Getting to grips with ‘carbon jargon’

Despite the UK’s drive to reach net zero by 2050 being high up the policy and news agendas, the majority of SMEs in the UK do not understand how ‘carbon jargon’ applies to their businesses. So, what do these terms mean?


According to research by the British Business Bank (BBB) more than half of senior decision makers in small businesses believe the language, terminology and information around carbon emissions reduction is ‘overcomplex’.

Over three in five say they would find more information and advice about taking action to measure and reduce their business’s carbon emissions helpful.


The BBB’s survey listed the top five ‘carbon jargon’ terms misunderstood by businesses. They are shown here along with their definitions.

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions
    Emissions from human activities that increase the greenhouse effect, adding to climate change.
  2. Decarbonisation
    The removal or reduction of carbon emissions output into the atmosphere to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint and impact on the climate. This is the process by which businesses can reach net zero through reducing, eliminating and offsetting carbon emissions.
  3. Net zero
    Net zero is an equilibrium situation where a balance has been achieved between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Achieving net zero requires reduction of carbon emissions as far as possible, combined with carbon offsetting to balance out unavoidable carbon emissions. 
  4. Carbon neutral
    Being carbon neutral means balancing carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere through everyday business activities with the amount absorbed or removed from the atmosphere.
  5. Carbon footprint
    The total carbon emissions created by business activities, such as heating and transport. It is expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent, which can be used by smaller businesses to measure how much their sustainability activities impact their carbon footprint.

Sustainable businesses

Understanding the ‘carbon jargon’ is just the start: learning to create a sustainable business and prepare for green growth is a challenging process. The BBB has created a Finance Hub to provide information and guidance for businesses starting their journey.

Getting to net zero

As the drive to net zero continues, tax laws may change, while new funding streams may become available.

As your accountants we can help with both your tax and finance requirements: please contact us.