In May 2019 the UK Government’s Climate Change Committee released a report recommending the UK cut greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050. This, combined with a change in public opinion on the matter means businesses can not ignore their contribution to climate change.
Whatever your size or business activity, you can contribute by reducing your Carbon Footprint.
All businesses use energy either in the manufacture of their product, the provision of their service or the support of their business activities.
It’s often thought that reducing energy use should be the objective, and while this is a positive step, it isn’t always the best measure. As a business grows, and increases its output, so too will the overall consumption.
Energy efficiency means using the optimum amount of energy to achieve the desired outcome. Cut out any unnecessary energy use and then optimise your business processes to use only the energy required.
This requires the ability to measure energy use at different points in the process, and on a per unit basis. There are many low cost tools that can do this, and the internet of things (IoT) will increase this network further.
Replacing Gas with Electric
It’s likely there will be a policy shift towards using electricity instead of gas, particularly for the heating of buildings.
Electricity can be sourced from sustainable and renewable sources such as solar panels, wind turbines or tidal farms.
Businesses don’t need to own their own renewable energy infrastructure, rather sourcing energy from sustainable suppliers.
Most businesses will produce a variety of waste streams.
As with energy, looking at business processes can help to identify areas that could be made more efficient. Some businesses adapt LEAN Principles to streamline their activities to reduce waste.
Separate Waste Streams
The phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was adopted many years ago and still stands as a good maxim today.
In its basic format, this can mean:
Reducing the amount of waste you produce by printing less, choosing suppliers with ethical packaging solutions, and even encouraging employees to bring their lunch in reusable lunch bags and boxes to reduce the waste of buying lunch from the shop.
Reusing packaging and other items where possible; for example, package things for your clients in the packaging provided by your supplier, re-upholster a chair that is comfortable but a bit worn, and extend the life of technical items such as screens by passing “retired” screens on to staff who won’t use them as often or for as long.
Recycling items responsibly where you cannot reuse them. For example, pass your old tech onto a charity for under-privileged schools, engage a contractor to responsibly dispose of furniture, and ensure your waste contractor takes all waste to an adequate separation plant (where as much material as possible is recycled).
Separating waste can also help you measure how much you’re producing; how many bags of general waste, how many crates of mixed plastic, and the weight of paper and card bales are all good indicators.
Many people need to travel on business, and as a minimum commute to a place of work each day.
Share the Commute: in some cities, there are now “express lanes” exclusively for cars with multiple occupancy. These are designed to encourage car-sharing, a concept that has multiple benefits including: less cars on the road (so less congestion and emissions), fuel cost and driving responsibility shared between colleagues, and reduced stress looking for a parking space (as there should be fewer cars in the car park!).
For most people, there is also the option to use public transport. There are a few positives to this including all those mentioned above. Additionally, you now have free time that would be unavailable if you were driving a car. This time can be used to catch up on work, relax with some entertainment (public transport often has free wifi – hello on-demand TV!), make arrangements for the weekend, or do some online shopping.
Another option for some is to cycle to work. Not only does this save on emissions and the costs of parking and fuel, but also helps keep you active – especially beneficial if you have a desk-based job role.
There are also options if you require staff to travel to other sites, visit clients or meet with new suppliers in person. If there are a number of potential meetings in the same area, schedule them together into one or a few consecutive days; this way the employee isn’t travelling backwards and forwards repeatedly, and could perhaps stay in a nearby hotel to avoid much travelling at all. Not only with this reduce emissions and fuel consumption, but will also be better for the employee’s wellbeing.
Air travel creates a large about of carbon, so where possible, use different methods of transport such as train lines.
Of course in the modern age we are blessed with a multitude of technical communication options which can be utilised to an organisation’s advantage. Instead of having meetings in person, consider using teleconferencing and screen sharing tools such as Skype.
As well as the changes you could make within your own business processes, the activities of your suppliers can make a difference to your carbon footprint and emissions. When choosing suppliers, take into account whether they use sustainable materials, if they use packaging ethically (is it recyclable? Do they use reams of plastic sheeting?), if they use environmentally aware couriers, and whether they comply to ESOS, Carbon Offsetting Schemes, or ISO14001.