Your net zero plan

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Understand your business emissions

1. What causes emissions

Scope 1 and 2 emissions

As an SME in the IT and telecommunications sector, you are directly responsible for:

  • direct emissions from sources that a company owns or controls (scope 1 emissions)
  • indirect emissions from energy bought and consumed by the company (scope 2 emissions)

These greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions include:

  • fuel for heating and transport
  • vehicles you own and control
  • refrigerant gases
  • purchased electricity 
  • process emissions

The GHG Protocol (Corporate Standard) is widely used to report carbon emissions to the government, suppliers, investors and others. To comply with the GHG Protocol you must measure Scopes 1 and 2.

Scope 3 emissions

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that occur upstream (from the supply chain) and downstream of your organisation (through customer use). 

According to GOV UK researchscope 3 emissions can account for 80-95% of a company’s carbon footprint.

Scope 3 emissions in the IT and telecommunications sector typically come from:
  • purchased goods and services
  • the use of sold products
  • employee commuting
  • business travel including accommodation
  • employees working from home
  • water usage
  • waste

For more information on scope 3 emissions, visit:

2. Why you should take action to reduce emissions  

Knowing how much carbon your business produces is an important step for managing costs and moving towards net zero.

In addition, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other large businesses are asking their suppliers to calculate their emissions and reduce them.

Many large businesses are collaborating with their suppliers to help them meet new environmental requirements in the procurement process. 

Large businesses are helping suppliers to:

  • prepare a Carbon Reduction Plan (CRP): a document that summarises current emissions and plans for reducing these
  • identify onsite energy reduction opportunities and improve GHG reporting
  • balance improvements in computational power with emission reduction in new products
  • sell and design lower carbon and circular products that maximise longevity through repairability, modularity and reuse

Find out about BT’s Climate Change Procurement Standard and how Vodafone manages its supply chain.

Visit how to become a ‘net-zero’ ready supplier to find out more about the procurement process and CRPs.

3. Use free tools to calculate your emissions

Collect data for a 12-month period for the main activities which release carbon emissions in your organisation.

Choose one of the free carbon calculators to help record your calculate emissions in metric tonnes per year. 

This will give you an emissions baseline which serves as a foundation for understanding your current emissions.

You can use this as a reference point against which you can:

  • identify where your emission hotspots 
  • measure changes in your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions going forward

Visit Measure your carbon emissions to find out more about what data is required and how to get started.

As a final step, you could also consider hiring a sustainability consultant.

4. Sign up for the SME Climate Commitment

Make a public commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 or earlier. 

You can sign up to the SME Climate Commitment

To align with the SME Climate Commitment, enterprises will need to do their utmost to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% before 2030, using 2019 or later as the base year. 

This means that Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions must be cut in half by 2030 at the latest. Businesses should also aim to halve their most material Scope 3 emissions by 2030.

You can publish your commitment on your website and in reports to:

  • let your stakeholders know your targets
  • show customers you are committed to reducing emissions

Get financial support in your region

These support schemes and networks are available in South East England:

  • Climate Essentials for Basingstoke and Dean– Basingstoke and Dean council has partnered with Climate Essentials to offer local businesses, charities and social enterprises a year’s worth of one-to-one support to measure their carbon footprints, audit their operations and make realistic plans for reducing their emissions
  • East Sussex Council free energy audits and grants gives SMEs up to £10,000 to invest in carbon reduction – must be located in East Sussex
  • EMphasis3 CO2 Reductions Project gives SMEs up to 36% in matching funds to improve energy efficiency and commercialise green products
  • Energy Efficiency Grants for East Sussex gives SMEs £200 to £1,000 in matching funds to improve energy efficiency – must be located in East Sussex, excluding Brighton and Hove
  • Greentech South’s Low Carbon Solent gives free business support from postgraduate students at the universities of Portsmouth and Winchester
  • Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) offers micro or small businesses (less than 50 employees and annual turnover under £8.5 million) in the rural areas of Tandridge, Guildford & Waverley can apply for a Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) grant. The minimum grant is £2,500 and the maximum grant is £50,000. Grants are up to 50% of the project costs. The programme is financed by Defra as part of the levelling up agenda via the district and borough councils. The objectives of the grants are to support rural development, jobs, growth and community enterprise.
  • Test Valley Rural Net Zero Business Support programme: Test Valley Borough Council has been awarded funding from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). The IncuHive Group Ltd have partnered with net zero experts Accelar to deliver the Rural Net Zero Business Support programme which is specifically intended for businesses seeking to implement greener solutions aimed at reducing their carbon footprint and improving their energy efficiencies. Grants can be used for capital investment, for example LED lighting, renewable energy systems, low carbon measures and energy efficient machinery. The maximum grant value is £3,750 and doesn’t need to be match funded, so can be used to completely cover a project of up to £3,750, or can be put towards the cost of a more expensive project.

Take action right now

This quick wins section identifies actions you can take right now to reduce your carbon emissions.

1. Change your lighting

Lighting consumes 20% of all energy generated in the UK and is a major cost for SMEs in office spaces. Change to LED bulbs to significantly reduce your energy use. 

Find out more about how you can save on lighting.

