Net zero: The time is now

10th Jan 2023

CITMA is taking emissions reduction seriously and assisting others to do the same.

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At CITMA, we are committed to accelerating the move to a sustainable, low‑carbon economy and reducing our impact on the environment.

Our ambitious plans aim to see CITMA become a net‑zero organisation in the next few years.

At the same time, we seek to guide our members and their firms to contribute to our profession being as close to net zero as we can.

Why are we doing this? It’s simple: every organisation, regardless of size, should be taking its responsibility to be sustainable seriously. We are no different.

There will be challenges along the way, but this is a move that every sector of the economy needs to make, and the time to get started is now.

While achieving net zero is an economic and environmental necessity, it also brings with it significant opportunity.

Like any time of change, this is a great time to review what you do as far as environmental sustainability and how you do it. The opportunity to review all areas of your practice may even result in cost and efficiency savings.

Everyone’s issue

There is plenty of widely reported research into climate change and its present and future impact upon our planet. There are also predictions of what we, collectively, need to limit warming to in order to avert disaster.

For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report Global Warming of 1.5°C, published in 2018, warned that we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre‑industrial levels and reach net‑zero CO2 emissions by 2050 for the best chance of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown.

This might sound dramatic, but the warnings are coming thick and fast. For instance, according to the Carbon Trust, allowing a temperature rise of 2°C would lead to “37% of the global population being exposed to severe heat at least once every five years and climate ‘tipping points’ being reached”.  

Parties including the UN Secretary General and a group of international scientists have declared that we have reached a “code red” moment when it comes to climate action. 

Yet while November 2022 saw world leaders come together in Sharm El Sheikh for the UN’s climate change conference COP27, and one year on from the warning bells that were sounded at COP26 in Glasgow, very little has changed.

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Despite 80% of global emissions being covered by net‑zero targets, warns the Carbon Trust, “they don’t go far enough … Even if all of the current national emissions reduction pledges are met, it is likely net zero by the middle of the century will be missed, and warming will exceed 1.5°C.

"It is therefore vital for governments to go further and revise the ambition of their national commitments, with transition plans and policies which get us to net zero by 2050.”

In fact, the UK was the first country to set 2050 as a legally binding target to be net zero. In its 2021 Net Zero Strategy, the UK Government said that: “The science could not be clearer: by the middle of this century the world has to reduce emissions to as close to zero as possible, with the small amount of remaining emissions absorbed through natural carbon sinks like forests, and new technologies like carbon capture. If we can achieve this, global emissions of greenhouse gases will be ‘net zero’.”

These targets will only be met if all organisations, including CITMA, move towards and achieve net zero in the near future.

Companies large and small are setting their stall out, and even high‑polluting industries like aviation are taking this challenge on.

For example, budget airline easyJet has recently pledged to be net zero by 2050 – and if they can do it, in such a carbon‑intensive sector, surely we all can.

Why not offset?

It is easy to think it would be simple to calculate our emissions and pay to offset these by investing in carbon mitigation elsewhere.

However, it is widely accepted that this offsetting approach must be limited to residual emissions only. In other words, trying to offset the whole world’s emissions by planting trees and investing in offshore wind and the like, in return for polluting at the same level, is not a sustainable strategy.

Therefore, we must do our bit to reduce our carbon output, stop sending greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and only offset any final residual emissions having given our best efforts to avoid them.

Like many organisations, we are aiming to reduce our emissions across all our work and move to net‑zero ways of working.

This does not mean stopping everything that we do. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have an office.

It doesn’t mean that our committees cannot meet in person or that our Christmas Lunch will be downsized – far from it. But in all these areas we can work in a more sustainable way and make decisions that drive down our emissions.

We are aiming to be net zero by 2027, ideally sooner. There are four ways in which we will do this:

1. Reduce. We will seek to decarbonise everything we do. By empowering staff and volunteers to make sustainability a core pillar of our work, from procurement to how we run our events, we can reduce our carbon or other emissions to a low residual level. We will tackle head‑on the emissions we directly control and influence the emissions of our supply chain by putting pressure on the suppliers who control these.

