Difference between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero | EcoOnline US

What’s the difference between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero?

Written by Dan Ryder

Published March 1, 2024

When it comes to sustainability and climate reporting, Carbon Neutral and Net Zero are terms you often hear mentioned. Before you begin to start accurately calculating your emissions, it’s crucial that you have a clear understanding of both.

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What does it mean to be Carbon Neutral?

Before we start digging into the difference between net zero and carbon neutral, let’s establish a clear definition of Carbon Neutral.

Carbon Neutral refers to the amount of carbon (carbon dioxide or CO2) being emitted is equal to the amount of carbon being absorbed from the atmosphere.

So, how does a company become Carbon Neutral? It usually involves an organization reducing their CO2 emissions or carbon footprint as much as possible. After which, they then invest in carbon sinks.

Carbon sinks are also known as offsets. Offsets help to balance out the remaining amount of carbon emitted by an organization's operations.

If all carbon emissions produced by the company are equal to the number of emissions being reduced through their carbon offsets, the company is then classed as being Carbon Neutral. 

Is Carbon Neutrality the same as Net Zero?

While Net Zero is similar to Carbon Neutral, the key difference is that Net Zero includes all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Net Zero refers to when all greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere are equal to the greenhouse gases being removed from the atmosphere.

Additional greenhouse gases include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20), alongside many others.

an aerial view of a graph

If companies can remove all sources of greenhouse gas emissions from their operations, they go beyond achieving Net Zero and achieve what is called Absolute Zero. Absolute Zero requires no offsets.

However, most companies will not be able to achieve Absolute Zero, so will need to purchase offsets to account for the greenhouse gases they emit. The combination of these two approaches is included in Net Zero.

Net Zero targets play a significant role in preventing global warming, as the targets must be achieved at a global level. All targets must be permanent, meaning that any greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere are not re-released.  

How EcoOnline can help you become Carbon Neutral

Before you can think about balancing out the emissions from your activities, you need to take the first step of calculating your emissions. This process is called Sustainability Reporting

Diving into the world of Sustainability Reporting can seem overwhelming at first. The most widely accepted standard is the GHG Protocol, this is considered to be the gold standard, which is the standard employed in EcoOnline’s software.  

Our sustainability reporting software has been built by climate experts and features more than 120,000 emissions factors. With automatic calculations and detailed insights, you’ll be better placed to start your journey toward becoming Carbon Neutral or achieving Net Zero. 

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Author Dan Ryder

Dan is an experienced copywriter with a master's degree from the Manchester Writing School. He joined EcoOnline in November 2022. 

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