What's the Difference Between Carbon Neutral, Net-Zero, and Carbon Positive? - Be Neutral Now Blog

What’s the Difference Between Carbon Neutral, Net-Zero, and Carbon Positive?

Words like “carbon neutral”, “net-zero” and “carbon positive” have been floating around in mainstream conversations for years. Back in 2006, the New Oxford American Dictionary named “carbon neutral” their word of the year. Although these words have become incredibly popular, the ideas and concepts behind them involve one massive goal: safeguarding the environment for future generations to enjoy. 

With only 29 years for the United States and the world to reach the goals laid out by the Paris climate agreement, the need for carbon neutrality among large and medium-sized businesses has never been more important. With forest fires in Australia, freezing temperatures in Texas and record heat waves in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia, the world is still reeling from the most extreme weather events of 2021. The goal is to limit the carbon emissions, which will prevent an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the global temperature by the year 2050.

Even some of the world’s largest companies are finding ways to become carbon neutral within the next decade. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has pledged to make Apple’s entire business completely carbon neutral by 2030. This involves the entire supply chain, and everything involved to run one of the largest organizations in the world.

The need for businesses to limit their carbon emissions has never been more pressing. You may feel convicted to help reduce your carbon emissions at your workplace, but you just don’t know where to start. This article will explain the different terms carbon neutral, net zero and carbon positive, and provide you with strategies to reach carbon neutrality in your place of work. 

What does Carbon Neutral Mean?

Carbon neutrality means balancing the amount of carbon dioxide that is entering the atmosphere with the amount being absorbed from the atmosphere by carbon sinks. Natural carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and these include trees, soil and oceans. Natural sinks remove between 9.5 and 11 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide each year, but the annual global CO2 emissions reached 38 Gt in 2019 [1]. Therefore, natural carbon sinks can only remove less than a third of the carbon dioxide that is produced. There are no artificial carbon sinks able to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

Carbon neutrality is a way to limit the amount of carbon dioxide produced so that natural carbon sinks can effectively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This means limiting your carbon emissions and promoting initiatives that sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, like tree planting initiatives. 

What Does Net-zero Mean?

Net-zero is an active step towards reducing a company’s carbon footprint by eliminating things that produce carbon emissions. For example, when a company switches their electrical needs off the grid and onto solar power, they are no longer producing indirect carbon emissions through their electricity. In fact, they are producing solar power which can be sold back to the grid, lowering carbon emissions even more.

What’s the Difference Between Carbon-Neutral and Net-Zero?

While carbon neutrality is concerned with balancing the amount of carbon produced with the amount captured through natural means, net-zero is when an individual or company takes an active step to cut their carbon emissions, with the desire of eliminating indirect forms of emissions from the supply chain, and heating and electrical.

Carbon neutrality involves cutting waste, and offsetting the carbon created, both of which are noble pursuits. In order to reach the world’s climate goals for the middle of the 21st century, countries around the world have promised that they will reach carbon neutrality by the mid-century. At this point in time, it’s impossible to generate zero carbon emissions, and therefore purchasing carbon offset credits can help you reach carbon neutrality.

Pushing towards environmental sustainability also involves initiatives to reach net-zero. Look for ways to reduce waste and cut carbon emissions, and by doing so you taking one more step towards net-zero.

Companies Planning to Reach Carbon Neutrality by 2040

Several of the world’s top companies are planning on reaching carbon neutrality by 2040, 10 years before the Paris Climate agreement timeline. According to the Washington Post, several Fortune 500 companies have decided to reduce their carbon footprint in an attempt to limit climate change [2]. Some of the largest companies on the list of those who are pledging to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 include FedEx, Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Uber and Best Buy. Some of these companies have even pledged their support for an organization called Climate Pledge, which was founded by Jeff Bezos, which aims to not only meet the goal of carbon neutrality but persuade other organizations to pursue that goal.

Many of the practical requirements for carbon neutrality are being hammered out right now. FedEx aims to have a whole fleet of electric vehicles by 2040, and currently they are building up their stock of electric vehicles. FedEx chairman Frederick W. Smith explained the decision to go carbon neutral as a way to stem the tide of climate change. He states that climate change is “at a scale that just boggles the mind,” and Smith hopes to make as large of a contribution as possible to prevent a more than1.5°C raise in the Earth’s temperature.

What Does Carbon Positive Mean?

Carbon positive means going beyond net-zero, and effectively removing more carbon dioxide than the amount that you release into the atmosphere. Becoming carbon positive can be considered a huge HR boost for companies. Sometimes the terms carbon positive and carbon negative are used to describe the same thing, basically meaning that the company is producing fewer carbon emissions than they are offsetting or are being sequestered by natural carbon sinks.

Steps Towards Carbon Neutrality

If you are concerned about creating an environmentally friendly culture in your workplace, as well as safeguarding the environment for future generations, now is the best time to push for carbon neutrality at your workplace. Here are some tips to help you move towards carbon neutrality:

1. Learn Your Company’s Carbon Footprint

If you’d like to be carbon neutral, it first involves discovering your company’s carbon footprint, and finding ways to limit carbon emissions. Representatives from Be Neutral Now can help you create a tailored carbon offset credit plan to help curb your company’s emissions. Just by speaking with someone from Be Neutral Now, you’ll be able to get a wider grasp of the carbon emissions produced by your company and learn strategies and ways to limit carbon emissions.

2. Propose Internal Initiatives to Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Speak with management at your company and discern ways to lower your carbon emissions. Here are some of the best ways that you could advocate for carbon neutrality:

  • Suggest carpooling with a group of coworkers who live in the same area, and encourage others to do the same. If you were to carpool with just one other person, you could cut carbon emissions by up to 50%.
  • Consider using rechargeable batteries in all devices that require batteries.
  • Propose the use of energy-saving devices to limit the draw on electricity. This may include purchasing LED light bulbs instead of fluorescent bulbs.
  • Create a composting and recycling initiative at your company, and seek ways to limit waste at the workplace.
  • Check with local solar panel installation companies and receive a few quotes to pass on to your supervisor.

3. Consider Ways to Limit Indirect Carbon Emissions in the Supply Chain

Indirect carbon emissions are those that are produced during shipping and manufacturing, which may not be directly produced by your company. They still count against your carbon footprint, and therefore, should be considered when figuring out your carbon footprint. There can also be ways you could speak with manufacturers to limit the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. Speak with your supervisor, the sales team, and other representatives that liaison with subsidiaries and clients to help you as you begin to broach the idea to clients.


You can help prevent climate change in your workplace and in your home. Instead of being overwhelmed with the sheer immensity of climate change, start by doing the little things to limit your footprint. Every day, you have the opportunity to do better than you did before, and this includes how you respect and care for the environment. Every decision you make can be made towards leaving this world better off than the one that you inherited.


  1. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190926STO62270/what-is-carbon-neutrality-and-how-can-it-be-achieved-by-2050

2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/03/05/more-than-50-companies-have-vowed-be-carbon-neutral-by-2040/