top of page


Graphic showing a rosette representing accreditation on Surrey Sustainable Business Network's webpage on building a carbon management plan

At first glance, creating a net zero or carbon management plan can look extremely complicated. Creating an action plan is straightforward.  

We'll walk you through the steps, how to collect data, and how to make sure you can focus your efforts in the correct area. You can make your plan as detailed as you like, but the point of this page is to try to keep it nice and simple. So although it's a long read, it should help you cut through a lot of confusion. 

he key is, to always remember: never let perfection get in the way of progress!  

Use this one.png


Untitled design - 2023-10-02T150340.878.png
Use this one.png


Untitled design - 2023-10-02T150340.878.png
Use this one.png


Measuring Your Business Emissions

Creating a baseline is the critical first step. Your baseline year should avoid Covid-19 lockdown if possible. So either post-lockdown years, or 2019. 


Firstly, you do not need to worry about getting everything perfect to start with. Every company has gaps they cant measure. That's fine, just be aware that you will need to re-baseline as you progress. You’ll hear a lot of talk about ‘scopes’. You do not need to fully understand scopes to begin with (though we explain them on our Jargon Busting page). You just need to understand where your emissions come from, and where to get the data about them.

Sustainable Business Network image of a table dividing business emission sources into different categories of buildings and energy, water, waste, transport, and goods and services, with advice on where to find data for you business emissions

Rather than thinking about emissions in terms of scopes, for now, you can get started by dividing emissions into 5 main sectors, or buckets. The table below shows you the 5 main buckets for the vast majority of SMEs, what data is relevant to that bucket, and where to find it.

Note that in some instances, such as understanding employee travel, the easiest way to get a true picture is to conduct surveys of your employees or customers (yes, customers travelling to you count as your emissions we’re afraid!)

Planning Emissions Reduction

Once you’ve understood your baseline, you will be able to see where your hotspots are. Your hotspots will depend entirely on your type of business, but will be where you emit the largest portion of emissions. It may be that you can make some significant quick wins in tackling these hotspots, or it may be that they are the hardest part of your organisation to decarbonise. For example, we’ve had a couple of churches go through our carbon management courses, and their entire modus operandi is bringing people to church on a Sunday - a lot of scope 3 travel emissions!

Conversely, it may be that your hotspots are around buildings and energy, in which case there will be several solution - and often funding - to help you rapidly reduce these. In either case, the important point is to create a plan for those hotspots, be it a quick win or a medium to long term plan. 

What's important is that you need to aim for a 90% reduction in your emissions. 10% can be offset, but a 90% reduction keeps you in-line with Science Based Targets.

Reducing Your Business' Emissions 

Now that you know where you're starting from, and you've hatched your plan, it's time to take action! This site has lots of useful tips on how to do that, and presented in a simple format to help you cut through the confusion. 

On our Take Action pages you will find 7 themes which encompass most of your business' emissions, regardless of sector. Below is out guidance on how to make the process easy and digestable.

Step 1: Take The Quick Wins

Building momentum at an early stage can be really helpful. It motivates employees, and social contagion is proven to drive impactful changes. Your employees are key stakeholders, and should be involved from the get-go. Make sure you’re sharing any good news with them, as well as the wider community. Everyone has to start somewhere, so if you can back up your actions with a good net zero plan, don’t be afraid to shout about it. Just make sure you can back up your claims with a solid net zero plan.

Take the quick wins

Step 2: Find A Calculator Tool That Works for You

Take the quick wins

Using a carbon calculator will make your life far more simple. Do you know how much carbon is associated with any shipping you do, or if an employee cycle to work versus driving, or even the emails you send or coffee you drink? Probably not, and that’s fine, you don’t need all that info clogging up your brain!

But this is where a carbon calculation tool comes in extremely handy. There are 2 main types:

  • Spend based - converts the amount of £ you spend in to CO2e emissions 

  • Activity Based - uses raw data to calculate CO2e

We recommend used activity-based calculations wherever possible, You might not be able to do it for everything associated with your business, but the more accurate your data, the more you’ll know that you’re on the right track.

