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The Sustainability Jargon Buster

1ST JULY 2022


The Sustainability Jargon Buster header image

At Starling we’re making good progress to becoming a net zero company. But wait, what does that actually mean?

Our brand is based on values of transparency, so we want to make sure everything is clear and understood when talking about our greener banking journey. So, in the spirit of Starling, below we’ve created a Sustainability Jargon Buster.

As for our own targets: it’s a one third reduction in carbon emissions from our own operations and supply chain by 2030. And, from 2021, we’re offsetting our carbon emissions annually. Reducing our emissions will only get us so far, so part of our plan involves buying carbon avoidance and sequestration credits to offset our direct and indirect emissions.

Read on for the explainers or check out our sustainability goals.

  • Is ‘carbon neutral’ the same as ‘net zero’?
    No – companies often start with carbon neutrality as they work towards net zero. In simple terms, being net zero means adding no more greenhouse gases to the Earth’s atmosphere than the amount you’re taking out. If a company is relying on carbon offsets (see definition below), they’re still likely to be ‘carbon neutral.’

  • What’s the difference between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ emissions?
    ‘Direct emissions’ are generated by a company’s operations and can be controlled, such as heating. ‘Indirect emissions’ are not fully controlled by the company and are typically caused by the supply chain – often through third parties. For example: if a cupcake company uses a marketing agency, the agency’s emissions contribute to the cupcake company’s indirect emissions.

  • What makes up a ‘carbon footprint’?
    This is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and/or indirectly by a person, organisation, event, etc. Activities that contribute include: heating and electricity, waste, water, transport, and supply chain. It’s measured in ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ aka CO2e.

  • What does ‘carbon offsetting’ mean?
    When you buy ‘carbon credits’ to offset your emissions – either through ‘carbon avoidance’ or ‘carbon sequestration’ projects.

  • And wait, what is ‘carbon avoidance’?Instead of pulling carbon out of the air, you can reduce emissions by avoiding the release of emissions into the atmosphere in the first place, such as choosing to cycle rather than drive. On the other hand, carbon sequestration is the process of removing emissions that have already been released – one of the ways to do this is by planting trees.

  • And ‘carbon sequestration’?
    This means removing greenhouse gases that have already been emitted by capturing and storing atmospheric CO2. At Starling, we’re investing in eight projects, including forest creation and protection, solar power, peatland restoration and energy efficient cookstoves.

  • So what does ‘greenwashing’ mean?
    Well, Cambridge Dictionary puts it this way: ‘To make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.’

  • What is ‘COP26’?
    The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, November 2021. Next year’s conference, COP27, will be in Egypt.

  • And I’ve heard about the ‘Paris Agreement,’ what is it?
    An international treaty to tackle climate change. The agreement was made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in 2015. Participating countries set goals to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels (before 1900), while aiming for closer to 1.5°C. It’s reviewed every five years.

  • What is the true definition of ‘sustainability’?
    The United Nations defines sustainability as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Keen to learn more? Have a look at the British Business Bank’s official decoder.