2. Offset. Although reduction and climate leadership are our main steps, we might not be able to reduce absolutely everything we do to a base of zero. Therefore, we will have an offsetting plan in place to bridge the gap where needed.

3. Report. We will make ourselves publicly accountable on our net‑zero performance and will report on our sustainability and progress towards net zero in our annual report. By early 2023 we will have calculated our baseline carbon emissions and set annual targets. We will aim to seek formal accreditation in 2027, or sooner, as a net‑zero organisation and seek to maintain this indefinitely.

4. Lead. We will be a climate leader within the IP legal sector, making the case to our members and their employers that we must collectively reduce our impact on the planet and become a net‑zero profession. As a sector body we have the power to influence thousands of people and have a far bigger impact than by reducing our own emissions alone.

Well on our way

We are not new to thinking sustainably. Since 2019, we have all but eliminated paper from our conferences. We no longer routinely print slide decks, which allows us to save thousands of sheets of paper per year.

We are changing how your copy of the CITMA Review is delivered, so from the March/April issue, it will be wrapped in easily recycled paper rather than biodegradable plastic.

In fact, everything that you receive in the post from CITMA can be recycled. We have worked with our publisher to ensure the Review is printed in a sustainable way using vegetable‑based inks and water‑based solutions in its processes.

The printer also conforms to high standards requiring it to prove responsible recycling of all materials used in production.

We are now starting to consider what we can do beyond our immediate stage of the supply chain.

Our thinking has now expanded to consider questions such as the sustainability of the companies that supply us and whether or not their ways of working align with our goals.

An important invitation

Members, firms and other professional bodies – we want to work together as a profession to achieve our ambitious goals and collectively provide leadership.

To this end, we will encourage firms to make a public pledge to be net zero to create accountability.

We will also provide resources and a forum to share best practice so all firms can decarbonise.

We know from our own journey that identifying where to start is not straightforward – we want to help with that starting point.

But we are not here to dictate to firms exactly how to be sustainable; achieving the goal of net zero will look different for each firm and each will have different timescales and challenges to overcome.

For those of you reading this and thinking, “Is this effort really necessary?”, we must consider the possibility that, in the future, it will be compulsory for entities above a certain size to report their emissions.

Taking action now will put you ahead of the game should this happen. And even if you are not sure about the scale and scope of the environmental necessity, reducing emissions can be good for business.

With more and more consumers prioritising the environmental credentials of the companies that they work with, now is the time to ensure that your firm is on a clear path in this regard. 

What is net zero?

Simply put, net zero refers to reaching a point where the amount of greenhouse gas you contribute to the atmosphere is equal to the amount removed.

Net zero and carbon neutral are both terms used to describe carbon reduction and they have similar results but are not the same. Being net zero is expanded in scale and includes all greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide. Another major difference is the inclusion of the wider supply chain in net zero as a mandatory element.  

Our net-zero pledge

We pledge that we will:
•    Promote responsibility for the environment within CITMA and communicate and implement this policy at all levels.
•    Be a driving force for stronger climate leadership across the trade mark profession we represent through our actions and guidance.
•    Try to understand our environmental impact and set objectives and targets annually in order to improve our environmental performance. We will regularly review these targets.
•    Provide adequate resources to meet our commitment to this policy and the environment.
•    Define and communicate to all staff, officers and volunteers their shared and individual responsibility.
•    Ensure our energy consumption and waste production is minimised using reduction, re-use and recycling methods where possible, whether employees are working in the office or from home.
•    Ensure that all our activities, including events and meetings, are developed in a way that is complementary to this policy.
•    Take into account the sustainability credentials of suppliers in our purchasing decisions.
•    Report our environmental performance in our annual report and other relevant communications.
•    Promote active and greener travel methods and provide our staff and volunteers with support to take these options where appropriate and give due consideration to whether travel is justified.
•    Eliminate the need for all but essential paper for our office and events. Where paper is used we will ensure it is produced from sustainable sources and can be recycled.
•    Work with and challenge our office provider to ensure it has appropriate sustainability policies in place that match our goals.
•    Establish an internal taskforce to champion our environmental work.