The Net Zero Initiative framework:
a standard for collective carbon neutrality

The Net Zero Initiative project, initiated in June 2018 and led by Carbone 4 in collaboration with a dozen pioneering companies, supported by a high-level scientific council, published its carbon neutrality contribution framework for organizations in April 2020. This document proposes a common language for all organizations wishing to steer their climate action in a sincere, ambitious and transparent way towards achieving global net zero emissions, and in line with existing instruments and methodologies. The time for action is now; so that our collective action is as effective as possible, it is crucial that all actors align on the same priorities, the same concepts, and the same horizon.

The Net Zero Initiative 2020-2021 report, published in July 2021, completes this first publication.

In 2022, two additional specific reports were published: a guide to the calculation of avoided emissions (pillar B) that one year later was the main source of inspiration for the WBCSD x NZI Guidance on Avoided Emissions, and the proposal of a new climate indicator (SCAP) to assess the compatibility of products or services with the objectives of the Paris agreements. Reports can be downloaded here.

Main principles

The Net Zero Initiative framework offers organizations a way to describe and organize their climate action in order to maximize their contribution to global carbon neutrality, and avoid the usual greenwashing mistakes.

The framework is based on several key principles:

  1. The term "carbon neutrality" (or "net zero") refers only to the goal of balancing emissions and removals on a global scale. This term does not apply to an organization.

  2. Organizations must contribute fairly to the global net zero target, and transform their activities to become compatible with a net zero planet.

  3. Emission reductions and carbon removals shall be counted separately.

  4. "Contributing to global net zero" also applies to the sales of solutions that decarbonize the company's customers. There are two families of avoided emissions: those that correspond to a real absolute decrease in the level of global emissions, and those that are only a "lesser increase" compared to the initial situation.

  5. Carbon finance can trigger reduction, avoidance and removals, but cannot net a company's  emissions. Financial contributions are counted separately.

The Net Zero Initiative Dashboard

The NZI Framework is based on the idea that an organization must act in three complementary ways in order to contribute fairly to the global net zero goal.

To contribute to the global emissions reduction, companies must:

  1. A. Reduce their own direct and indirect emissions;

  2. B. Reduce others' emissions:

    • By selling 1.5°C compatible solutions that decarbonize (under certain conditions)
    • By financing low-carbon projects outside their value chain

To contribute to the global carbon removal effort, they must:

  • C. Develop carbon sinks:

    • By developing carbon removals inside of their value chain
    • By financing additional carbon removal projects outside their value chain (contribution)

These three pillars, A/ Reducing emissions; B/ Helping others reduce; C/ Developing carbon sinks, must all be carried out simultaneously. They cannot be added or subtracted.

Publications and webinars

Released in April 2020, the Net Zero Initiative Framework laid the groundwork for an unprecedented interpretation of the "net zero emissions" issue at the corporate level.

NZI guidelines
executive summary

The 2020-2021 work of the Net Zero Initiative, which are complementary to the previously published framework, delved into two major issues:

  • Measuring Pillar B (avoided emissions): what metrics and calculation rules should be applied to measure a company's ability to contribute to the decarbonization of its ecosystem?
  • Setting targets for Pillar C (carbon sinks): what is the right level of contribution to increasing carbon sinks for a company?
2020-2021 report
working groups

As part of the third season of the Net Zero Initiative project (2021-2022), Carbone 4 and its partners had the opportunity to explore in depth the notion of contribution to the decarbonization of a company's ecosystem. This work has resulted in two key documents:

  • The Guide on Pillar B - Calculating and leveraging avoided emissions, which aims to provide organizations with the tools to calculate their various contributions to decarbonization (avoided emissions from products and services, climate dividends, carbon finance).
  • The proposal to create a new climate indicator (SCAP), which aims to assess the compatibility of products and services with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
(eng. version to come)
(eng. version to come)

Next steps

The 2022-2023 edition will focus on :

  • Finalize methods on Pillar B (SCAP - Paris Agreement Compatibility Score, target setting);
  • Develop sectoral guides to help companies structure their climate approach in line with the NZI framework;
  • Refine Pillar C accounting methods, and develop a guide for Pillar C action plans.
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Contact us

NZI is an initiative developed by Carbone 4, a consulting firm specialized in low-carbon strategies and adaptation to climate change. Carbone 4 assists its clients in developing robust and reliable climate strategies, based on the recommendations of the Net Zero Initiative and ADEME.