As we hear more scientific evidence that global warming is destroying our planet, we should all take a closer look at our sustainability responsibilities and see them as an opportunity for good rather than a tick box exercise. It’s the right thing to do – for the good of the environment, for your business, your employees and for your clients.
Many businesses, like ours, have committed to become Net Zero, by adding no more greenhouse gases to the earth’s atmosphere than the amount we take out. Legislation for our industry to reduce carbon emissions is coming, and we want to be running ahead when it does land.
The benefits of becoming a Net Zero business go way beyond that target. It’s much further reaching than taking responsibility for your impact on the planet, although that should be enough of a driver. We are already finding that the process of working towards our target presents opportunities for our business, which I will come on to shortly.
For many businesses, simply knowing where to start is key. For us, working with Flotilla, which provides end to end climate reduction services via its Net Zero Platform, we now have a robust understanding of our carbon footprint and what actions we can take to mitigate it. We have set science-based targets and created an action plan that will be a benchmark for our progress. We all have a lot of work to do but it is manageable.
A good starting point is to calculate the equivalent in tonnes of greenhouse gas your business creates in a year. This is based on direct emissions from things you own, such as boilers, diesel used in company cars; emissions from the things bought, such as electricity used in the office; as well as indirect emissions from business travel, employee expenditure, procurement and waste. The latter, classified as Scope 3 emissions, is more difficult to measure, but not impossible, and it’s really important to include it as it can account for up to 80% of a business’ carbon footprint.
This exercise can lead to financial savings for businesses, too. In our first year of working towards Net Zero, we expect to make meaningful savings, for example in energy and travel expenditure, which we will reinvest in green technology.
Where there are unavoidable emissions, you can explore offsetting them through certified offsetting projects that are VERA-approved and are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have been supported by Flotilla in selecting quality international and UK schemes which match our company values, such as reducing poverty and gender equality, and we will also be planting the JMG forest – another opportunity to offset our carbon in a genuine scheme, which will also involve our teams in planting the trees.
This leads me to another key element and benefit of the process: employee consultation. Asking your employees for their input and ideas on how they would like to see the sustainability of the business improve, and incorporating their insights into the plan, helps to create buy in from the start. Your team is a hugely important part of the process, especially when you are a service-led business.
Empowering employees from the onset to become Net Zero champions is an important part of the journey. The feedback we received from our teams was compelling and overwhelmingly in favour of taking positive action to reduce the business’ impact on the environment – 99% of those who responded expressed a willingness to support the business to reduce emissions.
Another employee benefit comes in the shape of attracting new staff who share your values, vision and commitment to taking action. We, like many industries, are experiencing a serious talent challenge where staff retention and attraction are more vital than ever before. Ensuring employees remain engaged and committed as well as acting on our sustainability commitments and attracting the right candidates is critical.
Businesses should see ‘the green agenda’ as an opportunity, as well as playing a role in saving the planet. Embedding purpose in our company culture has been invaluable and very rewarding. Like everything in business, do it for the right reasons, do it properly and do it well. If you haven’t already set the wheels in motion and put plans in place, then ask yourself what is stopping you?