchmark, you can find practical ways to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another good place to start is with the BCorp (certified Beneficial Corporations) assessment tool, a questionnaire that measures your environmental, social and governance performance.

Don’t hesitate to seek outside advice to map how your company can cut carbon. The cost of consulting services is often offset by energy and resource savings.

2. Purchase from carbon-conscious companies

Supporting other innovative businesses is one of the most powerful contributions entrepreneurs can make in the low-carbon transition.

Consider your marketing agency, the packaging you use, travel choices or even the coffee you supply for employees. In almost every domain, there are low-carbon, carbon-neutral or carbon-negative options that can help reduce your emissions.

Maple Leaf Foods, Air Canada and Shopify are three well-known Canadian brands committed to carbon offsets. By considering your carbon footprint when selecting suppliers, you can easily get engaged in carbon neutrality efforts and lower your environmental impact.

3. Consider Canadian clean tech options

Canada leads the world in cleantech innovation, ranking second to the U.S. and ahead of the U.K. and Germany in the prestigious 2021 Global Cleantech Innovation Index.

Eleven Canadian cleantech firms made this year’s global top 100 list. It includes eight companies supported by BDC. One of these shining stars is CarbonCure Technologies in Halifax, which was also awarded the prestigious Carbon XPRIZE in 2021 for its innovative technology.

CarbonCure’s technology captures CO2 by using it in cement, transforming buildings into carbon sinkholes. The cement product is available at the same cost as existing solutions.

One of the world’s most polluting materials, cement and concrete make up 8% of global carbon emissions.

Purchasing from firms like Carbon Cure allows your organization to reduce carbon emissions in building projects without increasing costs, as you reduce emissions and support Canadian innovation.

4. Research CO2 offsets for your business

Carbon offsets are another tool in your company’s eco-friendly toolbox. Large companies such as Shopify, Microsoft and Amazon all have programs that seek to purchase carbon offsets, but you don’t have to be a large company to pledge to a program. There are offset programs available for individuals and businesses of all sizes.

What are carbon offsets?

For every ton of CO2 a company produces, individuals or firms can buy into programs that reduce or capture CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere through initiatives such as investments in renewable energy, sequestration or other recognized programs.

Offsets don’t reduce your emissions, but they can help you “cancel out” or counter the carbon you emit as part of business operations by financially supporting operations that do reduce emissions.

There are simple, direct carbon offset programs for individuals and small businesses. Other carbon offset programs are more complex, involving a seller, a broker and someone to implement the program. Spend some time to research the best offset program to ensure you’re purchasing something legitimate that works best for your business.

Not all carbon offsets are created equally. Talk to your industry association or others in your network about which offsets are best for your business. Focus on Canadian options that support local innovation, or purchase from larger Canadian firms that already have offsets in place.

Promote your greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts

Once you have an emissions reduction plan in place don’t be shy about showcasing your efforts on social media. Customers and businesses want to support brands that are aligned with their values.

Consider using a new CO2-reduction commitment as a catalyst for your next press release, social media campaign or other promotions. It’s a great way to boost marketing efforts, engage your customer network and discover carbon-conscious business partners in your supply chain, all things which are good for business and the planet.

Combatting climate change requires actions from every one of us to be successful. Even small actions build up over time, so don’t underestimate the impact you can have and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help for your projects along the way.

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