A greener, cleaner future

Startups Magazine had the pleasure of attending Sustainability LIVE earlier this month.

The event was hosted over two days and included a jam-packed schedule of insightful keynotes, panel discussions, case studies, fireside chats, and much more.

The back-to-back presentations were split across two live venue stages and one virtual stage, and Startups Magazine had the privilege of gaining some insights into how startups and SMEs are fighting the fight on becoming Net Zero by 2050.

One of the key take aways from the event was the need for awareness of the difference between what is meant by carbon neutral and Net Zero.

According to Crista Buznea, Head of Marketing at Ecologi: “Carbon Neutrality allows for emissions to be created in the first place. It counts on you doing business as usual. And then you are essentially encouraged to offset your emissions and that's how you achieve carbon neutrality. For net zero. This is a more active goal. It involves you actually committing to a 90% reduction in your overall emissions.

“Carbon offsetting and carbon neutrality is a very important step as part of a Net Zero journey. So it shouldn't be disqualified, but Net Zero should be the target … [with] carbon neutrality, you can achieve it just for a product, you can achieve it just for your direct emissions … with Net Zero you have to look at everything”.

There was also the fear, especially from startups, that they could be seen to be ‘greenwashing’ the subject of Net Zero. The advice from across the board was that everyone has got to start somewhere. Even if it doesn’t seem like much right now, the main thing is that you are making a start. Own what you are doing, but also recognise that you are going to be doing more.

Charlotte Laing, Chief Marketing Officer at Metrikus said: “The first thing obviously [is] commitment, and once you commit to it, it’s so much easier to then take small steps … once we got over that initial fear [of being] committed [and knowing] we have to do something about this, it became a lot easier.”

And if you’re a new startup, then the prospect of implementing sustainability can seem daunting, but the advice from Anne-Charlotte Mornington of OLIO is, don’t set the bar too high too soon because you have to exist. Understand what is appropriate and what kind of trade off allows you to continue to run your business whilst presenting your company to the world in a way that you’re proud of.

The message ‘it matters, net zero, climate change – it’s happening now, and action needs to be taken now’ resonated clearly across the board.

According to the government, the UK has already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 44%, while growing the economy by 75%. But, an IPCC report shows that if global warming isn’t limited to 1.5oC above preindustrial levels, then the floods, fires and fumes that are becoming all too familiar will become more and more frequent.

The government has announced a Net Zero target by 2050, and it was great to see so many startups and SMEs working towards achieving just that.

It was such an honour to attend and to have the opportunity to listen to so many discussions from a diverse range of industries who are championing a cleaner, greener, and sustainable future, and not because the government has set a deadline, but because they want to for the betterment of society.

Remember: No one can reach Net Zero in a day. It takes time and dedication. But own what you are doing, and always be wanting and willing to do more.