Corporate Greening

Corporate emissions account for 17% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Cutting this figure is crucial if we are to achieve net zero by 2050 or even sooner. But how can a business of any size and type, with varying resources, go green? Here, Dr Graham Ault, Executive VP of Smarter Grid Solutions shares six top tips for building low carbon sustainability into your business.

With the conclusion of COP26, world leaders have departed Glasgow keenly aware of the tasks that lie ahead to cut global emissions and avoid more than 1.5 degrees of warming.

Action is needed at a governmental level to set the targets, but we are all part of this global effort, and meeting international targets requires local action as well.

Here are six areas where you can green your business and play your part.

  1. Track your emissions

It’s impossible to cut your emissions if you don’t know where they come from. Conduct a carbon footprint audit encompassing all aspects of your company’s energy uses and other carbon sources.

This should include any direct combustion processes, the energy consumption of your premises, business travel, your employees’ travel to and from work, the energy required to produce your goods or services and the carbon embedded in your supply chain.

The Carbon Trust guide to creating a footprint is very helpful and the GHG Protocol emissions calculation tool makes things a little easier. 

But, with a simple carbon checklist and some spreadsheet capabilities, the DIY route can also yield significant insights and put you on a path towards lower carbon. 

  1. Design a carbon reduction plan

Once you know your pain points, put that knowledge into action. Implementing a ‘carbon reduction plan’ or ‘sustainability strategy’ into your business means identifying steps you can proactively take to reduce your carbon footprint.

There are many tools and templates online that can help; with a little research you can choose one best-suited to the size and nature of your business. Commonly used examples include the Sustainability Balanced Scorecard and The Sustainable Business Model Canvas.

Don’t be put off from trying because you are a small or medium-sized business. Since we began calculating our carbon footprint at Smarter Grid Solutions in 2019, we’ve cut our emissions from an estimated 224 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (tCO2e) to 76 tCO2e estimated to the end of 2021: a significant drop aided by coronavirus restrictions on business travel, a major component of our footprint.

We modelled a plan to sustain a 50% reduction in our footprint from 2022 onwards using science-based targets. This reporting includes estimating new areas of carbon including our supply chain and those changes to hybrid (home and office) working caused by the pandemic.

For example, most of our employees were heating their own homes most of the working days in winter months – something you must take into account if your workforce has moved to hybrid or fully remote working.

  1. Only buy 100% renewable energy

One of the simplest steps you can take to slash your carbon footprint almost overnight is to switch your energy supplier. If you aren’t already sourcing your energy from renewables, now is the time to make a change. Use tools like Simple Switch or Compare the Market to help find the best deal for your business. 

But be warned: not all ‘green contracts’ are the same. Some suppliers offset energy produced from fossil fuels by planting trees and market these plans as ‘green’. This is viewed by some as a form of ‘greenwashing’ and doesn’t solve the problem of reducing how much energy is produced from fossil fuels in the immediate term.

Make sure the supplier you choose guarantees 100% of the energy your business consumes comes from renewable resources. There are good sources of guidance available on the quality of ‘green’ electricity supplies and the pros and cons of offsetting.

We share this not to confuse but simply to arm you with some of the information you will need in the years to come as you head for a true net zero carbon business.

  1. Generate your own green energy and switch to low carbon heating

Perhaps the best way to guarantee your electricity is 100% renewable is to generate your own. Installing solar panels possibly with storage batteries can not only cut carbon emissions long-term but also potentially reduce your energy bills.

Switching heating and processes from natural gas to electricity can also provide a useful way to reduce your carbon footprint, especially as grid electricity gets greener year-on-year.

Installing solar panels is more likely to be an option for larger companies with premises that can accommodate the equipment. Our customers connect onsite renewables and other low carbon technologies through a distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) that lets them track their energy generation and consumption and automate their efficient operation and also enable access to value streams in the grid and market.

For instance, with onsite solar panels and a storage battery, a company can minimise the import from the grid, sell surplus energy to the electricity grid at peak times, track their carbon reductions and generate additional savings and income.

  1. Perform a green check-up on your supply chain

It’s easy to forget the impact of your supply chain on your company’s carbon footprint. When conducting your carbon footprint audit, take into account the carbon credentials of your suppliers.

Can they tell you their carbon footprint and have they put in place a carbon reduction strategy and plan of their own? Do they have techniques for reducing fuel consumption, such as the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) driver instruction, or plans to switch to EVs?

Engage with your suppliers to work collaboratively to improve sustainability. Ideally, they (and you) adopt a circular supply chain model which reduces waste or cuts it completely by recycling or sending waste products back to manufacturers to use in production. 

  1. Sign-up to the SME Climate Pledge

The SME Climate Pledge is a commitment companies make to work together to meet net zero by 2050. Businesses that sign up commit to regularly reporting their emissions, putting strategies in place to eliminate carbon from their operations and neutralize any remaining emissions that cannot be eradicated with credible, ethical offsets.

Resources are available to help signatories stick to their commitment, from setting targets to contributing to local climate action. 

Tackling climate change is a global effort, requiring action from all businesses, big and small. By taking tangible steps to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, not only will you boost your environmental credentials, but you will impress customers too: 81% of people prefer to buy from sustainable businesses. 

We work to help companies integrate and manage renewable energy into their operations, but we are still on our own path to net zero. Every action makes a difference. Making the commitment is the first step, estimating your footprint the next and the precursor to implementing a robust carbon reduction action plan.

Key takeaways:

Dr Graham Ault
Contributed by Dr Graham Ault
Richard Dawson
Article by Richard Dawson
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