2. Change your energy tariff

Switch to a green energy tariff with your energy supplier. This will reduce your reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels.

3. Save energy and money on heating 

Heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems are the largest source of energy use for commercial and industrial buildings.

Quick, low-cost actions include:

  • putting your thermostat on a timer 
  • sealing your windows for extra insulation
  • installing smart meters to see and control how much energy you use

Find out more about how your simple changes to your HVAC system can increase efficiency and reduce costs.

4. Review your refrigeration system

Install fixed point refrigerant leak detection systems to minimise fugitive emissions. Use low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and passive cooling.

Find out more about how to improve process cooling and refrigeration.

5. Decide if you need an energy strategy

Walk around your buildings to see if energy is being used efficiently

  • look at lighting, machinery, heating, refrigeration systems and ventilation
  • identify wasteful energy use and maintenance issues
  • check at different times of day and compare day and night time use
  • monitor over a period of a week for accurate average figures
  • make sure equipment is checked and cleaned regularly to ensure maximum efficiency

Depending on the size of your business, you might need to implement an energy management strategy. An energy manager will help you:

  • measure and monitor energy use.
  • target ways to use energy as efficiently as possible

Find out more about developing an energy strategy from the Carbon Trust.

6. Train your team

You can train your team to be aware of energy efficiency in the workplace. Simple actions such as turning off and unplugging devices when they’re not being used can make a difference.

You could assign your energy management programme to a particular job role or working group, depending on the size of your business. This helps make energy savings a business priority and ensures long-term action despite staff turnover.

Find a sustainability training course to help you train your team.

7. Switch employees’ travel habits

You could introduce a cycle-to-work initiative or encourage them to take public transport if you have employees. It also makes sense to offer work from home where possible.

Find out more about how to switch your employees’ modes of transport.

8. Manage your waste

Prevent waste from being taken to landfill sites where it takes longer to break down and causes more emissions. 

Follow the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) and reuse, recycle and dispose of outdated equipment and devices to prevent e-waste and associated emissions. 

Find out more about your waste-related obligations and how to manage your waste.

Take longer term action

1. Make energy efficiency improvements to your workplace

You can make longer-term savings on energy bills by:

Check planning permission guidelines before you go ahead with any structural changes to the property.

You can download a free copy of DESNZ’s sponsored BS ISO 50005 energy management standard via the British Standards Institute website.

The standard provides SMEs with a means to develop a practical, low cost-approach to energy management to reduce their energy consumption, energy bills and carbon footprint.

2. Transition to electric vehicles

Over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions are caused by transport. 

You can reduce emissions if you use a work vehicle by switching to electric vehicles. You would be exempt from road tax, congestion charges and parking fees in certain areas.

For easy overnight charging you could install EV chargers at your home or workplace.

Visit our page to find out more about installing chargepoints.

3. Install renewable energy 

You might consider installing renewable sources of energy if you are the legal owner of your property. 

You can install:

With on-site generation and storage, you could make significant long-term savings on energy bills.

4. Choose cloud computing and improve your systems

Cloud computing services consume considerable energy. Choose your cloud computing on the basis of their commitment to sustainability.

Take a close look at your operations to see if you can:

  • design software in a way that minimises the energy needed to run it
  • limit data movement
  • improve idle efficiency

Make changes in your supply chain

To reduce indirect or ‘supply chain’ emissions you need to consider what happens before and after your business provides a service or makes a product.

1. Choose greener suppliers and products (upstream)

You can reduce your upstream emissions by:

  • using sustainability-conscious suppliers who actively measure and disclose their emissions
  • including energy efficiency in your procurement considerations
  • buying products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
  • helping your suppliers with their carbon reduction plans

You can ask your suppliers:

Tell your suppliers to visit how to become a ‘net-zero’ ready supplier to find out more about the steps they can take to implement an effective carbon reduction strategy.

2. Reduce impacts from the use and disposal of your products and services (downstream)

You can reduce your downstream emissions by:

Track and share your progress

You will need to regularly monitor and report your emissions data against your established baseline.

As part of the SME Climate Commitment, the SME Reporting Tool helps small businesses create annual sustainability reports and track their reduction efforts.

You should make your report publicly available to show what your company is doing to meet its targets and the impact of your initiatives on your company’s emissions.

You can integrate reported data into annual business reports, your website, or directly distribute to customers and funders.

Find out more about how to track and share your progress.

Get further help and advice on reducing emissions for the food and drink sector

The Digital Connectivity Forum (DCF) is the primary advisory group to the UK Government on digital connectivity. DCF has published Net Zero guidance for SMEs in the telecoms sector (PDF)

DCF’s guidance recognises the important role SMEs will play in achieving the UK’s net zero goal. It includes easy to follow guides on how to calculate carbon footprint and set a credible carbon reduction goal.

In 2020, the GSMA and Carbon Trust published GSMA’s Achieving Climate Targets Guide which explains step-by-step how to align carbon targets with the new ICT sector pathway to net zero.

Visit the Carbon Disclosure Project (CPD) to find out their SME questionnaire and reporting guidance (PDF).

To find out more on how to engage with your suppliers, visit:

Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census
Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census