Our path from carbon neutral towards carbon reduction.
EDW group, comprising of EDW Technology and TEAM, is a market leader in delivering carbon management solutions. Our business has been helping customers manage their energy and reduce carbon emissions for many years, long before net zero became big news and of growing importance to our customers.
Implementing a net zero strategy provides long-term benefits to both the future of our business and our planet. As an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) environmental values are important to us, and we passionately believe that reducing carbon emissions should be a priority for all – individuals and businesses alike.
Becoming net zero is as important to us as it is to our customers, and we are proud that our energy consultancy team has been helping businesses work towards a net zero trajectory for many years.
By setting an example, we hope to encourage businesses throughout the UK to set more ambitious carbon reduction targets, which is increasingly expected by their customers, employees, and shareholders.
As a specialist in this field, we believe it is important to lead by example which is why we have set out two clear and ambitious objectives.
We have succeeded in our first objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2023.
The second objective is to reach net zero emissions by 2030.
Our approach to becoming net zero includes reducing our emissions along a 1.5°C trajectory, a commitment which we will publicly validate through the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi).
Our Carbon Reduction Strategy initiatives are based on best practice in energy management for our type of business, ensuring we maximise opportunities for energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction where possible. This is coupled with initiatives to remove barriers which currently prevent our employees from reducing their own carbon emissions associated with commuting and homeworking.
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.
Setting a baseline
Any net zero journey needs to start with an assessment of your baseline emissions. It is important to have a starting point, to be able to set your goal, plot how you are going to achieve it and to measure progress against.
So, to begin our journey, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of our business activities and energy usage to establish a baseline and identify the key sources of GHG emissions.
Our initial baseline was based on the calendar year 2019 as this was the last year of BAU operating before COVID impacted our operations and we moved to working from home. As with any carbon reduction strategy (CRS), the process is a journey, and we found that calculating our emissions over a calendar year, while commonly adopted, was much more challenging to get some of the data we needed as it did not align with our financial year.
So, to enable us to better measure and monitor our future emissions, we chose to revise the baseline from the 2019 calendar year to the financial year Nov-2018 to Oct-2019: an adjustment of 2 months. We then were able to calculate our emissions for the following three years, 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.
With any CRS there can be bumps in the road that help businesses learn from the process. Challenges that crop up help us to understand how to respond to problems and to foresee others that may need adapting in the strategy year by year. Some of those challenges included setting appropriate emissions factors and unexpected fugitive emissions.
Using the right emissions factors
In many cases, there is more than one emissions factor that could be utilised to account for the carbon emissions associated to different aspects of the business.
Choosing the wrong emissions factor can provide dramatic variations in the resulting emissions and therefore skew the emissions reporting for a business.
Failing to choose the right emissions factor, even if it reduces the level of emissions for a business activity, could potentially be seen as greenwashing and could discredit the business. Additionally, businesses not reporting using the correct emissions factors as part of their financial disclosures may be at risk of fines or penalties.
By working with the finance team to source accurate data and by making key updates to our data collection processes to align with emissions factors categories, we were able to make a full and honest assessment of our purchased goods and services. This in turn gave us an accurate assessment of our most recent annual emissions for 2021/22 and therefore the emissions we needed to offset to become carbon neutral.
The impact of fugitive emissions
Along the way, and during the very cold winter weather at the end of 2022, we had an unexpected issue with our building’s heating and air conditioning system. Whilst now fixed, and despite being regularly serviced, this was due to an undiscovered long-term refrigerant leak. The system had lost 9.5kg of refrigerant (R410A) resulting in emissions that have 2088 times more global warming impact than CO2 emissions. These kinds of leaks are known as fugitive emissions.
As this incident occurred in December 2022, it will show in our reporting for financial year 2022/23 which will be published at the end of this calendar year adding an extra 20 Tonnes of CO2e to our annual footprint. 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 purchased.
Why we chose carbon offsetting as part of our pathway to net zero
We have many strategies that will contribute to our pathway of net zero by 2030 but we recognise that there are areas of the business that we cannot yet reduce the emissions of, for example, the already sourced fuel for the diesel backup generator and our use of outsourced IT services.
Rather than ignore these sources of emissions, we decided to implement a carbon offset plan.
Our carbon footprint assessment gave us an accurate understanding of our emissions which enabled us to offset 100% of carbon emissions associated with the EDW Group for the last year and achieve our first target of becoming carbon neutral in 2023.
Realising this first goal so quickly represents a big step towards our net zero goal and demonstrates our commitment to our journey to get there.
With our baseline set and accurate data, our forecasting reports help us understand the fluctuations in emissions and will help us to hedge and secure carbon credits from the voluntary market for the future.
Working towards net zero
It is really important to monitor and measure emissions to keep us on track. As we have already experienced challenges can occur that impact the plan and we have to reassess to bring us back in line.
Our strategy to achieve our carbon reduction goals include a number of high-level initiatives that are organised as short-, mid- and long-term phases.
The short-term approaches include validating our strategy with The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and implementing more energy efficiency measures in our office alongside a green procurement plan.
To help us reduce carbon emissions related to purchased goods and services, the majority of our upstream Scope 3 emissions, we are planning to update our procurement policy. This will include an evaluation of the carbon emissions associated with purchases. Including reviewing the energy efficiency of equipment, lifespan and disposal of products for example as well as the carbon reduction strategies of our suppliers.
If implemented effectively, a green procurement policy can also help to reduce carbon emissions from multiple other categories besides purchased goods and services. The long-term ambition will be to work only with net zero suppliers where possible.
Medium to long-term plans will turn our attention to transitioning to net zero IT services, strategies to reduce water consumption and wastewater treatment, and initiatives to reduce employee commuting emissions including providing electric vehicle charging stations at our office.