Carbon jargon ‘could hamper progress towards net zero’

New research has revealed that the amount of ‘carbon jargon’ - different ways of describing emissions reduction targets, strategies and measurement - could be seriously hampering business progress towards net zero.

The report from leading energy consultant Inspired Energy has revealed that 86 per cent of organisations believe ‘net zero’ could become a meaningless term unless there’s a more coherent approach to how it is interpreted and measured.

The ‘Cutting the Carbon Jargon’ report canvassed the views of over 100 energy professionals across sectors including manufacturing, retail, professional services and the public sector. While many are being proactive in setting ambitious carbon reduction targets - 9 in 10 (88 per cent) are working towards new strategies, rising to 97 per cent among manufacturers and dropping to 79 per cent for retailers - only half (53 per cent) said that they ‘fully understand’ the term ‘net zero’.

However, even among those businesses, the research revealed the way it is interpreted varies significantly. Over two-thirds of energy professionals admitted that they’re confused by the sheer amount of terms used to describe carbon reduction, and when asked to define the meaning of net zero, energy professionals mentioned carbon offsetting (42 per cent), carbon or emission elimination (36 per cent) and carbon emission reduction (17 per cent).

The report sets out key issues that need to be addressed, from the lack of a single reference point for businesses to ensure clarity and consistency to the need for a Net Zero roadmap to allow businesses to plan and adapt their operations. 

Dan Crowe (pictured), optimisation manager at Inspired Energy, said it was“fantastic” that so many businesses are firmly committing to carbon reduction strategies, he warned that ‘carbon jargon’ could hamper progress towards achieving net zero. “There should be no room for interpretation: businesses need clear guidance to understand what is expected of them and what strategies they can pursue to achieve it.”

The report also examined whether energy professionals felt under pressure to deliver ambitious carbon reduction targets, with almost a quarter saying the most pressure was coming from their organisation’s board or CEO. However, almost two-thirds of businesses expressed concern that their organisation’s carbon reduction targets could be seen as ‘greenwashing’ or ‘jumping on the net zero bandwagon’.

Crowe added: “While it is encouraging that senior management recognises the need for urgent action on net zero, it is important that goals are ambitious yet achievable, otherwise businesses risk making big, public sustainability commitments that they cannot achieve, which could be more reputationally damaging in the longer term. We recommend businesses create Science Based Targets to demonstrate a meaningful contribution to emissions reduction.”

Where organisations are working towards new targets, delivery plans focus heavily on investment in green technology, and working collaboratively with colleagues and departments across the organisation to drive change. 60 per cent of respondents supported green strings being attached to any Government incentives or bailouts that support businesses with post-Covid recovery.

• To download a copy of theCutting the Carbon Jargonreport, visit

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