Carbon neutral and net zero - what’s the difference? - Blog

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Thursday 24th March 2022

The global attitude to sustainability is changing. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are realising they must reduce their carbon output - ASAP. It is no secret that here at Paper Round we’re pretty chuffed to be drivers of this sustainability boom. We’re also delighted to see the increasingly common sight of a carbon neutrality sticker, and the publication of a net zero pledge.

But, with innovation often comes confusion. You may be asking yourself; ‘hang on, why carbon neutral and net zero? Why not just use one classification? Can you be one without the other?’. If you have found yourself asking these questions then you’re not alone. Let us help clarify things.

Carbon neutral

Carbon neutrality is essentially achieved by offsetting a company’s carbon production. Most commonly by using carbon credits. 

Carbon offsetting includes tree planting

A business that is carbon neutral will have likely assessed their scope 1 and 2 emissions (you can find more info on emission scopes in our previous post here), and then looked to offset these through funding carbon reduction programmes. Even though many companies may still look to reduce their active production of carbon, a carbon neutral claim does not necessarily mean emission reduction measures have been applied before offsetting. This leads nicely into…

Net zero

For a company to be claiming net zero they need to be more active and ambitious in their carbon reduction strategy. Unlike carbon neutrality, net zero is clearly defined by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) dictates that to comply, businesses need to set clear carbon reduction targets. Companies that make these pledges are actively looking to reduce their carbon production before offsetting the remaining unavoidable carbon emissions.

solar panels in a field

Solar panels

A net zero pledge also requires a business to assess not only their scope 1 and 2 emissions, but scope 3 as well. This means that they are actively tackling the carbon production caused by things like waste management, supplier production and employee commuting. We have made our own net zero pledge which you can read about in more detail here.

In Summary:

  • Cabon neutral is all about carbon offsetting through carbon credits to balance out a company’s emissions
  • Net zero is more comprehensive and ambitious, and must include carbon reduction strategies before carbon offsetting
  • Carbon neutrality is a step in the right direction, whereas net zero is a leap towarsd reaching those science-based 1.5°C climate targets
  • Carbon neutrality looks at the business’s scopes 1 and 2 emissions, while net zero incorporates scope 3 as well

If your business has taken a net zero pledge, then you may have realised how difficult it can be to get an accurate reporting of your scope 3 waste management emissions.

That’s where our Carbon Reduction Reporting tool comes in.

This report provides all the data you need to report on the collection and sorting of your recycling and waste. We would love to help with your carbon reduction journey, so please do get in touch with us through our enquiry form, or via email on or speak to us directly on 020 7407 9100. 

Robert Kay

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