Image: Net zero panel discussion at our 2019 members conference, the Network Harvest


  • Getting to a standard definition of net zero. There is currently no agreement on this, which means that one organisation’s definition could be different to another’s. Unlike the term ‘carbon neutrality’, which is clearly defined, ‘net zero’ can be interpreted in different ways and one definition isn’t necessarily the same as another. So, how do we define it?


Fit for the Future will explore setting a standard definition of net zero, first for scopes 1 and 2 emissions, and then for scope 3. As a network this would enable members to point towards something they are all working to.



  • There is a common perception that net zero is unrealistic, and it can be seen as a statement of commitment rather than an achievable goal. In that case, how do organisations get staff and visitors to buy into the concept of net zero and take commitments seriously/ see them as achievable?



  • Some organisations prefer to talk in terms of energy, kWh and consumption rather than carbon – this is non-disputable, and easier to understand and measure. Is there enough of a benefit to switching to talking in terms of net zero to make it worthwhile?



  • Is there a difference between net zero and carbon neutral? In this Carbon Trust article, two key distinctions are recommended: 
    •  The PAS 2060 Standard, which defines carbon neutrality, allows offsets, while Carbon Trust recommend that net zero only allows certain forms of greenhouse gas removal in certain instances.
    • PAS 2060 also requires a carbon reduction plan (though no specific level of ambition is prescribed), while Carbon Trust recommend that net zero requires a reduction target aligned to a 1.5ᵒC science-based target.


  • Our Energy Managers discussed offsetting, and agreed that it should be looked at last rather than first: as a charity, if you have £1000 it’s easier to reconcile spend on in-house energy efficiency measures rather than an offsetting measure.


The role of the public sector


Fit for the Future’s membership also includes public sector organisations such as Ealing Council and Suffolk Council. Local Authorities have a vital role to play in net zero due to their regional impact, and their awareness of local challenges and opportunities. A number of LAs have already set intentions to become net zero by 2050 or earlier. There is much to be learnt from from the public sector when it comes to setting these targets, and we look forward to working more closely with local authorities in 2020. 


Our group will meet again in April of next year to update each other on their developments in terms of net zero, and explore the topic further. Do you want to be part of the conversation? If your charity or organisation is considering a net zero target, get in touch to find out how to join this discussion and become part of a peer-support group with hundreds of members from over 80 organisations.