Our carbon expert and net zero strategy lead, Timothy Holman, answers questions about tackling our business carbon reduction strategy.
Why did you set a target of net zero by 2030 for the organisation?
Because it is the right thing to do, it is important for the future of our planet and important to all our employee owners that we are doing the absolute best we can to reduce our impact on the environment. We help a range of businesses with their energy and sustainability goals, encouraging them to set ambitious carbon targets that will not only make a real difference to the emissions in the UK but will bring positive business benefits. Because of this, we recognised the importance of addressing our own carbon footprint; for both setting a good example and proactively reducing our contribution to our customers’ scope 3 emissions.
How did the business tackle its carbon reduction strategy?
When businesses come to us to start their net zero journey, our team of energy consultants will typically follow a process starting with a scoping and baseline assessment, then setting reduction goals, identifying key areas for improvement and suggesting energy efficiency measures for implementation. The details involved in this process will differ for each business we work with because each has their own business objectives and internal infrastructure.
Our consultants went through this process to build a picture of our own carbon reduction strategy (CRS), which plans to reduce emissions ahead of a 1.5°C trajectory to net zero by 2030. Our carbon offsetting plan helped us achieve carbon neutrality this year and supports our long-term strategy.
Based on best practice in energy management for our type of business we planned initiatives to maximise our opportunities for energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction where possible. We also included initiatives that support colleagues to reduce their own carbon emissions associated with commuting and homeworking, a large part of our Scope 3 emissions.
What was involved to secure an accurate strategy?
All businesses need to start their net zero journey with a comprehensive assessment of GHG emissions and energy usage to establish a baseline and identify the key sources of emissions.
Because of the impact of COVID, we set out to look at a baseline period of 2019; our most accurate, recent, 12-month period of typical business activity.
It is common to set a baseline and reporting period as a calendar year, but we found that because our business financial year runs from November to October, it made it more challenging to get the data we needed. We decided to adjust the dates and shift our reporting period back by two months. Our baseline year is now matched to the accounting year of 2018/2019 and our ongoing reporting years will align to this.
Employee engagement is really important for a successful net zero plan. We’re an Employee-Owned business, environmental values are important to us collectively, becoming net zero is as important to us as it is for our customers. We conducted a comprehensive staff survey at the beginning of our journey to help us understand the difference between upstream employee commuting emissions and homeworking emissions and how each impacts the business. Our communications also helped us to be transparent about our own plans to achieve our goals.
A strategy like this brings more success when the whole business, from top to bottom, is engaged throughout the journey. To both help employees engage with our net zero journey and understand their impact on our overall emissions we conducted a staff survey. The survey gave us a broad appreciation of the challenges our staff face reducing their own homeworking emissions, as well as details of emissions from commuting and hybrid working. Plus, this engagement really helped garner full support for the journey from the business.
Were there any bumps in the road?
When implementing a carbon reduction strategy, there are often challenges for every business to face. Among them there could be financial constraints, complex supply chains, regulatory compliance and resistance to change.
We were presented with a challenge during our 22/23 reporting year when we discovered there was an issue with the building’s heating and cooling system. The system had leaked 9.5kg of refrigerant, of type R410A, resulting in emissions that have 2088 times more global warming impact than CO2. These kinds of leaks are known as fugitive emissions.
Although the leak was fixed quickly this incident will add an extra 20 Tonnes of CO2e to our annual footprint this year. When sourcing carbon offsets for this particular year we will have to factor this in and make the necessary adjustments to the number of credits we purchase.
With any CRS there are bumps in the road that help businesses learn from the process. Any type of challenge helps us to understand how to respond to problems and to foresee others that may need adapting to in the strategy year by year.
How do you ensure the validity of data across the business?
Careful consideration had to be made when categorising emissions factors to particular areas of the business. When wrong factors are chosen there can be dramatic variations in the resulting emissions and would therefore skew our emissions reporting. We were eager to avoid under- or overestimating our emissions. We are proud of our data accuracy for our customers so reporting on the correct emission factors is extremely important to us.
Our team worked closely with the finance team to ensure data was accurate. Additionally, the finance team made updates to their system to align with our emissions factors categories ensuring that we could make an accurate assessment of our purchased goods and services. This ensured the accuracy of our overall emissions calculations and subsequent offset credit purchase.
What does it mean that we are Carbon Neutral?
For many years, we have been helping businesses be more energy efficient, lower consumption costs, meet compliance obligations and, more recently, build a plan to remove emissions from their operations.
We find that many businesses feel overwhelmed by reducing carbon emissions across their operations and supply chains. As a consultancy which helps businesses start their net zero journey, we felt that it was important to lead by example and set about implementing an ambitious strategy and becoming carbon neutral sooner rather than later.
Whilst we do still have carbon emissions as part of our business, we have offset to compensate for them with four credible, global, projects that enable us to contribute to a positive effect on our climate years from now.
We chose projects that align with our businesses values around energy efficiency and supporting sustainable tech innovation. There is a domestic energy efficiency project in Rwanda, a wind power project in Rajasthan, a biomass power project in Chhattisgarh, India, and an energy and biodiversity restoration project in Honduras. Collectively our investment in these projects has helped save 333 tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere, as well as have positive impacts by supporting a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.