Briefing paper

Accelerating the Transition to Net Zero: current perspectives

Research conducted on behalf of the British Standards Institution (BSI).
Plant shoot with sun in background
  • Authors:
    Mehul Kotecha
    Bernard Steen
    Sylvie Craig
    Rezina Chowdhury
    Joshua Vey
  • Publishing date:
    1 July 2022

This research involved an extensive literature review and qualitative interviews with a range of stakeholders around the world representing government, national standards bodies, charities, businesses, media and consumer bodies.

What does ‘Net Zero’ really mean for individual organisations, like companies, charities and financial institutions? What are the main barriers these organisations face in achieving Net Zero? How can we create an aligned global approach to reducing emissions?

Key findings

  • There is little consensus around the definition of Net Zero as applied to non- and sub-state actors. The research identified seven key dimensions of variation in the way that Net Zero is understood.
  • Of these seven dimensions, the key definitional issue was the role of offsetting – the practice of paying for emission cut or removals to ‘compensate’ for emissions which are not eliminated. Despite consensus that eliminating emissions must take priority over offsets, there was a broad range of views of what this meant in practice, and serious concerns that ambiguity was leading to greenwashing.
  • National and international standards can play a greater role in accelerating the transition to Net Zero by: creating consistency in target setting, and measuring and reporting emissions; providing consistency over time and across geographies to better enable long-term decision making; altering the landscape of financial incentives and disincentives for emitting; and embedding decarbonisation throughout businesses’ operations.
  • It will be crucial for BSI and other standards bodies to engage fully with a diverse range of actors, and not only large companies and elite organisations in high-income countries. The perspectives of smaller businesses, organisations in low- and middle-income countries, and indigenous groups should all be considered when planning the role of standards in the transition to Net Zero.