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Becoming Net Zero – An SME’s Case Study

With the frequency and severity of climate change disasters increasing steadily year by year, millions of lives are affected worldwide, and news outlets report new thresholds being broken with monotonous but dire regularity, and if that wasn’t enough climate change is driving a growing mental health crisis. Studies over recent years show significant increases in climate change anxiety worldwide.


According to Google’s data, searches related to “climate anxiety” or “eco-anxiety” increased by 4,590% from 2018 to 2023. A nationally representative survey by the EdWeek Research Center found 37% of teenagers feel anxious when thinking about climate change. And if the direct impacts of climate change aren’t enough, studies indicate the growing climate change anxiety is correlating to increases in depression and anxiety in younger people, going so far as to lead to panic attacks, insomnia, obsessive thinking, and other clinical symptoms.


Clearly we have a problem – The need for businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, transition to sustainable practices, and become “net-zero” has never been more important.


I’m Too Small To Be Net-Zero, Aren’t I?

Despite the obvious urgency, it often feels as though there’s really very little we can do. Fighting climate change seems to be an issue for governments and multinationals’ to solve, but is it really the case that smaller organizations are powerless to help combat climate change?


The truth is this is a misconception, and there’s A LOT small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can do to be more environmentally friendly and become Net Zero, moreover SMEs play a crucial role in this transition, as they make up the majority of the global economy, contributing 50-70% of global GDP and providing ~60% of the jobs.


By transitioning to sustainable practices, SMEs not only contribute to efforts to combat climate change but also reap numerous benefits for their own operations. These may include:

  • Cost savings through energy efficiency
  • Improved brand reputation
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Higher employee satisfaction and reduced recruitment costs


In this post we suggest an imagined case study that follows the efforts of the fictional ACME corporation, which recognized the importance of these benefits and was determined to make a positive impact on the environment while also improving its bottom line


Many of the steps ACME follows in the case study are actions any and every company can and should take, and our goal here is to inspire as many companies and individuals to start following suit, If ACME could do it, so can we! Let’s see HOW…


1. Carbon Footprint Assessment

To effectively reduce its carbon emissions and become Net Zero, ACME Corporation first conducted a comprehensive carbon footprint assessment that involved analyzing the company’s operations, including:

  • Energy consumption
  • Transportation
  • Waste management
  • Supply chain activities

By understanding where the highest emissions were coming from, ACME Corporation was able to identify key areas for improvement and develop targeted strategies for reducing its carbon footprint.

The methodology used for the carbon footprint assessment followed the internationally recognized standards and guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This ensured the assessment was accurate, transparent, comparable to other organizations’ assessments, and effective in supporting the ACME Corporation’s commitment to make substantial progress towards being Net Zero.


2. Key Emission Reduction Areas

The results of the assessment revealed ACME Corporation’s highest emissions were coming from its energy consumption and transportation activities. These two factors, together with supply chain management, are the likely culprits for most SME’s emissions, and they’re the ones that can be most directly addressed.


To reduce energy consumption, ACME Corporation implemented energy-efficient technologies throughout its operations. This included upgrading lighting systems to LED, installing motion sensors to control lighting and HVAC systems, and optimizing equipment and machinery for energy efficiency. Additionally, ACME Corporation invested in a new solar panel roof.


In terms of transportation, ACME Corporation implemented a fleet management system to optimize routes and reduce fuel consumption. The company also encouraged employees to use public transport and cycling, for their daily commute. To promote cycling the company built showers and lockers for employees, to everyone’s great delight. In fact the cycling initiative was so loved that it became one of the company’s best recruitment drivers!


3. Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

ACME Corporation implemented various energy-efficient technologies throughout its operations. This included upgrading lighting systems to LED, installing motion sensors to control lighting and HVAC systems, and optimizing equipment and machinery for energy efficiency. These measures not only reduced the company’s carbon emissions but also resulted in significant cost savings through reduced energy bills.

