top of page

7 mistakes to avoid when deploying a low-carbon strategy

Implementing a low-carbon strategy in a company is a broad and complex yet crucial topic today. Through the deployment of its National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC), France has set specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions across all sectors of activity.

Therefore, all companies must participate, on their own scale, by committing to the climate and implementing their low-carbon strategy to reduce their emissions. The low-carbon strategy, or climate strategy, should be:

  • Ambitious: The strategy must rise to the challenge of combating climate change.

  • Credible: The action plan must be credible and realistic.

  • Sustainable: It is crucial to establish a long-term climate strategy to improve practices and continuously reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, caution should be exercised regarding actions that may appear useful but are insufficient. Additionally, important aspects should not be overlooked during the implementation of a low-carbon strategy. Here is an overview of the main pitfalls to avoid in deploying a low-carbon strategy.

Not conducting environmental analysis such as carbon footprint or life cycle assessment.

To implement a low-carbon strategy, it is essential to understand the overall environmental footprint of the company. There are numerous tools and methodologies available to help companies calculate their carbon footprint, enabling them to make informed and impactful decisions. These include:

  • Carbon footprint: This assessment quantifies the company's emissions.

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA): LCA evaluates the comprehensive and multi-criteria environmental impact of a product or service throughout its life cycle.

  • Product footprint: This corresponds to a simplified life cycle assessment.

These analyses allow for an understanding of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and identify areas where actions should be taken to reduce the company's carbon footprint. It is crucial to assess what consumes the most and determine the scope of actions necessary to decrease the company's carbon footprint.

Not considering Scope 3 in conducting a carbon footprint assessment.

Reducing emissions is a crucial challenge when implementing a low-carbon strategy. During the process of conducting a carbon footprint assessment, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are categorized into scopes:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions.

  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from energy sources.

  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions.

Scope 3 is the most significant scope as it encompasses the majority of a company's emissions. A study by Réseau Action Climat published in 2016 indicates that Scope 3 emissions can account for 3 to 4 times the emissions of Scopes 1 & 2. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) goes further in a study published in March 2022. According to the CDP, Scope 3 represents 86% of a company's emissions, yet only 53% of companies take it into account.

Failing to consider Scope 3 in a carbon footprint assessment is a mistake, as it prevents companies from fully understanding the real impact of their activities. It is essential for all companies to account for Scope 3 in order to develop a comprehensive action plan for emission reduction.

Relying solely on carbon offsetting.

Relying solely on carbon offsetting to reduce one's carbon footprint is a mistake. Carbon offsetting is a mechanism that allows individuals or companies to compensate for their emissions by supporting projects that avoid or remove greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon offsetting is certainly a mechanism to consider in the implementation of a climate strategy, but it cannot be the sole lever. Relying exclusively on carbon offsetting means:

  1. Not reducing emissions: Carbon offsetting allows for the compensation of already emitted emissions but does not address the upstream work of reducing emissions generated by a company's activities.

  2. Potentially being accused of greenwashing: An organization claiming to be carbon neutral by stating that all emissions are offset through carbon removal or avoidance projects may face accusations of greenwashing.

Carbon offsetting remains a key step in the implementation of an ambitious low-carbon strategy, but it should come at the end of the journey. It is also crucial to exercise caution when selecting carbon offset projects, ensuring that they are accredited and certified.

Communicating without transparency: #greenwashing

Communication is key, but it must be accompanied by transparency and supported by concrete numbers and actions. Statements such as "carbon-neutral," "offset emissions," "carbon footprint reduced by 50%," and others may be used by some companies to showcase their climate commitment, yet they lack evidence and transparency. It is imperative to be transparent when communicating. How can this be achieved?

  1. Justify the numbers by conducting a carbon footprint assessment, defining the methodology, and presenting an action plan that connects numbers, objectives, and actions. Justifying and substantiating your numbers ensures that you are not accused of greenwashing.

  2. Avoid using the term "carbon-neutral." In reality, achieving carbon neutrality is not feasible for a single company. This term is more applicable to a global or national scale. In fact, the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe) recommends avoiding this term in favor of transparent, proportionate, and distinct communication, as stated in their expert opinion.

  3. Emphasize the importance of offsetting, but not solely. As mentioned earlier, carbon offsetting is a necessary step in implementing a low-carbon strategy. However, it should not be the sole focus, and the company should not imply that it is committed to the climate solely by offsetting its emissions.

Not involving employees and stakeholders in the implementation of a low-carbon strategy.

Deploying a low-carbon strategy in a company involves engaging the entire organization in its development and implementation. Workers, managers, project leaders, and all employees should be involved as stakeholders in the strategy to build a more sustainable company. Failing to involve them in the process will render your efforts futile and diminish the impact of your actions. Effective communication is crucial to convey what you intend to achieve, how, and why.

There are several ways to engage employees:

  1. Internal webinars or town hall meetings to present the actions that will be implemented.

  2. Q&A sessions to address their questions and consider their ideas.

  3. Providing regular progress updates on the implementation of the action plan.

By involving employees and stakeholders, you can harness their knowledge, insights, and commitment, creating a sense of ownership and ensuring a more successful and impactful low-carbon strategy implementation.

Committing to quantifiable targets without a concrete action plan.

An ambitious strategy must be based on concrete data for emissions reduction. As a company, it is crucial to establish a quantifiable action plan that clearly defines the CO2 equivalent (CO2e) savings for each emission source and scope. The carbon footprint assessment, when conducted by a climate expert, not only quantifies emissions but also helps define a precise action plan, which often serves as the backbone of a climate strategy.

Embarking on the journey alone without expert guidance.

Seeking support from specialized companies in areas such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or climate strategy deployment is crucial. Climate experts, carbon footprint consultants, or CSR consultants are specialized in these fields and can assist companies in developing their climate strategy. It is important to surround oneself with knowledgeable experts to create a climate roadmap that meets the challenges ahead.

Implementing an ambitious, credible, and sustainable low-carbon strategy

To successfully implement a low-carbon strategy, it is important to be ambitious and set concrete goals that align with the challenges of fighting climate change. The strategy must also be credible and realistic, taking into account the company's resources and capabilities.

It is essential to develop a long-term approach to continuously improve the company's approach and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tools like carbon footprint assessments and life cycle analysis can help identify areas for improvement and inform the development of an action plan. Ultimately, a strong low-carbon strategy not only helps the company reduce its own emissions, but also contributes to the broader effort to address climate change.


bottom of page