When evaluating network infrastructure products and partners, IT and facility managers are increasingly prioritizing sustainability in their selection process, emphasizing the need for network infrastructure manufacturers to have a clear understanding of their own green practices and sustainability initiatives.

With the rise of sustainability initiatives, there are many different terms, which are used to describe different emissions management strategies. Carbon footprint reduction, carbon neutral, net zero, and ISO or PAS certifications are all terms that can be challenging to discern from one another. 

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of CO2, and other greenhouse gasses, released into the atmosphere from the activities of an individual, community, organization, or production. Reducing a carbon footprint must start with a clear accounting of all produced emissions throughout the different stages of the product life cycle — from raw materials to final transportation. From there, an organization can address emissions with reduction strategies.

What does carbon neutral mean?

Carbon neutral refers to a balance that organizations strike between produced emissions and offsets for those emissions. To achieve carbon neutral status, all the CO2 and greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere by an organization must first be accurately measured, then the emissions are offset through projects that avoid, remove, or absorb carbon. 

What is net zero?

Net zero is the balance between the continually emitted carbon emissions being equally removed or absorbed from the atmosphere to achieve a net value of zero. Net zero is achieved by both reducing emissions and implementing methods of removing and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Net zero goes beyond carbon neutral by incorporating and reducing all value chain greenhouse gas emissions into reduction and removal efforts by more than 90%, with the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 


Beyond these strategies, there are also certifications and adherence to environmental standards. These certifications in sustainability standards are a means to provide assurance that an organization is committed to maintaining sustainable practices. These may include certification in ISO 14001 Environmental Management, which are a set of standards to help reduce waste and protect natural resources. ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems is also a standard that assures the organization’s focus on monitoring and measuring continual improvements in environmental performance and energy efficiencies. For Leviton, its European manufacturing facility maintains carbon neutral certification through the British Standards Institution (PAS 2060) or the Carbon Neutral Protocol. This certification confirms that companies are taking the extra step to address climate change through carbon footprint reduction, while balancing any remaining carbon emissions through supporting other carbon reduction projects.

Ultimately, there are many sustainability strategies that approach different aspects of the climate crisis. Now, more than ever, it’s important for organizations to find and integrate a sustainability strategy that allows their businesses to improve efficiencies, reduce emissions, and protect our natural resources for generations to come.