Turning carbon emissions into raw materials is proving to be a positive way for businesses to become carbon neutral and operate more sustainably.

In January 2020 Microsoft announced that it intends to become carbon negative by 2030, and that by 2050 it aims to have removed from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

This bold proclamation has highlighted the need for an urgent reassessment of our rapidly escalating carbon problem. The planet’s temperature is rising and it’s now clear that offsetting emissions to become carbon neutral is not enough – ‘negative’ has to be the new ‘neutral’ and brands must endeavour to actually remove more carbon emissions than they emit.

Carbon neutral is not enough; sustainable brands are aiming to be carbon negative and remove more carbon emissions than they emit #sustainability #carbonnegative Click To Tweet

Advances in technology mean that one way of achieving this is to take gas out of the air and use it as a resource. An example of this is carpet manufacturer Interface who reduced its carbon footprint from 20kg of carbon per square metre in 1996 to 7kg per square metre in 2016 through a focus on carbon neutrality.

However, with their Proof Positive tile prototype they went one step further. The tile is made from a material in which carbon is stored rather than released into the atmosphere, and has a negative carbon footprint that is achieved through design and manufacturing, and without purchasing carbon offsets. The company says that after the tile is made, there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if it had not been manufactured in the first place.

Based on a similar principle is Go Negative’s carbon-negative jewellery. The California-based company has developed a bracelet, which is made using captured atmospheric carbon. Each bead in the bracelet is a combination of atmospheric carbon and naturally sourced clay, bound together with natural fibres.

Also based in California is Newlight Technologies, which has developed carbon-negative plastic AirCarbon, which can be made to produce chairs, phone cases, and so on.

Other innovators are coming up with ways to convert air into drinking water, and even use carbon dioxide to make vodka.

Why does this matter?

There are a growing number of companies that, like Microsoft, are investing in different ways to reduce their carbon footprint and to create closed-loop design and manufacturing processes.

However, finding ways to commercialise storing carbon is a huge incentive for businesses to get behind innovation in this area, and to ultimately become climate positive by being carbon negative.

Back in 2018, Ikea made a global commitment to be a circular business built on clean, renewable energy and regenerative resources by 2030, without the use of offsets. It too has begun creating products that contain plant-based materials and consequently carbon that has been pulled from the atmosphere.

With eco anxiety now beginning to influence consumer purchasing behaviour, being proactive in this area is vital, and there are many who will be watching how Microsoft sets about achieving its goal.

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