Making the switch is easier than you think: Every company is faced with the requirement of reducing its carbon footprint and CO2 emission levels. Thankfully, the switch to climate-friendly production is easier than you might think. But how does it work in practice?
In the case of large companies, investors and the market often demand sustainable and future-oriented action. Daimler is planning to operate its plants with a zero carbon footprint by 2022, while the insurer Allianz plans to limit its euro billions in investments to exclusively carbon-neutral assets by 2050. And Bosch eliminated already its entire carbon footprint by 2020. But that's not all – even smaller companies stand to benefit from switching to carbon-neutral production.
A company's commitment to climate protection has an impact on its customers as well as its employees. The topic is omnipresent, and the ecological commitment of brands and/or companies is playing an increasingly important role in consumers' purchasing decisions. Employee loyalty to a company can also be significantly boosted as a result of climate protection measures.
When is a company considered climate neutral?
A rule of thumb for climate neutrality is that a company needs to avoid causing any greenhouse gases within its value chain and energy supply. If environmentally harmful emissions do occur as a result of processes or other business activities, including all types of human activity (e.g. business trips, events, etc.) or the use of fuel, these need to be completely offset by countermeasures.
What does an investment in carbon-neutral production cost?
There is no fixed price for switching to climate neutrality, especially since energy-intensive industries in particular have a harder time reducing their climate footprint. The costs vary depending on how many measures a company takes and how quickly it implements them. These costs can be distributed over a certain period of time by means of an individual strategy. Switching to carbon-neutral production is also worthwhile from the point of view of cost efficiency. High costs can usually be offset after several years thanks to significantly lower expenditure on energy consumption. Since the public is becoming more and more interested in climate protection, commitment is also increasingly advancing corporate competitiveness. Climate protection is therefore going to be decisive for future corporate marketing and will be valuable in the long term.
What is the road to carbon-neutral production?
To make an entire production carbon-neutral, it is often easier to take several small steps rather than a single, large one. Any change is better than no change. There are numerous ways of approaching this objective: from heating with waste heat utilizing production processes, or the purchase of green electricity and photovoltaics, to offsetting. So how should one start?
1. Analyze the current situation
As a first step, the current situation needs to be analyzed. This will determine how a company's internal energy requirements can be reduced. By implementing the appropriate efficiency measures, unnecessary energy consumption can be decreased in a short period, while energy efficiency can be increased and residual energy successfully exploited. Outside consultants can help identify the potential energy conservation measures.
2. Convert to carbon-neutral energy generation
The next step is to draw up a concept for covering one's own energy requirements with renewable energy sources (e.g. wind power plants, photovoltaics or waste heat power generation). Successful implementation should significantly reduce the non-climate neutral residual energy demand.
3. Cover or offset residual energy demand
In the last step, the remaining energy demand is covered, for example, through green electricity. Unavoidable emissions are offset by the implementation of green projects or other measures. To compensate for this, investment in certified climate projects is a good option.
Is carbon emissions offsetting an adequate alternative?
The issue of offsetting is controversial because companies might simply offset instead of actually reducing their own carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting however should only be used as a complementary measure for climate protection. That way it can also have a positive impact on the national climate balance sheet.
How should a company approach offsetting?
When offsetting carbon, you need to pay attention to the quality of the offsetting project. International climate protection agreements like the Kyoto Protocol show companies the right way to proceed. One option involves the financing of climate protection projects in so-called Non-Annex I countries (emerging and developing countries). The resulting carbon savings can in turn be used by companies for their carbon balance sheet. If the project has the required certification, they will receive carbon reduction certificates in return for their financial support.
At HANNOVER MESSE, numerous exhibitors will be offering support on the subject of CO2-neutral production.
Interview with Salzgitter AG
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