Carbon neutrality is an often touted aim of businesses, cities and even countries. But who is actually walking the walk with their sustainability policies? Many of these companies use carbon offsetting as a way to achieve carbon neutrality. However true neutrality should go much further than this. Carbon offsetting itself has been accused of ‘greenwashing’ because a company could simply invest in renewable energy programmes that may have happened anyway rather than tackling their own emissions. For real sustainability, big business should look at reducing its own impact, rather than relying on offsetting alone. The businesses below are all leaders in their fields:
Neal’s Yard Remedies
For a company that prides itself on organic ingredients and holistic image, it’s probably no surprise that Neal’s Yard Remedies is carbon neutral. Neal’s Yard became carbon neutral almost immediately by purchasing carbon offsets from windpower projects in India and China. However, the company does not plan on stopping there; in fact they have devised a ‘Carbon Action Plan’ that will see emissions reduced year on year, leading to less reliance on offsetting.
Avis has certified its own operations as carbon neutral, and also allows customers to make their car hire neutral for just £1. In 1997, Avis launched their CSR policy, the first car rental company to do so. In fact, Avis has been carbon neutral since 2000 and has offset 156, 848 tonnes of CO2 since 1997. As well as considerable carbon offsetting, Avis also aim to reduce their impact by investing in recycling, low energy lighting and even motion sensors that turn off lights when rooms aren’t in use.
M&S became the first major retailer to become carbon neutral last year, five years after they launched their sustainability program, known as ‘Plan A’. 180 commitments were decided upon in order to achieve the company’s sustainability goals, including energy saving, waste management and sustainable sourcing of fish for M&S Food. The company has reduced its energy usage by 28%, using a combination of efficient refrigeration, offsetting and counting renewable energy tarrifs. The plan will continue with the aim of increasing sales of organic and fair-trade goods, as well as further reduction of energy expenditure.
Whilst many companies could be accused of making a song and dance of their sustainability efforts (see Nike, who announced their aim to become carbon neutral, then went suspiciously quiet on the subject), Google snuck under the radar. In 2011 the technology giant announced that they had actually be carbon neutral since 2007. This is no mean feat considering Google needs the equivalent of a quarter of a nuclear power plant to keep its searches going! Google’s data centres use half the energy of a traditional data centre, using renewable energy and proactively investigating ways that will keep energy use down. In fact, Google’s SVP of Technical Infrastructure called Google’s interest in reducing energy ‘obsessive’. The company even has a website, Google Green, in which you can learn more about their environmental policies.