Sustainability Business Services

If the recent headlines about forest fires, flash floods and other extreme weather events have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be taking proactive steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Businesses, in particular, have a responsibility to decarbonise and support efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. James Staniforth founded Sustainable Business Services to help organisations go green and here, he tells us why it pays to be sustainable.

Small and medium sized businesses make up 99.9% of the UK’s business population, so it’s imperative they get on board with the sustainability agenda if we are to avert the worst effects of the climate emergency.  

The fact we are calling it an emergency underscores the need for businesses to act now to reduce their carbon footprint and support the collective effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, as per the Paris Agreement.  

“If we go over 1.5 degrees, we’re making changes to the world that are irreversible,” says James Staniforth, Founder and Director of Sustainable Business Services.  

The problem is, if you’re a small business owner, you might think you don’t have the time or resources to make changes to your business that would reduce your emissions.  

You might be too busy delivering your products and services, managing your staff and keeping a close eye on your bottom line to put in place a new system that cuts carbon and protects the environment.  

Well, according to James and a growing number of business leaders from former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, you actually can’t afford not to become a sustainable business.  

Legislative changes 

James says: “The government has set a net-zero 2050 target with an updated pledge to make about 75 to 78% of the reductions by 2030.  

“Ministers can only achieve that by working with businesses and they’ll do that through legislation, some of which will be carrot, and some will be stick.” 

We are only at the beginning of the legislation that will be introduced to get the UK to net-zero by 2050, but already we are seeing changes that will have major cost implications for businesses.  

Many public sector contracts, for example, are now stipulating as part of the procurement process that if you want to be a supplier, you must have a plan in place for getting to net-zero that is aligned to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign.  

That’s not to mention the government’s ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, which will have huge implications for the automotive sector, and the ban on new gas boilers by 2025, which will heavily impact the energy and property sectors.   

Plans for the introduction of a new tax associated to your business’ carbon output (a carbon tax) have also been mooted numerous times.  

“That’s very much stick,” says James. “But it will absolutely drive change within an organisation, they’ll be incentivised to reduce their footprint.” 

Why it pays to be sustainable 

In addition to legislation that could raise the costs of doing business for carbon emitting companies, another reason why it pays to be sustainable is the efficiency and cost savings on energy, transport, water and waste that becoming a sustainable business can bring.  

One good example is switching to 100% renewable energy to power your business. This can often reduce costs while reducing emissions at the same time.  

James says: “It’s our job as a sustainability partner for our clients to help them become more efficient, to reduce costs and effectively get the money out of their business that they use to pay for our services.  

“We try to make it as close to cost-neutral as possible.”  

For companies looking for investment, it also pays to be sustainable because, increasingly, investors are looking to put money into areas that are going to drive the transition to a low carbon economy.  

The financial industry is getting behind the sustainability agenda to safeguard its investments for the future, meaning better access to finance for eco-conscious companies.  

James adds: “Thinking about sustainability from a new business start-up’s perspective is the right thing to do because they will get access to more and better finance.  

“More than ever, investors want to invest in sustainable businesses. One for their own reasons but there is also research out there that says businesses that have sustainability bedded into their culture are ones that will succeed and are better risks for investors as well.”  

The four Ps 

Sustainable Business Services helps companies take control of their carbon emissions in a number of ways.  

The first thing they do is work with a business to quantify their total carbon footprint i.e. carbon accounting.   

James explains: “There’s something called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which advises on how you build a business’ emissions data and associated to that are some emissions factors that are published by the government annually.  

“We use those resources to accurately calculate a business’ carbon footprint.  

“We use a couple of systems where we feed in everything from the energy consumption of the business, the number of miles staff have travelled per vehicle, whether the vehicle is petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric, the amount of waste being produced by the business etc., until we have all the emissions factors and can provide an accurate calculation.”  

Once James and the team have done their carbon accounting, they will then work with the business and provide a report on how it can proactively reduce its footprint.  

The report is aligned to the UN Race to Zero campaign’s four Ps – pledge, plan, proceed, publish.  

James explains: “The first P is to make a pledge that is aligned with the Paris Agreement – making sure your emissions will enable the 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures.  

“You then need to put in place a plan and that plan is based on the data we’ve collected about your business looking over the short, medium and long term, because some of the changes you will have to make will require long-term structural investment.” 

Once you have your plan, you then need to proceed in taking immediate action towards reducing your emissions and commit to publishing regular reports against interim and long-term targets so that you stay accountable and on track.  

Act now to save the future 

Ahead of COP26 in November when world leaders will come together to discuss the global response to climate change, it has never been more urgent for businesses to take action and reduce their impact on the environment.  

James says: “The business owner who thinks their impact is small, that making changes won’t make a difference and that the cost and time to do so is more than it’s worth, is wrong.  

“Climate change is happening before our very eyes right now. There is no questioning it. The science backs up what we can see, and thankfully big businesses and government are now getting on board.” 

Key takeaways:  

Richard Dawson
Article by Richard Dawson
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