Understanding your impact

The Extinction Rebellion protests have done much to raise the profile of climate change. As individuals, we’re doing more than ever before to minimise our impact on the planet, but what about your business? In this article Will Richardson, of environmental consultancy Green Element, provides some simple ways you can assess the environmental impact your business is having and suggests some simple ways you can change the you work to improve the planet

In July 2017 CDP published an article headlined, ‘New report shows just 100 companies are source of over 70% of emissions’; the piece explored the importance of businesses reducing their own carbon footprints. Clearly, businesses have a large role to play in carbon emissions, not only in polluting, but also in reversing the effects of climate change. The CPD report demonstrates the need for businesses to be transparent and report their carbon emissions.  By taking a few simple steps you can begin your journey into being a sustainable and ethical business – which is pivotal in avoiding irreversible climate change.

We must act now. Here are 10 ways you can measure your environmental impact – and make a change.

  1. Assess where you are

To begin the process, measure your current carbon footprint. You can compare your footprint by using an online tool which will do this for you. All you need to do is input your data (water, electricity, gas, waste, travel, procurement etc.) – the tool does the rest for you. A report will be generated telling you where you are now and how you need to proceed. Instead of spending time and money on monitoring and reporting, the tool enables you to use your resources in reducing your footprint.

To begin the process, measure your current carbon footprint.
  1. Switch to renewable energy with REGO certificates

REGOs – or renewable energy guarantees of origin – ensure that the origin of energy supplied to you is renewably sourced. Energy suppliers will match this with the estimated consumption of your business. Opting for this is a great way to ensure that your business’ carbon footprint reduces. Emissions for electricity will be zero using the greenhouse gas (GHG) protocol market-based calculation method.

  1. Investing in waste facilities

Implementing signage to help guide people as to what items go in which bin is vital and this can be provided by the waste company you use. Having a conversation with them can help a business understand what can and can’t be recycled. A wide array of different bin types is available online, which vary by colour, size, lid, etc. Investing in this is a must; it will help increase recycling rates, meaning less waste ends up landfill – thus reducing carbon footprint. Electrical and hazardous waste should also be disposed of properly, and many waste contractors have the facilities to take this.

Having a conversation with them can help a business understand what can and can’t be recycled.
  1. Ensuring food waste bins are available in kitchens and canteens

Food waste can be an issue, particularly if your business has a canteen serving fresh food every day. Check with your waste contractor that it is possible for a food waste collection. Ensure that kitchen staff are trained and aware on the issue, and provide proper facilities, both in kitchens, and in dining rooms and canteens for employees to dispose of any waste they may have.

  1. Energy-efficient lighting that incorporates automatic switch offs
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Changing lighting across a building to more energy-efficient options, such as LED, can make a big difference; it is a quick win with long lasting effects. There is also a range of technology available, such as sensors which will automatically ensure lights are switched off if movement ceases. Dimmable lights are another method of ensuring that lights aren’t at their brightest maximum when not required. This should also help reduce electricity costs.

  1. Print less

This step is a no-brainer. Many offices consume vast amounts of paper. Printing less can be implemented from digitised contract signings, to avoiding printing emails and presentations – you can annotate on screens instead. If printing is required, ensure double sided printing is set as a default. Having ‘follow me’ printing services across office printers can also help cut down any accidental or unnecessary printing as options can be altered at the time of printing.

  1. Minimise business travel

Business travel can often make up over half of many business’ carbon emissions. Cutting travel down, especially if meetings can be held over Skype and video conferencing, can make a huge difference here. Not only will this cut emissions, cutting down transport costs can also save your business a lot of money.

  1. Insulate your building

A business’ space can be dynamic, and there all sorts of technology can be implemented to ensure a robust and efficient future. Implementing temperature controls, ensuring heating and air conditioning are timed correctly, and according to outside air temperatures, can minimise people over-heating or cooling whilst at work. Ensuring that temperature controls are minimal during the night is also important. Any heating and cooling technology should be regularly maintained for optimum performance. Finally, this will also reduce energy bills.

  1. Procure sustainably sourced items

This could be as simple as buying sustainably sourced paper and other stationery. Buying recycled paper, instead of primary production, reduces carbon emissions as stipulated by the GHG Protocol. Phasing out certain items, such as plastic mechanical pencils, and only providing the more ‘classic’ pencils is another small step. Indeed, if your business has a large supply chain, then it is important to ensure that sustainability is fed right through.

  1. Engagement!

Getting people on board can be one of the biggest challenges that businesses face. However, with current events such as the Extinction Rebellion protests and consumer shifts, more people are beginning to talk about protecting our planet. Your company can easily get involved too. Try organising a team of ‘champions’ to run green initiatives and engagement pieces. This will spark the discussion and build awareness. Putting on events or competitions amongst employees and having a sustainability week or ‘earth hour’, can help too.  It is important to highlight the impact that not recycling or turning off electric appliances has on individuals – if staff are aware of the reasoning behind actions, they are more likely to comply.

This list provides just some of the steps a business can take to reduce carbon emissions and play their part in driving change. Businesses are pivotal change-makers and influencers on the road to a cleaner future, and now is the best time to act. Investing in change now will also reduce costs for the business – it’s a win-win situation.

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