For this reason, we recommend using Clean Growth UK (an excellent organisation who you should check out), they have a free carbon calculator which allows you to input activity or spend based calculations. The tool will automatically calculate your inputs into CO2e and will even present you with a great looking report that you can use to engage employees and customers. 

Find A Calculator Tool

Step 3: Get An Energy Survey

As noted, there is often funding for measures that help to improve the sustainability of your premises. An energy survey can help you to identify some quick wins that may also happen to be hotspots. Insulation and building management can actually make an enormous difference to your premises.

If you’ve got a gas boiler, and it’s 12-15 years old, then it’s potentially nearing the end of its life and replacing it with low carbon heating could provide a big step forward.

Get An Energy Survey

Step 4: Decarbonise Your Finances

This is a no-brainer for any business! It’s the early step which is a straightforward, but massive impact way to reduce scope 3 emissions. Every business can do it with a bit of effort, and it makes no material impact on your day to day operations. Firstly, switch to a business bank account that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels, such as Triodos, Starling, or Ecology. 


Secondly, assess your company’s pension provider. There’s a high likelihood that this is a huge hidden source of carbon within your business. If you have a finance department you can task them with the job. If not, find an advisor who can help you. Read more here.

Look At Your Finances

Step 5: Check Your Suppliers

Your supply chain can often be a huge proportion of your emissions. In the NHS for example, 62% of emissions occur in the supply chain! There are numerous ways to start reducing these.

  • Firstly, you should always be employing a waste hierarcy in your procurement. are you buying the right amount of product? Are you over-purchaisng and wasting? Can you switch out any of your products or supplies for reuaeable versions - these are usually cheaper in the long run. Can you buy refurbished instead of new? Etc etc 

  • Look for more sustainable suppliers - especially those with net zero plans 

  • Look for local supply sources to cut transport emissions

  • If you deal with food, how is the food stuff grown? Food miles are talked about a lot, but in reality a whoppijng 30% of food emissions are from land use change and another 22% from manure management, Understand how your suppliers grow, whether they source from deforested areas etc

Check Your Suppliers

Step 5: Explore Circular Economy 

Do you know what circular economy is? Well conveniently it can be closely tied with Step 4. As they say. One persons junk is another person’s treasure. As well as looking to improve the quality of your supply chain, think outside the box to drastically reduce waste. Although they are not taking new submissions for their Circulytics programme, the Ellen MaCarthur Foundation has some excellent resources.

There are some great local examples of circular economy in action in Surrey. You’ve probably heard of the renowned Silent Pool gin. As well as having the first cardboard spirits bottle, they give their leftover oranges to neighbours Mandira’s Kitchen (fantastic veggie curry at a lakeside setting!), who in turn give their misshapen naan to Surrey B-Corp Crumbs brewers, who make Wonky Naan Beer!

Circular Economy

Step 6: Take A Course 

There's nothing like peer-to-peer learning to help push you forward and keep you motivated. Until June 2023 Surrey was lucky enough to have access to the Net Zero 360 course. The SBN and SCC's LoCASE team worked together to assist around 70 businesses in creating net zero plans through this course.

Sadly, as it was European Directive funded, the course is no longer available. SCC is currently exploring options on how and what to deliver carbon management training in the county. To register your interest please drop us an email.

Take A Course

Step 7: Get Down To The Nitty Gritty 

If you've done all the above you'll be well on your way. You're unlikely to have time to get any more expertise than you have, without employing a specialist. If you've identified your hotspots, taken the quick wins, and planned how to reduce your other significant emission sources, it's time to think about those everyday decisions. These can actually add up to surprisingly large carbon savings over the course of a year:


  • Are you organising events? Can you swap out high carbon food & drink for alternatives?

  • What about your cafeteria? Everyday savings throughout the year create significant impact.

  • How are your staff moving around? Can you incentivise active travel? Should they use Teams more? 

  • What behaviour change can you create? Could you encourage second hand clothes shopping for example?

  • Are you still dishing out branded plastic junk? Why not try something less impactful with a better prize?

There are countless ways to think outside the box. This is where a peer-to-peer support network comes in handy. It might just be you that lands on a gamechanging idea that gives everyone a boost on their journey.

The Nitty Gritty

bottom of page