Corporate Responsibility

Understanding Net Zero

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 has become a global imperative, driven by the urgent need to mitigate climate change and its catastrophic impacts. Governments, businesses, and individuals are all part of this transformative journey, which involves balancing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with equivalent removals to ensure no net increase in atmospheric carbon levels. Central to this effort is carbon accounting, a critical tool that enables the accurate measurement, reporting, and management of GHG emissions - learn more with Minimum.

What is net zero?

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed from it. Achieving net zero means that for every unit of GHGs emitted, an equivalent amount must be captured and removed, resulting in no net increase in atmospheric GHG levels. Roughly, net emissions are equated like so: 

Net Emissions = Emissions − Removals

An organization is considered to have achieved net zero when the sum of this equation is at 0. Achieving that involves reducing emissions through cleaner technologies and renewable energy, removing remaining emissions via natural or technological means, and offsetting emissions by investing in environmental projects. Globally, the importance of hitting net zero by mid-century is crucial to meet global climate goals set by the Paris Agreement.

The importance of net zero

Net zero is crucial because it stabilizes and eventually reduces global greenhouse gas concentrations. This helps to limit global warming, reducing the risks of severe climate impacts such as extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and loss of biodiversity. 

However, for organizations and businesses, achieving net zero is increasingly recognized as a critical objective across all sectors. They  are under mounting pressure to adopt sustainable practices, and committing to net zero not only addresses these external demands but also offers a host of benefits that can enhance an organization's overall performance. For example:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Achieving net zero ensures organizations comply with these regulations and avoid penalties, with many governments implementing stricter regulations.
  • Reputation and Brand Value: Committing to net zero can enhance an organization's reputation and attract eco-conscious customers and investors.
  • Risk Management: Climate change poses significant risks to business operations, including supply chain disruptions and resource scarcity - but achieving net zero helps mitigate these risks and ensures long-term operational stability.
  • Cost Savings: Reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency can lead to substantial cost savings - for example, renewable energy and sustainable practices often reduce operational expenses over time.
  • Future-Proofing: Transitioning to net zero prepares organizations for a low-carbon future, making them more resilient to future market changes and environmental challenges.


As scientific understanding and policy frameworks evolve, so do the definitions and standards associated with these terms. This evolution can cause inconsistencies and misunderstandings - particularly where net zero is concerned. Many of these terms have similar goals and strategies, leading to overlap. For instance, both "net zero" and "carbon neutral" aim to balance emissions, but their specific approaches and scopes can differ. 

Carbon neutral

Carbon neutral means balancing the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted with an equivalent amount of offsets, resulting in no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Climate neutral

Climate neutral means balancing all greenhouse gas emissions across various activities with equivalent offsets or removals, resulting in no net impact on the climate.

Carbon negative

Carbon negative means removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is emitted, resulting in a net reduction of atmospheric carbon levels.

Net positive

Net positive means contributing more positive environmental, social, or economic impacts than the negative impacts an organization creates, resulting in an overall beneficial effect. It is similar to carbon positive, which is explicitly about carbon emissions as opposed to the wider impact.

Absolute zero

Absolute zero means eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions entirely, with no emissions produced from any activities or sources.

Of these terms, it is carbon neural and net zero that are the most frequently confused for each other. You can learn more about the difference between carbon neutral and net zero.

Net zero targets across the globe

Net zero targets are set across the globe to mitigate the impacts of climate change by balancing greenhouse gas emissions with removal efforts, aiming to halt the increase of global temperatures. For more information about reducing ghg emissions, learn more about the GHG protocol.

These targets are crucial for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Governments, international bodies, and organizations are responsible for setting these targets, often in collaboration with scientific communities and environmental advocacy groups. 


The UK's net zero target aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, balancing any remaining emissions with equivalent removals. This goal is part of the UK's broader commitment to mitigating climate change and aligns with international efforts under the Paris Agreement. The UK Government has established various policies and strategies to achieve this, including the Net Zero Strategy (2021) and the updated Net Zero Growth Plan (2023)​.

Progress towards these targets is monitored by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which reports annually on the UK's advancements and challenges. Recent assessments indicate mixed results: while there have been positive steps in industrial decarbonization and the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, significant risks remain in other areas such as buildings, transport, and renewable electricity generation.


Similarly to the UK, the United States has set ambitious net zero targets, aiming to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This commitment was formalized in a long-term strategy submitted to the UNFCCC in 2021. The target encompasses all GHG emissions but notably excludes international aviation and shipping. While the Biden administration has implemented significant measures, such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), to advance renewable energy and reduce emissions, progress has been mixed.

How carbon accounting helps on the path to net zero

Carbon accounting is crucial for achieving net zero emissions by measuring and tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which helps organizations identify major emission sources and opportunities for reduction. It ensures compliance with international carbon accounting regulations, sets and monitors realistic reduction targets, and builds transparency and accountability among stakeholders. Additionally, carbon accounting uncovers financial incentives, manages risks related to carbon pricing, supports broader climate initiatives, and drives innovation and operational efficiency​. 

How Minimum can help

Minimum can help organizations to understand their existing carbon output, and create plans to mitigate climate related risks in the future.  Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organization and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. 

Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.