Once their energy consumption was optimized the ACME Corporation invested in solar panels to reduce its carbon emissions, generate clean energy on-site, and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Moving to renewable energy offered three major benefits:

  1. They significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with electricity consumption. By generating clean energy on-site, ACME Corporation was able to power its operations without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions from traditional power sources.
  2. Shifting to renewable energy sources provided immediate cost savings through reduced electricity bills. The upfront investment was recognized as a tax deductible and the long-term cost savings made it a worthwhile investment.
  3. The transition resulted in a new revenue opportunity, as ACME started selling its energy surpluses at a profit to their local grid provider.

4. Driving Employee Engagement with Net Zero

ACME Corporation recognized from the start that since employees are the ones directly involved in day-to-day operations, it was crucial to gain their trust and engagement in the new schemes for them to be a success.

To engage employees in the transition to Net Zero, ACME Corporation implemented initiatives that included:

  • Providing training on sustainable practices.
  • Organizing workshops and seminars on environmental topics.
  • Establishing employee-led sustainability committees.
  • Employees were encouraged to contribute suggestions for better sustainability practices.

These initiatives not only educated employees about the importance of sustainability but also empowered them to take ownership of sustainability initiatives within their respective roles.

An unexpected outcome of this training investment was an increase in employee satisfaction and a reduction of churn and recruitment costs. It became evident many of ACME Corporation’s younger employees were privately concerned about climate issues. Realizing their employer was obviously taking steps to be Net Zero made them feel empowered and proud of their workplace.


5. Communication and Marketing Strategies

With programs and operations well underway ACME Corporation’s marketing team set out to promote the new Net Zero commitment to customers and stakeholders. Transparency and accountability were key principles guiding the company’s communication efforts.

The team developed a comprehensive communication plan to inform customers and stakeholders about its sustainability initiatives. Steps taken included:

  • Updating the company’s website with information about its Net Zero goals
  • Publishing regular sustainability reports
  • Engaging customers through social media platforms


By being transparent about its sustainability efforts, ACME Corporation built trust with customers and stakeholders and demonstrated its commitment to making a positive impact on the environment. Here, once again, the initiative paid off in unexpected ways – ACME Corporation’s commitment to Net Zero, showcased by openly sharing the carbon footprint assessment results, emissions reduction targets, and project progress reports, led to interest from entirely new consumer segments for whom environmental issues were a primary purchasing motivator. Ultimately the choice to become Net Zero led to an increase in sales.


6. Monitoring and Reporting

Monitoring and reporting on progress towards Net Zero goals were crucial for ACME Corporation to track its performance and make adjustments as needed. By regularly measuring and analyzing data, the company rapidly identified when and where improvements were needed and how best to implement corrective actions. The new culture of accountability led to overall improvements in operational efficiency and helped drive ACME Corporation to better profitability.

Encouraged by the exposure to new target audiences of eco-conscious consumers, ACME Corporation engaged with industry associations and sustainability organizations, to obtain third-party verifications for its sustainability efforts. This external validation further boosted ACME Corporation’s credibility, adding to the brand’s value.


Net Zero Benefits

Despite the challenges faced along the way, such as the need to secure funding for implementing the new solar roof and energy-efficient technologies, and some resistance from a few of the older employees, the overall outcome of the transition to Net Zero was massively positive for ACME Corporation:

  1. The company achieved significant emissions reductions, aligning it with compliance requirements from some of its larger clients,
  2. Implementing renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies resulted in substantial cost savings.
  3. ACME Corporation saw improvements to its brand reputation
  4. Employee satisfaction went up, improving productivity, and reducing recruitment and retention costs
  5. The company started attracting new markets of environmentally conscious customers.

Once again there were additional unforeseen benefits: The success of ACME Corporation’s journey towards becoming Net Zero inspired other businesses in their immediate vicinity to take action towards sustainability, which improved the overall quality of the local environment, and drove up the value of the entire community



The story of ACME Corporation’s journey towards becoming Net Zero is a testament to the power of small and medium-sized enterprises in driving sustainability. By conducting a comprehensive carbon footprint assessment, identifying key areas for emissions reductions, implementing renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies, collaborating with suppliers and partners, engaging employees, and communicating progress transparently, companies can not only make significant strides towards attaining their Net Zero goals, but are also likely to gain a multitude of unforeseen auxiliary and ancillary benefits.


Contact us today to learn more about how your business can become Net Zero!


Image credit

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash