8 tips to making your office more eco-friendly

Often, when you think about going green, the immediate consideration is about reducing your carbon emissions. Other quick thoughts may include riding your bike more, using public transportation, being stricter with your recycling, and so on and so forth. But have you ever thought about making your office eco-friendlier? There are so many ways of converting your office in to an environmentally friendly one, and here are some tips to help you along the way.

  1. Print only when you must

This is probably a message that you have seen countless times at the end of nearly every mail. However, most people still print out documents more than they should, even when there is absolutely no need to do so. Your best alternative is to use cloud-based storage as it is very easy to save, share and access files on Google Drive. Keep in mind that this will also make you appear much more tech savvy.

  1. Reducing your power bills

With modern technology, you can now purchase energy-saving gadgets which automatically turn off every time you leave the office. Light controllers and instinctive building management systems simplify this task even more. An extra benefit that comes with reducing energy utilisation is the money you can save on power and electricity bills.

  1. Encouraging a greener lifestyle

You should encourage your workers and colleagues to live an eco-friendly way of life that goes beyond the office. Just like any aspect of life, it is very easy to go green when you incorporate the idea into your life compared to a forced change where you commit one little aspect of your routine to it. While switching to an eco-friendly office setting might appear a big challenge at first, you will soon appreciate how rewarding the process can be, both financially and morally.

  1. Create a sustainability team in the office

A sustainability team can help to create more awareness and accomplish other missions in the quest to developing a green office. The team can take up projects such as designing an eco-friendly office refurbishment, starting or facilitating a more efficient recycling program, or being part of purchasing decisions for energy-efficient appliances and safe cleaning supplies.

  1. Start monthly environmental competitions

Monthly team competitions can be an enjoyable way of combining teamwork with creating an environmentally friendly office. For instance, you can challenge the workforce to go one month without driving to work, with the person who lasts the longest receiving a day off or a similar work based incentive.

  1. Bring a desk plant

If you can, conduct some natural office refurbishment and bring a plant into the office to enhance indoor air quality in the office space. Plants can produce more oxygen which offsets any chemicals emitted by new office furniture, making a safer and happier office space for your employees to work in.

  1. Utilise natural light

It is a well-known fact that employees who sit near windows have a higher work rate than those who don’t. Natural light controls your body’s circadian rhythms, digestion, and absorbing vitamin D. However, indoor light can be a major disruptor. During your office refurbishment, you should make sure that you move workstations to within 25 feet of peripheral walls that have windows.

You should rely more on the natural light to save energy. You can also opt to installing a better power strip in the workstation, swapping lighting equipment with LED light, and using timers and sensors for office lighting. This will help you to reduce the energy used and costs on your utility bills.

  1. Switch to energy-saving computers

Starting with new computers that have the Energy Star label is very important. You should then set them to operate as economically as possible. You can also use power-management options in the operating system of your computer. Set the monitor to turn off in cases of inactivity, and set the desktop systems to hibernate at the end of the day when the employees are gone. Smart power management can single-handedly save a lot of energy in the office which is in line with shifting to an environmentally friendly office.

An environmentally friendly office can help breathe new life in to your business on the inside whilst creating a positive reputation for yourselves on the outside. If you’re serious about creating an eco-friendly office, then these tips can set you up perfectly.

 

Author: Carly Chandra – Business Development Manager at Saracen Interiors in London

Clean Growth Strategy: What does it mean for businesses?

The long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy has been released on 12 October, and sets out ambitious plans by the UK Government on how to accelerate clean growth, and meet national climate goals and the fifth carbon budget.

The 165-page document covers policies and proposals ranging from green finance, building energy efficiency, low carbon heating, electric vehicles and renewable technology. Having green growth at the centre of an industrial strategy aims to boost the economy and productivity across the country, whilst protecting the climate and environment for a sustainable future.

First scheduled for release in 2016, the EU referendum vote and the 2017 General Election meant the plan was published ten months after expected. It changed its name from  Emissions Reduction Plan to Clean Growth Plan, and finally to Clean Growth Strategy. But does it meet the expectations of growing the nation as a low carbon economy, and what exactly does it mean for businesses?

Business and Industry make up 25% of all UK emissions, and the plan looks to “develop a package of measures to support businesses to improve their energy productivity, by at least 20%by 2030”. Here is an overview of a few of the measures aimed to benefit the productivity of businesses in the UK.

Energy efficiency

The plan states that the Government is determined to unlocking potential energy savings for businesses, to improve their productivity and competitiveness. Their analysis has shown that through investment in cost-effective energy efficiency technologies, up to £6 billion could be saved in 2030. They aim to do this by improving the energy efficiency of new and existing commercial buildings and simplifying the requirements to measure and report on energy use to help identify where to reduce the cost of energy bills. They will build on existing schemes such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), and consult on new reporting frameworks to replace others.

The ambitious Industrial Energy Efficiency scheme will look to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and bills, including decarbonisation road maps for seven industries that are operationally carbon intensive, such as chemicals, paper and pulp, farming, and food and drink. New technologies such as carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) and switching to low carbon fuels such as sustainable biomass will be required by industry to meet carbon reduction targets, with Government providing the framework for doing so.

Low-carbon transport

Transport makes up 24% of UK emissions, and to meet targets, “almost every car and van will need to be zero emission by 2050”. An Automotive Sector Deal will be developed in collaboration with Government and industry to increase the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, and to ensure a continuing thriving automotive sector. The plan boldly aspires for the UK to be one of the best electric vehicle (EV) charging networks in the world. This means that workplaces will have additional charging support.

Business and their supply chains will be reviewed to find more cost-effective options for shifting more freight from road to rail. Urban areas will be addressed to include low emission rail freight for deliveries, with zero emission last mile deliveries and reduced Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) journeys to deliver significant fuel and emissions savings.

Natural resources

As negotiations continue following the vote to leave the EU, improving our natural environment and delivering better outcomes means land and agriculture have a significant role to play. The future of farming will be supported by Government through a new agri-environment system, maximising the value extracted from resources and ensuring minimal negative impacts. £99 million will be invested in new research and technology, focusing on agri-tech, land use, greenhouse gas removal technologies, waste and resource efficiency.

A new Resources and Waste Strategy will be published to position the UK as a world leader for competitiveness, resource productivity and resource efficiency, with an ambitious goal to transition to zero avoidable waste by 2050. Government will also launch a “Green Great Britain”, working with businesses and civil society week to promote clean growth.

Innovation

The plan states that £162 million of public funds will be invested in research and innovation in Energy, Resource and Process efficiency. This includes driving down the cost of new technologies and increasing the commercial viability of them. £14 million of further investment will be made to the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund to support innovative energy technologies and processes, to boost competitiveness, improve job growth and promote new technologies in low-carbon businesses and supply chains.

The Clean Growth Strategy has shown the Government’s ambitious plans and policies to grow a low carbon economy in the UK. As we wait to see whether this bold vision lives up to expectations, businesses are already on track to meeting these goals with sustainability at the heart of many core strategies.

ESOS compliance & ISO 50001 – which is the best route for you?

With ESOS Phase 2 appearing on the horizon, many businesses are beginning to consider what their most effective route to compliance is. With the three routes to compliance that were primarily used by qualifying businesses for ESOS Phase 1 expected to remain broadly similar for Phase 2, and the timeline for compliance taking anywhere up to 12 months, now is the time for businesses to decide which routes suit them the most.

What routes were used for Phase 1?

1.    In-house audits

A limited number of organisations, predominantly those with experienced, qualified energy professionals, chose to perform the energy efficiency audits mandated by ESOS in-house, before obtaining external Lead Assessor (LA) sign off and notifying the Environment Agency.

Whilst cost effective, the drawback to this route is that given everything was performed in house, any opportunities identified during the exercise would inherently have already been known to the business, limiting the usefulness of the entire endeavour.

2.    Outsource energy efficiency audits and Lead Assessor sign off to a consultancy

The majority of businesses chose to outsource energy efficiency audits to external consultancies with greater levels of expertise in energy management. This option also required businesses to obtain LA sign off before notifying the EA of their compliance.

The main advantage to selecting this route was that businesses gained an outside perspective and were able to identify energy/cost saving opportunities that they may not have previously been aware of. Selecting this route to compliance also meant that businesses could achieve compliance in relatively short time periods (i.e. < 3 months) – crucial given that many organisations didn’t identify the need to comply until close to the deadline.

3.    Establish an ISO 50001 Energy Management System (EnMS)

The final route to compliance for ESOS Phase 2, implementing a fully certified ISO 50001 EnMS, was predominantly chosen by the most proactive businesses given the slightly longer timescales involved – designing, implementing and certifying an EnMS generally takes 6-12 months from start to finish. Indeed, many of those who utilised ISO 50001 as a route to compliance would likely have already had the system in place pre-ESOS.

With many businesses now aware of Phase 2 far earlier than they were of Phase 1, we anticipate a larger proportion of businesses will utilise ISO 50001 as their route to compliance.

Why would I choose ISO 50001?

ISO 50001 provides businesses with a globally recognised framework for managing and improving energy performance. As such, it goes beyond the opportunity identification stage mandated by ESOS and facilitates continual improvement in energy management. Put simply, ISO 50001 goes above and beyond the requirements of ESOS.

The advantages to selecting ISO 50001 include:

  • Increased focus on energy performance at all levels of the organisation
  • Reduction in energy usage, carbon footprint and associated costs through continual improvement
  • Easy demonstration of sustainability credentials to stakeholders
  • Development of energy-related policies, targets and objectives
  • Provision of a business-wide framework that efficiently facilitates savings across multiple sites
  • Increased senior management buy in

Straight forward integration with existing management system, such as ISO 14001 or ISO 9001

Where to start

If you decide that ISO 50001 is the most effective route to compliance for your organisation then the next steps will vary depending on your current position:

  1. We have an ISO 50001 EnMS that is valid on the compliance date and covers >90% of our energy consumption – All you need to do is get a board level director to confirm they have reviewed the findings of your ISO 50001 and that the information being submitted is correct. Once this is done, you can make a notification to the Environment Agency online.
  2. We have an ISO 50001 EnMS but it covers less than 90% of total energy consumption – In this situation, you have 2 options: 1) expand the scope of your EnMS to cover at least 90% of your energy consumption (remember this includes transport as well as building energy) or 2) combine your EnMS with additional ESOS energy audits that takes the percentage of energy covered beyond 90%.
  3. We don’t have an ISO 50001 EnMS but we do have an ISO 14001 EMS – The good news is that integrating an ISO 50001 EnMS with an ISO 14001 EMS is generally quicker than establishing an EnMS from scratch due the overlap of many of the requirements of each, such as identifying compliance obligations etc. You should start with a gap analysis to identify the elements of crossover between the EnMS and the EMS and establish what additional policies and processes you  need to implement to integrate the two systems. Remember to ensure that your ISO 50001 covers at least 90% of your total energy consumption!
  4. We don’t have any management systems in place – There are a number of preparatory steps towards establishing an EnMS that you can take now including developing an energy policy (including commitment from top management), identifying a management representative, deciding on your EnMS boundaries and so on. Once the preparation is complete, you can get started on implementing your EnMS by establishing an energy baseline, identifying performance indicators and undertaking energy reviews to identify significant energy uses and opportunities for improvement. Carbon Smart can help you at every stage of this journey.

There’s little doubt that choosing ISO 50001 as your route to ESOS compliance will have the most beneficial impact on your businesses long term energy performance and sustainability aspirations. You should note that consequently the timelines involved can be slightly longer; design and implementation usually takes between 6 to 12 months. In order to fully realise the massive potential benefits of ISO 50001 adoption before the Phase 2 deadline, its crucial that you get started as soon as possible.

 


To get a copy of our ESOS Phase 2 guide, pop in your email address in the window on the right or simply get in touch if you have any questions 020 7048 0450 / esos@carbonsmart.co.uk

Plastic packaging alternatives – what should you procure?

Plastic, one of the most useful and versatile materials, but also one of the most unsustainable and environmentally damaging. A 2016 study from the World Economic Forum states that each year, over 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one rubbish truck into the ocean every minute. If this current pattern continues, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Majority of plastic takes centuries to decompose in the environment and once in the ocean, leach potentially toxic chemicals such as bispenol A and hydrocarbons, which are harmful to not only marine life, but other organisms within the food chain, including humans (National Geographic). Marine species including seals, dolphins and whales are significantly impacted by plastic pollution, with an estimate from Plymouth University stating at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution.

The awareness to how detrimentally damaging this material is, is slowly increasing with many companies now taking a stand against un-necessary plastics in their supply chains. Sustainability leaders, such as Sky, have started to remove plastic from their canteen as part of their Ocean Rescue campaign. Increasingly, we see businesses looking to understand how they too can do their bit to minimise the use of plastics, yet not sure where to start.

With nearly half of the global plastic produced used for packaging, it is as good as any place to start with reducing and minimising the use of single-use plastic packaging – the type of plastic most likely to end up polluting our oceans.

There are now a number of sustainable packaging companies that produce alternative products made from plant-based materials (such as Poly-Lactic Acid), an alternative that looks and feels exactly like plastic) or kraft paper products. Not only can these products be disposed of via a number of different routes, for example either straight in the mixed recycling (kraft paper based products) or in the compost/food waste bin (sugar cane and PLA based products), they also decompose at a much quicker rate than any plastic product, making them considerably less environmentally damaging.

But which sustainable packaging products are good? And who produces the best products? Carbon Smart has taken the opportunity to review a selection of products from three companies: Vegware, Biopac and GreenGate. We’ve focused on compostable products, that can be used for takeaways, such as alternatives to the plastic salad boxes used in office canteens and plastic cutlery.

 

Compostable cutlery

Conversations with our clients have led us to believe that compostable cutlery seem to have a bad reputation – always breaking and not performing as well as their plastic counterparts.  However, if you have already been trialling out the lower carbon intensive compostable takeaway boxes, you may be experiencing the same challenge we often face – employees will dispose of their compostable boxes in the correct waste stream, but will leave their plastic cutlery inside the box, i.e. leading to contamination. We think it’s about time we test out the alternative cutlery options ourselves to see if one of three compostable companies we’ve chosen has a good, robust product.

The best alternative to plastic cutlery we found is the  RCPLA cutlery sourced from Vegware. RCPLA, standing for recycled compostable PLA, is  an incredibly low carbon alternative to other compostable cutlery (CPLA – compostable PLA cutlery), with Vegware stating that these products contain 51% less carbon than new PLA. The cutlery is durable and sturdy, and  performs just as well as plastic cutlery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CPLA (left) vs. RCPLA in Vegware’s black colour (right)

 

The compostable cold cup:

A huge contributor to the single-use plastic waste often seen for large businesses is the plastic cup. With many different uses, sizes and shapes, the plastic cup is incredibly versatile.

With PLA cold cups looking and feeling exactly the same as their plastic counterparts, the samples that stood out from all companies tested were the cups displaying slogans. The slogans provide enough information for employees using these cups to realise that they are not made from plastic, and therefore, help to overcome the challenge of correct after use disposal.

A good example is the PLA cold cup sourced from Biopac:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternatives to the plastic salad box:

There are a number of different alternatives to the typical plastic salad takeaway box, ranging from the clear PLA container to the 100% kraft box. In comparison to the compostable takeaway boxes mentioned earlier as the cutlery’s new sidekick, the salad boxes are only used for cold food. They need to be leak proof, durable and compete with plastic products.

The kraft boxes were chosen by the Carbon Smart team as the best alternatives, with the main reason being they are more obviously a compostable product in comparison to the PLA lunch container that looks and feels exactly like plastic. Vegware, Biopac and Greengate all produce good kraft box products:

Vegware (top left), Biopac (top right) and GreenGate (bottom)

 

The main challenge for compostable products is their after-use disposal. The products highlighted in this blog  as the best alternatives have been chosen because they are of the higher quality products on the market, and they also stand out as being compostable.

With so many compostable products on the market that can rival any plastic product, businesses now have the opportunity to review their current procurement decisions and make the change to compostable alternatives. Businesses should be the first to make the swap to single-use plastic alternatives and start to become the solution to  the current global problem of plastics and the detrimental impact they have on the environment. Now armed with this review, is there any other excuse?

 

Could the EU NFRD have prevented the BBC pay scandal?

In July 2017, the BBC made headline news when the sheer scale of their gender pay gap was revealed. The revelation that the top 7 earners were men, and that only a third of the top 96 earners were women, shocked many and came in for fierce criticism. After all, if gender inequality is currently woven into the BBC’s framework, a trusted and publicly-funded organisation who are perceivably far more accountable to stakeholders than the majority of their competitors, then it begs the question; how can companies be urged to be more transparent in the way they treat their employees?

How did this gender pay gap slip under the radar for so long? Gender inequality across salaries has long been something spoken about, however, it has traditionally been hard to pin point where it is happening. There is a relatively obvious solution to this problem. Companies that report on non-financial issues, such as diversity and gender equality, can address them, as the matter is out in the open and organisations can be held to account. Indeed, issues such as these may well be something that companies themselves do not realise, until they are forced to report on it and are thus made aware of it. The key therefore to solving this issue is to ensure that organisations increase transparency to their stakeholders.

There are several ways in which large companies in the UK are now being driven into transparency, one of them being the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive (EU NFRD). Introduced by the EU in 2014, the EU NFRD aims to improve the transparency and consistency of non-financial disclosures by large businesses.

Click here to download the free EU NFRD guide

 

What is EU NFRD?

The EU NFRD was introduced by the EU in early 2014 and transposed into UK law in late 2016. The EU NFRD applies to all financial years starting on or after 1st January 2017. It is now mandatory for public interest entities (including listed companies, insurance undertakings and financial institutions with over 500 employees) to report on five key matters:

  • environmental
  • social
  • employee
  • human rights
  • anti-corruption and bribery.

Specifically, companies will be required to report on (for each of the five non-financial matters) policies which they have set out and the outcomes of the derived policies. Where no policies have been pursued, the company must offer a full explanation for why this is the case. This Directive compliments a number of other non-financial reporting-focused legislative requirements introduced over the past few years such as the Modern Slavery Act. However, questions remain around how companies will choose to comply with the legislation and whether the NFRD will be enough to make transparency and accountability an integral part of large businesses.

How can the EU NFRD bring about transparency?

As companies begin to start (or improve) reporting on non-financial matters, and transparent reporting becomes the norm, rather than exception, within the business community, it will start to become obvious which matters organisations have addressed and which they haven’t. The way these key non-financial matters are addressed is very important because it could begin to have a catastrophic impact on companies’ reputation.

Companies have the choice to reveal all or state why they are not reporting on specific matters, however it’s not likely to reflect well on a business if it they freely admit they are doing nothing to tackle social issues, such as gender inequality. Given the qualification thresholds, as public interest entities begin to report on these matters, other non-qualifying companies risk being left behind and also risk a reputational shadow being cast upon them thanks to assumptions made by the public based on their choice not to disclose. It is essential that companies understand and address the requirements in the EU NFRD to ensure transparency of reporting, and ultimately, tackle these non-financial risks.

 

To learn more about the EU NFRD, what it requires and who is caught by it, download a copy of our free EU NFRD guide here

Could ESOS be the key to unlocking the UK’s Demand Side Response capacity?

We are currently living through a time of transition. As the world begins to go about designing and implementing the types of policy required to keep global warming below 2°C, one inevitable area of significant focus is how we are going to decarbonise our energy supply.  

There are several legacy issues to be addressed, such as the intermittency of many renewable technologies, the inefficiency with which we use energy and the vast differences between peaks and troughs in demand. There’s no quick fix and it’s going to require a combination of factors to solve these problems. However, progress is already being made on all fronts. For example, the types of storage technologies required to address intermittency are becoming more price competitive by the month. Similarly, the EU and UK governments have introduced a raft of policies aimed at improving energy efficiency and smoothing out demand cycles.

Indeed, the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), the UK’s response to Article 8 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), has made it mandatory for large companies to conduct energy audits at least once every four years, whilst the National Grid has made plain its views on the growing importance of Demand Side Response (DSR), where users are financially incentivised to shift or reduce their electricity use at peak times, for softening peaks and filling in troughs in demand.

It will be intriguing to see how these policies intersect. Well-designed policy interventions should not only achieve their objectives, they should complement interventions in the same area. The benefits of ESOS and energy auditing are relatively obvious – greater understanding leads to improved efficiency and ultimately reduced expenditure on energy, coupled with a decrease in carbon emissions – but could a hidden benefit be an uptake in DSR?

First, it’s necessary to explore the barriers to the uptake of DSR. Unsurprisingly, the main barrier to DSR uptake is a lack of understanding, both about DSR itself, but also about how businesses power their own operations. To explore the technical and economic feasibility of DSR, the first step should be to gather information such as the patterns of electricity consumption across all assets, who manages the assets, the local grid infrastructure, and the on-site technical and operational constraints. Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority of businesses do not have access to this kind of information, nor do they have any intention of gathering it.

Enter ESOS. For those less familiar with the steps required to comply with ESOS, it involves measuring and profiling 100% of the energy consumed by a business over 12 months, auditing at least 90% of that energy to identify energy saving opportunities and obtaining sign off internally by a board-level director and externally by a Lead Assessor. Whilst the effectiveness of ESOS Phase 1 was debated, it did at the very least shine a light on the glaring gaps in energy management at a board-level for first time for many large organisations. With ESOS Phase 2 beginning to ratchet up, over 10,000 of the largest organisations in the UK will be profiling energy consumption and undertaking audits again at some point over the next 2 years.

This presents a massive opportunity to increase both awareness and uptake of DSR. There’s no reason why a well-thought out and executed ESOS assessment couldn’t provide all the detail required to develop a full business case for DSR. This will, however, require some forethought. For example, if you’re a business searching for a contractor to conduct your ESOS assessment, it’s worth specifying what you need out the final report, as a budget ESOS assessment is unlikely to provide the depth of energy analysis required to progress DSR. Conversely if you’re carrying out ESOS assessments, exploring DSR may not be your top priority given it doesn’t necessarily improve energy efficiency, it can merely shift patterns of consumption.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t be looking to address the challenge of decarbonising our energy supply in silos. Tackling the full range of barriers to decarbonisation will require a multi-pronged approach with as much emphasis on improving efficiency and smoothing the fluctuations in consumption as other considerations such as increasing the overall renewable capacity. Only by looking at the problem holistically will we be able make the transition to a decarbonised electricity supply both efficiently and effectively.

 


Don’t leave ESOS to the last minute – get in touch with our Approved Lead Assessors today by phone 0207 048 0450 or email esos@carbonsmart.co.uk

Early bird discount for those who begin ESOS Phase 2 assessment in 2017

Work ahead for businesses as the 2017 UK conversion factors are released

The arrival of the much-anticipated 2017 Defra UK conversion factors for greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting confirms a step change in the carbon intensity of the UK electricity grid and will pose a significant challenge for businesses when they disclose their emissions performance later in the year.

The headline drop of 14% on the electricity consumption conversion factor compared to 2016 will benefit businesses reporting performance on location-based emissions considerably. It will, however, also pose a challenge to articulate, with businesses across the board expected to report greatly reduced electricity emissions (the most major emissions source for many). Not getting internal and external commentary around annual performance right risks:

  • Internal momentum on energy efficiency being lost against a background of seemingly stellar performance, or alternatively;
  • External articulation of performance to stakeholders becoming shrouded by the reducing conversion factor; diluting the recognition of the tangible emissions reduction actions taking place.

Given the rapidly decarbonising grid (the UK electricity conversion factor has fallen 23% since 2015), 2017 could be a trigger year for more businesses moving to market-based reporting and target setting. This would ensure that carbon reduction successes are more directly correlated to proactive business decisions, rather than the influence of macro energy market investments and government policy.

So what else is new for 2017?  In the latest edition, keen reporters will also find that:

  • Plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles now have distance based factors available across scope 1, 2 and 3 (transmission and distribution)
  • Hotel stays have been added on a per room per night basis for 24 global markets
  • Domestic and short haul flight conversion factors have decreased by an average of 4% whilst long haul flights from the UK have increased in intensity by an average of 3%
  • Overseas electricity continues to be absent from the factor set, with users signed posted to the IEA to source factors. Scope 3 electricity transmission and distribution factors are still available.

All in all, there is considerable work ahead for reporters this year as they find the right narrative to explain their 2017 emissions performance, adapt to the alignment of CDP questionnaires with the TFCD (Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosure) recommendations and increase the breadth of their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) disclosures in response to the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive.

 

If you have any questions related to UK or IEA conversion factors, CDP disclosure or wider ESG reporting, get in touch Julie.craig@carbonsmart.co.uk / 0207 048 0450.

Sustainable building: how to make your office work for you

The building you’re working in right now could be making you sick, stressed and less productive than you can be. Through some relatively straightforward design and refit actions you could dramatically increase your performance and that of your colleagues and staff. 

In the UK, we spend, on average, between 80-90% of our time indoors. With around 20 hours per day spent within a building it seems odd, that until recently, limited attention has been given to how the design and layout of buildings impact the people within them. The fact that poor design can reduce enjoyment of spaces seems obvious, but it is only now that the building industry is waking up to how homes, work environments and leisure spaces can be designed to maximise health, well-being and, crucially for businesses, productivity.

This is happening at the same time as many organisations are trying to reduce costs through consolidating office space, increasing occupancy levels, and reducing floor area per employee. Done poorly, this can result in ‘workhouse offices’ full of row upon row of workers in large, noisy, anonymous, open plan spaces. Employees are left unhappy, distracted, unproductive and increasingly likely to get, or call in, sick. If done well, balance can be found between increasing workplace density and staff well-being; delivering buildings that are efficient, healthy and productive.

The results can be staggering. Recent studies have shown that taking account of well-being in office design can result in improved productivity, staff retention, reduced absenteeism, and staff stress levels. With staff salaries and benefits making up 90% of a typical company’s operating costs – these changes can have major positive impacts on the bottom line.

Landlords should also take note – with many reporting increased building value and rent potential from buildings which take account of well-being design features such as:

  • Lighting levels and amount of daylight
  • Thermal comfort – temperature, air speed and humidity
  • Indoor air quality and ventilation rates
  • Noise and acoustics
  • Access to windows and views
  • Visual comfort – colour, texture, and variety in space design
  • Access to amenities

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has produced a report looking at the business value of delivering healthy, green buildings. Reviewing studies from across the world, reported benefits include:

  • 101% increase in cognitive performance for workers in a green, well-ventilated office
  • Workers in offices near windows reported getting 46 minutes more sleep per night
  • 4-6% fall in staff performance when offices are too hot or cold
  • 5% variance in sick leave between two offices – one with higher levels of daylight and access to views through windows

With figures like that, Finance Directors, Human Resources and Estate Managers should all pay attention. As the WorldGBC states, “a better understanding of how buildings impact people should drive improvements in the workspace, which may be one of the most important business decisions to be made”.

To date, most attention on healthy buildings has been on new build and major refurbishment projects. This is not surprising since this is the time when large scale changes to office design can be made. Staff are also more open to new set-ups when they are entering a new office environment or one which has undergone wholescale change.

There are existing building performance assessment methods and standards (such as BREEAM, LEED and the Well Building Standard) which already incorporate some well-being aspects, and are available to organisations undergoing such large-scale projects. However, this focus risks ignoring the vast number of existing offices which are not due a refit, or where budget does not allow such investment. Even in these circumstances there is much that can be done and we are increasingly being asked by clients to include well-being assessments and recommendations into our energy audit work. The cost of doing so is low compared to the potentially very high payoffs.

For me, using a wider definition of sustainable buildings to not only include energy and resource efficiency, but also direct and indirect impacts on health and well-being is an obvious progression. It mirrors our desire to support clients to move away from a negative approach to sustainability – using less, turning down, telling off – to a positive view of how sustainability can enhance our lives and help individuals and businesses perform better.

Find out if your buildings have the power to improve your environment and make you healthier, calmer and more efficient. Make sustainability work for you.

You’ve got the power. Now what are you going to do with it?

Demand side response is often talked and written about. Energy prices go up, climate is changing, renewable energy technologies continue to develop – will we always have electricity available when we want it? How can we as consumers control the cost and what can businesses do to secure the future of our electricity system?   

 

Electric Mountain sounds like a name of an 80s glam rock band. It is in fact three, massive, hydro power stations, buried in Snowdonia’s national park. Rather than supplying overblown riffs or delivering falsetto in skinny jeans, Electric Mountain delivers gigawatts of electricity at the flick of a switch – all to meet our demand for power when we ask for it.

And we have long taken this for granted – it’s a great success story and mark of the quality of the engineering prowess of this nation in the last century that we can have electricity when we want. But one of the critical challenges in our transition to a low carbon energy system is aligning decentralised power supply with an ever-increasing power demand – will there be enough electricity available to me when I want to start my lathe, or fire the ovens, or even just watch telly? And just how much will that cost?

The National Grid is a brilliant way to ensure that power that is generated in one place is delivered to a user in another location. This is also addressing the old complaint that renewables are intermittent – with renewables distributed across the country capturing the energy of all our island’s weather and tides as well as connections to the continent, renewables are the new base load.

So one way to match supply and demand is to increase supply in the grid. The other side of the coin is cutting demand. There are many incentives to cut your energy use: lower consumption means lower energy costs, fewer carbon emissions, longer operational lifespan for your equipment, etc etc etc.

Now the government is looking to incentivise consumers to reduce consumption at pinch points in the grid, according to this recent Ofgem report. These occur either when demand is particularly high (everyone boiling their kettles in the ad break of EastEnders) or when supply is constrained (low wind conditions, or a gas power station temporarily offline). New rules will mean that you would benefit from reducing your consumption during those times, increasing generation, or running on back-up power, like batteries.

This means that any business with onsite generation (like backup generators, combined heat and power plant, batteries or solar PV) can reap even more benefits from these systems. If you can shift your power supply off the grid and on to these local systems at times when the national grid is constrained – you will be rewarded.

The other option is to reduce consumption in response to the grid – so could you turn off non-critical asset at times when demand across the grid is high? Typically, this could be increasing the set point of your air conditioning – your staff is unlikely to notice that the office is a few degrees warmer for an hour or so, but it might mean that the National Grid can avoid activating expensive, short term reserve like Electric Mountain – 1.8 MW power within 16 seconds is impressive, but at a cost.

Yet another option is to respond to oversupply in the grid – mid-afternoon on a breezy autumn day, when the turbines are spinning and the solar PV is pumping out. Could you adjust your working practice to take advantage of lots of cheap power available in the grid? I try to plan ahead and set my washing machine and dishwasher to run when I know (within the tolerances of the UK weather forecast!) my solar panels will be generating – this applies on the regional or national scale too.

At the moment, we don’t “feel” the cost of balancing supply and demand directly. Many businesses are on fixed price tariffs, enabling you to plan expenditure and monitor efficiencies at a macro level. But as we move to greater flexibility in tariffs and smart meters are rolled out, we will know more accurately the cost of power when we want it, and the financial benefit of responding to the availability of power and maximise the benefit of our existing renewable power generation.

Your business could benefit from the new, flexible energy systems – by turning down demand from the grid during pinch points, by using back up power, like solar PV, battery storage or CHP, or even by shifting your consumption to times of the day when there’s a glut of power in the grid. Do you know what your consumption pattern is like? Could your asset be deployed to take advantage of incentives, by switching off, turning down, or disconnecting from the grid at peak demand?

You can benefit from better understanding and control of your energy use – through reducing your energy bills directly, and through new incentives as part of our future flexible electricity system.

Life below water – on ocean acidification and the UN’s SDGs

One of the key business themes of the UN’s SDG 14 (sustainable development goals) – life below water – is ocean acidification; often termed ‘the other CO2 problem’. It is one of the most serious threats the oceans and humans are facing in this century, but as the slogan term may suggest, it is often ignored and brushed to one side for the more ‘well-known’ climate change problems. Rob Dunbar, Oceanographer and Biochemist, even described ocean acidification as the most frightening of all the current oceanic phenomenons in his TED talk.

Since the Industrial Revolution, more than 1.6 trillion tonnes of CO2 have been emitted into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, land use change and other human activities, of which almost 30 per cent have been absorbed by the oceans. This huge addition of CO2 is drastically changing the chemistry and pH of the oceans and will lead to detrimental effects on us and the industries we rely so heavily on. With estimates of an increase in acidity of 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, future changes are predicted to occur at such an increasing speed that by the middle of this century, seawater pH could be lower than at any point during the last 20 million years according to NOAA.

How does this affect us and why should we care?

The rising in acidity of the oceans has the ability to change the oceans and alter the availability of the goods and services they provide. Oceans represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume, and serve as an important provider for the vast majority of people on this planet. Estimates from the Royal Society’s report and the United Nations’ SDG breakdown state that over three billion people depend on the marine biodiversity for their livelihoods through activities such as fishing, and more than 3 billion people depend on the oceans as their primary source of protein. From these facts, it is evident that humans are inextricably linked to the health of the oceans.

Ocean acidification will weaken the ability of both humans and natural systems to adapt to ongoing changes and hence threaten food security by putting entire food chains in jeopardy. If groups of organisms within the marine realm become extinct, this will lead to cascading effects along food webs that will inevitably lead to disastrous effects on us humans. Industries and businesses linked to fishing activities will feel the effects, and additionally the weakening of natural shoreline protections, such as coral reefs, will lead to increases in erosion of low-lying areas.

What can businesses do?

With the pace of ocean acidification accelerating, action needs to occur now. In order to align with SDG 14, and support the target of ‘minimising and addressing the impacts of ocean acidification’, businesses need to start to significantly reduce their carbon impact. Whether that will be minimising the impact of the upstream sourcing of products, re-assessing how products are transported around the world, or even by switching to renewable energy solutions to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Businesses need to tackle this challenge and drive their sustainability agendas forward in order to align with this SDG and help mitigate the effects of this important, yet often ignored, global phenomenon. Businesses are one of the only entities large and powerful enough to facilitate real change and need to be one of the first to put targets into action. Decreases of your CO2 emissions, large or small, needs to happen now.

Driving the sustainability agenda through diversity

Businesses have a uniquely challenging mission when driving the sustainability agenda forward. Every organisation has a different operational model, and requires a sustainability strategy that is bespoke to the way they do business. With so much scope for debate and discussion, and the sharing of experiences and ideas, diversity and sustainability should go hand in hand. Yet, if it is such a wide ranging global issue, why do we not see more diversity when it comes to the sector?

The lack of diversity comes at a time when Generation Y, or often referred to as ‘Millennials’, are entering the workforce. They are the most racially diverse, environmentally engaged and tech savvy individuals, who are looking for opportunities to contribute towards making a real change. Sustainability is a way of life for millennials, yet a lack of inclusion in the workplace can act as a barrier to innovation.

At the launch of a London Hub for the Women in Sustainability Network, gender biases in the workplace were addressed. The network focuses on bringing women together who want to make a shift within their industry. On the night, a number of interesting issues were covered, along with looking at the possibilities to effect real change. My colleague, Julie Craig, shared her insights as one of the speakers. She talked about how expanding your network and looking for opportunities outside your comfort zone can contribute to building a successful career. Making sustainability work is about acting and thinking differently, and this in principle can, and should be applied when hiring within the sector. Here are three reasons why.

  1. Diverse perspectives strengthens business outcomes

Diversity in the workplace widens the variety of opinions and approaches, contributing to new ways of addressing complex issues and enriching the solutions. Engaging with views from different backgrounds can open up a wealth of ideas, so going beyond a mandatory diversity policy and offering different employment opportunities such as apprenticeships, job sharing and training gives exposure to the sustainability agenda and your business.

  1. Diversity, sustainability and business are intrinsically linked

Millennials and the workforce should not only be considered as employees that can affect change. They are also consumers, stakeholders, managers and benefactors, looking to weigh in on addressing global issues. The way businesses operate affect not only their employees, but their supply chains, wider network, and the local and global environment of their operations. As global businesses become more local, environmental and social justice come into play. It is often found that disadvantaged communities, and people of racial backgrounds, live in areas that are more prone to environmental problems exacerbated by climate change.

  1. Diversity and inclusion will encourage the next generation of change leaders

To continue progress in sustainability, and create a lasting impact, we need to engage the next generation of change leaders by listening to a variety of views and opinions to make informed strategic decisions. Diversity fosters collaboration, which can contribute to bridging the divide across a number of levels.

Shifting the paradigm is no new challenge to sustainability professionals. By working in the field of sustainability, we find value in contributing to finding solutions to better our environment and way of life. The sector now needs to contribute towards one more shift, and become even more engaged in diversity and fostering an inclusive working environment. To take on the challenge, look to clarify your diversity and inclusion strategies, foster collaboration in your organisation and hire outside your comfort zones to become leaders in driving the sustainability agenda through diversity.

Turning targets into actions – on SDGs and volunteering

As we continue to unpick the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), I explored the role of volunteering in meeting these ambitious targets. Volunteer groups are identified as key stakeholders in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are thought to be essential resources in achieving the vision for a fairer world. Indeed, SDG 17, designed to “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”, speaks directly to this. But are companies and individuals aware of the need for volunteerism?

If you think about how the SDGs will be implemented in the run up to 2030, most would list governments, NGOs, inter-governmental organisations and businesses as being the primary facilitators. A recent panel discussion hosted at the UKSSD Annual Conference took this line of thought one step further and highlighted the importance of volunteers in underpinning all grassroots movements and in turn, highlighted the reliance of the SDGs on global volunteer networks. When you take a closer look at what is needed to actually achieve the vision set out by the SDGs, it is people like you and I, that are the workforce needed to turn targets into action.

A good starting point for understanding the role we can all play is the UNV’s volunteering guide, which outlines a number of ways in which volunteers can contribute to the SDGs, and the added value that volunteers bring to local communities. These include:

  • raising awareness to the 2030 Agenda through local campaigns
  • delivering technical expertise and facilitating knowledge sharing and transfer
  • complementing essential basic services where they are lacking or where they are insufficient
  • monitoring progress through citizen driven qualitative and quantitative data collection at a local and national level
  • strengthening local governance and accountability through increased people’s participation.

Not only does volunteering benefits local communities, it also has a positive impact on each of us as individuals. Earlier this year, Carbon Smart left the comfort of the Farringdon office and spent the morning with Trees for Cities in South London. Despite the rain, everyone was in high spirits and the team building session was a success. The team took pride in knowing that the newly planted saplings were the direct output of our hard work and that the local environment was improved as a result of this. Although in isolation it was only a small act, when considered as part of the wider environmental volunteering network, these actions can lead to significant long-term impacts. In fact, the majority of organisations driving conservation efforts and restoring the natural world are not-for-profit organisations that rely heavily on volunteers.

The same can be said for social initiatives. Last month I took 2 weeks of annual leave to work with CalAid in Northern Greece, a charity that provides humanitarian aid and practical assistance to refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people in a fair and dignified way. CalAid was formed as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe in 2015 and the impact that volunteers can have in situations such as these is profound. One extra pair of hands enables the charity to process donations faster, allows for more preparation time before distributions, can progress construction at CalAid’s new shop and ultimately reach a greater number of beneficiaries. Arguably, one of the most rewarding aspects of any type of volunteering is the coming together of people from all backgrounds, united under a common goal. It strengthens social cohesion, broadens people’s experiences, changes opinions and nurtures compassion and empathy.

United under the 17 SGDs, as people are concerned about the future of our planet, we should think about the SDGs not as something we work towards in just our professional lives, but something we actively strive for on a day to day basis. Businesses play an important role in supporting staff through volunteer programmes and facilitating these opportunities. With so many of us leading busy lives in the City, you may find that volunteering is one of those things that you always meant to do but never quite found the time. Or perhaps you are unsure of what the benefits are and this has caused it to slip down your priority list over months, and perhaps years – hopefully this blog may have changed your mind! Whatever the reason, with the SDGs finally gaining traction, it would seem that now is the perfect time to get galvanized and lend a hand. Donate some hours and expertise to local charities and see the results for yourself – you won’t regret it.

 


CalAid is currently fundraising for an optics project which provides children with free eye tests and glasses where needed. If you’d like to donate to this much needed project, each eye test costs €10 and each pair of glasses €35, click here . For further information on volunteering opportunities with CalAid please visit their website.

Half-baked: where have the Modern Slavery Statements fallen down?

Over 1,800 modern slavery statements were submitted by businesses in the UK to the Home Office as a response to the Modern Slavery Act issued in 2015. Our team analysed those published by the food & beverage sector and learned that there’s a long way to go before these businesses can fully meet the guidelines. 

 

The Modern Slavery Statements published by businesses in the food and beverage sector show a wide spectrum of comprehensiveness, with many failing to address key requirements of the Modern Slavery Act set by the UK’s Home Office. From our in-depth analysis of the statements published for this sector, only two out of ten meet all the guidelines, and clearly demonstrate the company’s commitment to address and reduce the potential risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. For the rest, there is still a long way to go with many statements  still falling short on a considerable proportion of the requirements.

Understanding what the most common pitfalls are across the sector and where the government guidelines are potentially getting misinterpreted, will provide a vital starting point for businesses to re-evaluate and improve their statements, and ultimately, help to address the key issue – mitigation of modern slavery in supply chains.

 

What are the four most common pitfalls in the modern slavery statements?

  1. Missing: prominent link on company homepage
    Despite this being a legal requirement of the Act, a surprisingly large amount of companies have not completed this simple step, even though they have published their statements online. Currently one in five businesses have failed to add a link to their homepage and therefore have not complied with regulation. It is a requirement that the statement link is clearly visible to guide viewers. For example, many businesses added the link on the website banner at the bottom of their homepage or in a drop menu at the top of the page. Both are good examples.
  2. Lack of commitment: statement not signed off by senior management
    One in five statements has not been signed off by a director (or equivalent). In such cases businesses have not only failed to meet the legal requirements of the Act, but they also send the message that the business does not take the issue of modern slavery seriously, even if this is not necessarily the case. Due to the gravity of the issue, senior management in every business should be championing their business’s approach to addressing modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
  3. Unidentified: lack of risk assessment being carried out
    Three out of four statements have not carried out a risk assessment, or at least, have not disclosed that they have. Risk assessments should be the bedrock of a company’s approach to mitigating modern slavery. Understanding where the business’s most material risks are in the supply chain will allow the company to focus their attention and resources where it really matters. This is especially important in the Food and Beverage sector as supply chains are often complex and located in areas of higher risk. Businesses should look beyond their tier one suppliers to fully understand the risks of their supply chain, whilst allowing them to provide more depth to their statements.
  4. Call to action: limited depth of due diligence measures
    80% of businesses have started to outline their due diligence processes in their statements, however many lack depth and do not detail and explain the practical actions being taken. A broad description is often provided and is limited to their immediate business and, failing to have carried out a risk assessment, appear unable to develop and disclose risk focused actions to mitigate risk. Comprehensive due diligence measures should include detailed actions for identifying actual and potential risks, mitigating and addressing these risks and additionally for effective communication throughout the business.

Our analysis of the modern slavery statements by businesses in the food and beverage sector shows that there is still a long way to go for most businesses which failed to meet the Act’s requirements. Addressing such a complex problem as the risk of modern slavery in a global economy is not easy and there is certainly no size fits all solution. In order for businesses to move forward with their statements and to fully address their exposure to risk, and to genuinely address modern slavery, it is essential they first address these highlighted pitfalls. This year, businesses may be able to get away with little commitment, but this will change as stakeholders and customers’ expectations increase.

How can businesses act on SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”. Touching on all aspects of sustainability, they are becoming the foundation of policies and strategies related to sustainable development. Businesses are one of the only entities large and powerful enough to facilitate real change, and are vital in implementing the SDGs.

In a recent blog – Sustainable Development Goals – how businesses should act?’ – we described what the SDGs are and how businesses should pick goals that best suit their strategy. With a total of 17 goals and 169 targets, it may not be easy to integrate all the SDGs into a business at once. This blog is the first of a new series helping organisations understand each goal and its relevance to their business practices

Affordable and clean energy – sustainable development goal 7 – aims to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy by 2030. So why is this goal so important in ensuring sustainable development? While the percentage of people with access to electricity is steadily increasing, and many heralding this decade as ‘the rise of renewable energy’, energy still accounts for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, yet one in five people do not have access to modern energy. Ensuring everyone has access to clean energy is key in achieving many of the other SDGs, such as combating climate change and eradicating poverty. Energy is our ‘enabler’ as it enables us to carry out our daily lives and progress. For people living in poverty, having access to modern energy can lead to new opportunities, allowing them to progress as well. Modern energy will allow them to work more efficiently, increase the amount of food they grow and open-up new prospects in communication and employment. Ensuring this energy is also clean will help prevent the 3.5 million premature deaths that result from household air pollution due to traditional fuels such as coal.

While it is vital to ensure everyone has access to modern energy, we simultaneously have to contend with the fact that the world’s natural energy resources are running out. Human population continues to increase exponentially, and arguably the greatest threat to humanity – climate change, is predominantly driven by the world’s production and consumption of energy. The UN aims to overcome these contradictory challenges by increasing the share of renewable energy in the universal energy mix, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and enhancing international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology – all by 2030. But this goal cannot be achieved unless individuals and businesses will put in the effort needed to make this happen.

There are many things a business can do to enable affordable and clean energy for all whilst benefiting the business. Improving the energy efficiency of your business is a good place to start. In the energy audits we conduct, we identify many simple fixes one can make to reap the benefits from the low hanging fruit associated with energy efficiency. Not only will this reduce the load on the grid (which will help achieve SDG 7), it will reduce costs for your business and boost the bottom line. Once your business has ensured its energy efficiency, the next step you could take is to generate your own power. Renewable energy technologies reduce a business’ dependency on the grid, replace carbon intensive energy with clean energy, and can also create profit for the business as a long term investment. We recently completed such a project for ASOS, which helped them to achieve their business goals as well as SDG 7.

In 2015, the service and industrial sector together accounted for 31% of final energy consumption. If all businesses were to reduce their energy demand and produce a proportion of their energy themselves, then the UK would be a long way into achieving the aims associated with sustainable development goal 7 by 2030. The EIA predicts that world energy consumption is going to increase by 48% by 2040. Therefore, if the goal of affordable and clean energy for all is going to be achieved, businesses must ensure they are energy efficient and contribute to the world’s clean energy production.

Sustainable Development Goals – how should businesses act?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are ultimately aimed at “freeing the human race from the tyranny of poverty and healing and securing our planet”, present a supremely ambitious and transformative vision to be pursued and achieved by all sectors of society, including governments, businesses and the public, by 2030.

With very low public awareness, and government action more or less non-existent, progress on achieving the SDG’s within the UK to date has been primarily driven by the private sector. This isn’t particularly surprising given the SDGs have been called the greatest economic opportunity of our time. Forward thinking organisations have finally realised the cost of inaction will ultimately be far greater than action.

But with 17 targets and 169 sub-targets on topics as diverse as gender equality, zero hunger and climate action, if you don’t have a dedicated team working on your sustainability agenda, where do you even begin?

Here’s our four-step process for getting the SDGs off the ground in your business:

  1. Assess the materiality of each SDG to your organisation & align with your existing strategy

The good news is that whilst the SDGs are necessarily far-reaching, it’s likely that not all 17 SDGs are entirely relevant to your organisation.

Take one of our FTSE-listed clients – a recruitment company – as an example; whilst their existing CSR strategy hasn’t been aligned with the SDGs, it already has a keen focus on SDG #5 (gender equality), #8 (decent work and economic growth) and #13 (climate action). Given their sector and existing strategy, these three SDGs are clearly the most material to their organisation and could easily be aligned with their existing strategy.

For some of our other clients, SDGs such as #7 (affordable and clean energy) and #12 (responsible consumption and production) will be clearer areas of focus. Identifying the SDGs which are material, relevant, and upon which your organisation can influence, will allow you to focus your efforts and work efficiently.

 

  1. Demonstrate the business case

Whilst increasingly we are seeing more and more organisations, particularly consumer brands, shift to a purpose led model, where success is measured by more than just share price, the bottom line is that profitability is a key component of long term sustainability.

Conveniently then, its estimated that achieving the SDGs will open up $12 trillion in market opportunities and generate 380 million new jobs by 2030. As the Financial Times put it: “it is a paradox that the most profitable companies are not the most profit-focused”. Time and time again, we see that purpose-led businesses, who act ethically and put consumer expectations at the heart of their business model, outperform profit-driven competitors, where the ends tend to justify the means. Making progress towards the SDGs shouldn’t be seen as an entirely altruistic exercise, the truth is that whilst achieving the SDGs will benefit society, it will also improve your businesses profitability and long term sustainability.

 

  1. Establish buy in at a senior level

In almost every case, the organisations with the best track record in terms of sustainability, tend to be those with passionate and committed leadership who are wholly bought into the concept of sustainable growth.

Think Paul Polman at Unilever, Elon Musk at Tesla or Marc Bolland at M&S. It’s rare that sustainability truly flourishes without strong top down leadership. Establishing support from your businesses leadership, whether that be through highlighting the positives or the likely consequences of not evolving, will be crucial to ensuring that your organisation does more than just pay lip service to the SDGs.

  

  1. Set targets and KPIs to measure your success as a purpose-led business

Whichever SDG you decide to pursue, setting a time bound target and putting the appropriate KPIs in place to track progress is crucial to not losing momentum.

For SDG #13 (climate action), this could be as simple as setting a carbon reduction target (which your organisation may well have anyway), and tracking performance by reporting your carbon footprint annually. On the other hand, the targets and KPIs implemented for other SDGs may require more thought as to what you actually want to achieve as an organisation and what success actually looks like.

Reporting in this manner has various benefits for the organisation, including improved transparency, the generation of positive news stories and creating the incentive for success. Furthermore, this approach compliments a number of existing reporting requirements which large businesses are obliged to undertake anyway, such as reporting GHG emissions (the Companies Act), social, human rights and diversity information (Non-Financial Reporting Directive) and producing an annual slavery and trafficking statement (Modern Slavery Act).

The SDGs represent a unique opportunity for businesses globally. With an increasingly complex regulatory landscape continuing to develop globally, the SDGs offer a broad framework against which organisations can align their medium to long term strategy and reporting with stakeholder expectations whilst driving innovation, future proofing the business model, increasing profitability and ultimately contributing towards sustainable development. When viewed through this lens, the question really becomes why wouldn’t you be acting on the SDGs?

 

To learn more about what the SDGs are and why they were set, read our blog here.

3 tips for becoming a sustainable small business

Sustainability and the fight against climate change is often regarded as one of the biggest problems facing society today. For small businesses, it’s sometimes hard to imagine yourself making a real difference when contending with a phenomena so gigantic in scale. How can your own actions really make any difference when factors such as multi-national treaties, billion dollar fossil fuel companies and a global carbon cycle are in play?

Where to begin?

  1. Developing your business to make a positive impact on the world’s carbon emissions starts by establishing what you can control, identifying within your own business ‘world’ where you can effect real change, and plan how to reduce your emissions. Quantifying and recording your monthly emissions in a standardised, clearly structured way will help you to make targeted cost-effective reductions of your carbon footprint, and help you spot that excessively large electricity bill early!
  2. The next stage of the process is to break the data down by resource type and attribute it to your daily business operations. For example, your electricity on site – typically, any company’s largest source of carbon emissions – will be used to power lighting, IT appliances, heating and cooling, and maybe an industry specific piece of machinery. A Certification will help you to develop a clear action plan associated with each of these areas of consumption and use it to achieve reductions throughout the year.
  3. A good action plan will include the following key sections: a description of the reduction activity, what it hopes to achieve, a start and finish date, and be assigned to a responsible member of staff. Raising awareness to the action plan and its objectives amongst the team can help to ensure that the whole company is engaged with the sustainability initiatives identified.

 

We have helped hundreds of small businesses to start their sustainability journey and enhance their business’ performance through our Certification programme. All it requires from you is a bit of organisation, a clear vision of what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there. Running a sustainable business will help you to reduce your carbon footprint, but will also reduce your costs, and raise your profile in the eyes of your customers.

 

“Carbon Smart informatively led us through the processes needed to reduce our carbon footprint. With their clear and concise advice we have been able to effectively reduce our energy and waste levels. Carbon Smart made the complex notion of energy efficiency into a manageable and achievable reality.”  -Vicki Lee BSc, Administrator & Graphics Officer, EPR Ltd

Keeping a weather eye: 5 key developments for renewables

Reading the popular media or governmental press releases alone might lead us to despair at the prospects for renewables – something that’s flavour of the month today can be an environmental pariah the next. So, what is really happening? Should we be battening down the hatches or making hay?

Renewables – once the preserve of the off-grid enthusiast – are now firmly mainstream. We constantly monitor trends in this space – it is a fast moving environment, but our analysis shows that this movement is firmly established and we can expect much more innovative, impactful change in the coming years.

Here’s five key developments to watch – and not just the headline-grabbing, international energy policies or political horse-trading, but also significant breakthroughs in key technologies and renewables being embedded at all levels of policy development, commercial operations and community life.

1) Making the most of the market opportunity

Do we make the shift to a low-carbon economy because it’s the “Right Thing To Do” – or because it makes good business sense? How about both? With policy in turmoil and subject to the whims of international politics, there is an increasingly important role for business as agents of change – and to signal that change to government.

We’ve seen a growing interest in accounting for strategic commitment to renewables, and reporting back on the impact that self-generation and green tariffs have on the bottom line. In the last two reporting cycles, we advised Dentsu Aegis Network on setting realisable targets for decarbonising their electricity supply, and have also worked with Liz Earle Skincare to quantify the benefits of their existing self-generation in their annual report. RE100 – a global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity – is now at 89 members – the business case for renewables continues to strengthen.

2) Still waters run deep

Our marine resource is arguably the most reliable source of clean, renewable energy. We know what time and what height our tides will reach years into the future, and tidal could supply 20 TWh of energy per year to the UK. In addition to capturing wind energy through aerial turbines, wave energy could feasibly supply around 70TWh per year in the UK – that’s 23% of our electricity. From ducks to dams, buoys to barrages, the potential for electricity from our waters is huge.

Marine energy is difficult though – high development and infrastructure costs, coupled with important environmental controls mean that many developers never make it beyond a pilot phase. However recent developments in marine are promising. Power first flowed from Nova Innovation’s tidal turbines on Shetland in August 2016 and more capacity was added at Inverness on the mainland weeks later. We are poised to start realising the potential of marine from Welsh and Cornish waters – and as Canada seek to learn from British expertise, we are exporting this valuable know-how around the world. The challenge is to get beyond the demonstration phase and get more project deployed – current EU funding is making this possible, and we are set to continue to capture the benefits of our island’s energy resource.

3) Supplying heat without the carbon

There are many ways to cut carbon from our heat supply – and green gas has been a key development of late. And there are many ways to generate biogas – including from Cumbrian cheese, processing food waste and green arisings in an anaerobic digester, or indeed animal slurries and human waste. By using a material that would otherwise be handled as waste, we can reduce the carbon impact of our heat supply, and divert more waste from landfill or incineration. The neat thing about biogas is that we can burn it along with natural gas in our boilers and furnaces – direct injection into the gas grid also currently attracts Renewable Heat Incentive payments, further sweetening the deal.

Another option is to electrify heat: heat pumps are back in fashion. This is an established technology – being rolled out in wonderfully strategic local authority-led schemes in Manchester, and on a massive scale extracting, not gas, but renewable heat from the North Sea for homes in Glasgow.

One major challenge for electrifying heat is that our heat demand profile is so “peaky” – blasting our draughty old homes first thing in the morning and last thing at night with heat from electricity would present a huge headache for the National Grid, already struggling to balance decentralised generation with demand. Nevertheless, as more large scale and local renewables come online and the grid factor drops, this could be a low carbon solution to our high heat demand.

4) Communities holding their ground

While 2016 saw the last award from the Urban Community Energy Fund, its sister, the Rural Community Energy Fund, continues to thrive. This is a lifeline for communities engaging in energy projects – and is also catalysing others to consider energy as part of other local issues. The potent combination of devolution and community energy groups has seen ownership and investment in energy shifting from national policy to hyper-local – including being written into Neighbourhood Plans awarded by local authorities. Power to the people is decarbonising energy as well as democratising it.

Sadly recent changes aren’t making this any easier. Community Benefit Companies used to be a popular legal entity for community groups to realise their ambitions – but since the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act was enacted in 2014, these now cannot hold Exempt Charity status, and thus lose the tax benefits and other advantages of charitable status. And the latest budget statement in March introduced hikes in business rates for those with solar PV installations – including state schools. If cutting the feed-in tariff wasn’t the death knell for UK solar, then this might well be.

Governance models and financing are two of the challenges actively addressed by the RCEF process – and with funds still to distribute, now is the time to explore how renewable, local energy supplies can benefit communities across the country.

Local authorities are also on the front foot with promoting both energy efficiency and renewable energy generation – usually funded from European Regional Development Fund monies. This is enabling SMEs and other eligible groups to access free energy audits and even grants which is helping businesses and communities actually realise their energy and carbon saving ambitions. There are more projects to come online from the last ERDF round – but given last month’s news, local authorities may have to be more creative to find budget to support schemes like this in future.

5) Renewables out-performing conventional sources

All this has added up to some impressive outcomes at the last count: solar out-supplied coal for UK electricity in 2016; and renewables supplied the whole energy demand for cities like Burlington, Vermont, and even the whole of Portugal. Nuclear and gas are being pipped at the post on cost by large scale solar and onshore wind. And public perception of renewables remains consistently high –  figures from DBEIS say that 79% of people support renewables, only 33% support nuclear, and 17% fracking.

It’s not just about feel-good stories, but real change and momentum building towards the sustainable energy system we need. Business, communities, and individuals can all reap the diverse benefits of renewables – this is a trend that is not going away.

 

*The article was first published on edie.net on 5 April 2017

Stone & Ceramic Ltd achieving Silver certification

Stone & Ceramic Ltd is a specialist natural stone and tiling subcontractor working on high spec commercial and luxury residential projects throughout London and the Home Counties.

Stone & Ceramics has been re-certified again this year, retaining their silver certification. The company been a part of the Carbon Smart certification scheme since April 2013 and have grown considerably during that time. Despite these opposing pressures of economic growth and reducing environmental impacts, Stone & Ceramics recognise the importance of sustainability within their business. As a result, they calculate and analyse their carbon footprint with Carbon Smart on an annual basis.

Their total Carbon Emissions from 1st June 2015 to 31st May 2016 was 65 tonnes CO2e, a slight increase on last year’s 54.2 tonnes CO2e, but this did not include flights. This year, we wish Stone & Ceramics Ltd the very best with their growing business and hope they continue to uphold their environmental values. As a company, they’ve begun to set the correct foundations for a Gold level certification and we wish them all the best with this year’s sustainability effort.

Read what Stone & Ceramic had to say: 

We have been dealing with Carbon Smart for three years and have been very happy with the process. We have almost quadrupled our turnover since 2013 and with the advice of Carbon Smart, we have reduced our Carbon Footprint by almost 10% overall plus improved the quality of the data we use to calculate it. This includes reducing our carbon footprint per staff member from 4.48 tonnes in 2012-13 to 2.17 in 2015-16 (a 50% saving) and our carbon footprint per £100k of turnover from 1.79 tonnes in 2012-13 to 0.434 in 2015-16 (a massive saving of 75%!). 

Throughout our 2016 Carbon Smart re-certification we had great communication with Jack & Aleksandra. They have given us some great ideas on how we could improve our Carbon Footprint. Based on our experiences, we would be happy to recommend Carbon Smart to other companies who are looking to reduce their environmental impact.

– Rachel Thomas, Business Support & Improvement Manager

17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – what, why and where to start?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are aimed at mobilising efforts to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change by governments, businesses and citizens. Developed in 2015 as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals, the 17 SDGs focus on a broad range of sustainable development issues and break down into 169 targets – all of which are to be achieved by 2030.

Despite the many benefits they offer, the SDGs have had slow uptake, with over half of businesses failing to act thus far. This could be due to the fact that the sheer volume of SDGs is proving overwhelming, or due to the lack of a standardised approach and methodology on how to tackle them. Similarly, there are no legislative drivers in place that states companies must set targets against SDG’s and therefore, companies must voluntarily decide to align their strategy against them.

Nevertheless, some businesses are now starting to realise the opportunities presented by the SDGs by looking at how they can work to achieve the SDGs and which goals they want to pursue. Corporate giants such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, SABMiller and Unilever have mapped their sustainability targets against the SDGs they have deemed the most relevant to their business. This isn’t entirely altruistic either – Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, called the SDGs “the greatest economic opportunity of a lifetime”. It is now important that other companies follow suit. SDGs can help companies in many ways: they give a reason to align business activities with society’s needs; an opportunity to focus on a sustainable strategy and an opportunity to reach out to new collaborations and partnerships.

The SDGs are set for 2030, therefore, companies must start acting on them now. As working towards all 17 SDGs may be overly burdensome, Carbon Smart recommends that targets are set against a select few. Companies can choose to either pick SDGs that are already aligned to their business targets, or SDGs they want to challenge as an area for their business to move into or work towards. In order for them to be successful, a company should lay out from the start which goals it aims to achieve, and integrate these goals into the business strategy. This can be done by aligning and setting targets towards the goals. Progress against them should be tracked by setting KPI’s that are aligned with what goals the company is setting out to achieve. Start acting today.

If you wish to learn how to turn targets into actions, click here to read about SDG 17 and volunteering to make sustainability work.

3 reasons to rethink plastics

With the global plastic production expected to increase to a staggering 1.2 billion tonnes by 2050, it is not surprising that the plastic industry has been described as one of the most essential building blocks of our economy today. This exponential growth will undoubtedly play a vital role in the global economy, however if the plastic value chain continues the way it is, it will have the potential to cause even more detrimental effects on the environment. Changes to our sustainability agendas have to happen, starting with the future of plastics.

Here are my top 3 reasons for rethinking plastics: 

1. Greater than aviation: the huge carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of producing plastic is phenomenal, with more than 90% produced from virgin fossil fuel sources. The huge dependency on oil is leading to plastics being responsible for approximately 6% of the current global oil consumption, which staggeringly, is equivalent to that of the aviation sector. This, as we can all imagine, gives rise to excessive greenhouse gas emissions and if the expected surge in plastic production is to happen, the already huge carbon impact will become even more significant. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2050, plastics will be responsible for nearly 15% of the global carbon emissions. This predicted increase will lead to plastics overtaking aviation, which is currently accountable for 12% of the global carbon emissions.

2. ‘Take-make-dispose’: low recyclability rates  

Plastics have a very low rate of recycling and reuse compared to other material mainstreams. This is mainly as a result of our economy being built around the linear trend of ‘take-make-dispose’, with many plastic products designed for single use only. Consequently, an enormous amount of waste is produced with more plastics ending up in landfills or incinerated. According to the World Economic Forum, as little as 30% of the plastics produced in the EU were recycled in 2014, leading to 25 million tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste.  Many other countries are beating the UK in the recycling race, such as Germany and Luxembourg, with recycling rates as high as 65%.

3. More plastic in the ocean than fish: the environmental leakage 

The huge amount of waste produced from plastics is causing global waste disposal systems to become increasingly challenged, leading to a large proportion of plastic waste ending up in the environment. It is estimated each year, over 8 million tonnes leak into the ocean, which according to the World Economic Forum, is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. Plastic packaging is estimated to be the biggest culprit for environmental leakage, due to its size, weight and low value making it prone to uncontrolled disposal.  If no action is taken, predictions are that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (World Economic Forum).

The production and use of plastics goes hand in hand with the packaging industry, with nearly half of the global plastics produced used for packaging. Businesses must start to actively evaluate the environmental impacts of the plastic packaging they purchase or produce and additionally the benefits of alternative products, such as disposable plastic packaging.  Leading businesses in this area have already taken such steps, for example, Coca Cola creating the PlantBottle – a plastic bottle made entirely out of plants. However, this is only the beginning. We expect that in the next five years, this will become a mainstream assessment of all packaging products – the time to take action is now.

 

Biomass – a sustainable energy source for your community

Biomass is one of the most hotly contested renewable energy fuels, with many arguing over the benefits and the negative impacts of using biomass fuel. This can leave many confused as to where to stand on the topic.  

Parish Councils, charities and other community groups are now eligible for grant funding to conduct a feasibility study for renewable energy projects including biomass boilers. Carbon Smart has been working with communities in the UK and conducted research on biomass to help local groups understand how to implement biomass boilers that are sustainable, cost effective, and require little maintenance.

It is important to be aware of the negative impacts of using biomass though. Wood pellets, for example, are rarely manufactured in the UK, and are therefore shipped from areas such as the Baltics, the USA and Canada – creating a carbon footprint associated with travel. This, added to the energy taken to manufacture the pellets can make wood pellets a very carbon intensive fuel. Moreover, sourcing wood pellets and chips can lead to deforestation if the forest is not managed well. But there are ways to benefit from biomass energy in a sustainable way.

Firstly, research the most sustainable fuel for your area. As mentioned, there are a number of issues associated with wood pellets, so these are probably best avoided unless you are sure they are sourced and manufactured sustainably. Manufacturing woodchips, however, can lead to benefits for biodiversity, as sourcing woodchips allows previously undermanaged and degrading woodlands to be managed productively. Therefore, woodchips can be a sustainable fuel to use, so long as they are sourced from a managed woodland. It is also very important to source your woodchips as locally as possibly to keep the carbon footprint associated with travel to a minimum.

There are also increasing numbers of non-wood-based biomass fuels that are coming to the market that have fantastic sustainability credentials. Bio-bean, a business converting waste coffee grounds into biomass pellets is a fantastic initiative. This creates a closed-loop system, that converts waste into energy. Bio-bean partners with waste collection contractors such as First Mile to collect the waste coffee granules, and therefore can be collected with the rest of your waste.

Olive kernels is another waste product that can be used as biomass fuel. Olive kernels are a waste stream from olive oil production, requiring no extra energy for production. These do have to be shipped in from the Mediterranean, but the carbon footprint is still smaller than processed alternatives.

These are just a couple examples of the many new biomass fuels available today. Some require a specialist boiler, as many are designed purely for wood fuel only. Biomass Energy Coop has brought out the MultiBio boiler, which is adaptable to different fuels, and can therefore be used with the most sustainable fuel for your  area.

A biomass boiler system can be a sustainable and cost effective heating system. There is the additional benefit that biomass boilers are eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – providing financial support to the owners of the biomass system. Biomass boilers can therefore be a fantastic initiative for a community group, business or home owner to install. They can reduce reliance of gas and electric heating in the area, create income and reduce waste.

You can also benefit from installing a biomass boiler and our team can work with you to facilitate applying for funding and to deliver the feasibility study. For more information or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Carbon Smart works with BAFTA to improve what’s ‘on the box’

Have you ever stopped to wonder what’s being done about the environmental impact of the programmes on television?

The environmental impact of producing media is huge – from the fuels used, power, lights, heating and visual effects, to the emissions associated with logistics, not to mention the waste produced from catering, props and costumes. Rest assured; a consortium of industry frontrunners, including the major broadcasters and production companies, are making huge inroads into sustainability in the production and broadcast industry.

The BAFTA albert Consortium actively encourages broadcasters and media producers to understand and reduce the impact of the shows they produce; and grasp the opportunity to influence audiences towards a more sustainable future.  One way the Consortium do this is by hosting the albert carbon calculator tool.  Production companies use albert to collate their environmental data and enable them to understand the carbon emissions associated with each show they make.  This allows them to identify the areas of their carbon footprint they can reduce the most and kick starts their sustainability journey.  Those that show high levels of commitment will receive a Sustainable Production certification.

To assist BAFTA in driving forward the quality of the environmental monitoring already underway; Carbon Smart verifies the data that productions submit via albert, benchmarking production performance and spotting any data anomalies early in the process.  Carbon Smart also appraises the ambition of the environmental actions each production company takes forward – ensuring that the requirements of the certification process are met.  We ensure high environmental reporting standards are maintained across the media community and provide the required independent adjudication of the certification scheme.

A few standout examples recognised by albert certification include:

  • Red Dwarf used hybrid vehicles during the production of their UKTV show and engaged their crew, cast and audience using videos that explain their green actions
  • ITV’s Loose Women source their energy from a 100% renewable tariff and have halved the amount of paper they use
  • BBC’s Have I Got News For You use low energy lighting, which reduce electricity and cooling demand during production

‘People who make TV are not environmental experts, but remain crucial components of the carbon reduction process for their industry. To ensure the data we collect is credible and useful, we need an external check on all project data. Carbon Smart’s verification is an integral part of our processes, providing the whole industry with confidence and reassurance on which the project stands.’  – Aaron Matthews, Industry Sustainability Manager at BAFTA

Through the Consortium’s work it is clear that momentum is growing – the BBC is one of the leaders – recently announcing that all of the programmes they commission must use albert – a noteworthy statement of the BBC’s commitment to helping content producers improve both the environmental impact of making TV; but also increasing exposure to green issues within the actual content.

The influence of TV and film on audiences is considerable and poses a huge opportunity to change the actions of generations of viewers every day.  A round of applause is due to BAFTA’s albert Consortium for leading the way.

The benefits of the Heat Networks Regulations to tenants

The Heat Network Regulations aim to improve the quality of service being provided by heat suppliers. As such, they will require heat suppliers to install final customer meters, and to bill final customers based on actual supply, where technically and economically feasible. So why has the UK government implemented this policy and is it likely to have a beneficial impact?

Well first and foremost, decarbonising heat has been an area of policy neglected to date. Whilst the UK continues to make good progress on increasing the proportion of low carbon electricity in the grid over the past few decades, the same focus has not been placed on heat. With heat accounting for 48% of UK energy use and 1/3 of total carbon emissions, this is an area that has to be addressed if the UK is to meet renewable generation and decarbonisation targets. The need for change, and the numerous benefits of doing so, were eloquently explained by my colleague, Helen Troup, in her article published here.

So we know we need to decarbonise heat, but is improving metering an effective way of achieving that? Well, the short answer is yes. A 2006 Defra study analysing domestic energy use concluded that “accurate billing (a form of indirect feedback) is needed as a basis for sustained demand reduction”, with savings observed varying from 0-10%. This isn’t a recent revelation – studies dating back as far as the 1970’s show that effective feedback can reduce energy consumption.

Anecdotally, we encounter this challenge on a regular basis in our work. For example, where final customers receive estimated bills based on the floor area they occupy or historic meter reads, rather than the actual energy they consume, we often see a reduced uptake in energy saving measures and behaviours. The most common reason for this is that because the financial savings aren’t passed on to the end user, there is no financial incentive to act.

Which brings us to the last point – installing final customer meters allows tenants to reduce the cost of running their home, something of particular help to low income or vulnerable tenants. Studies suggest that energy bills are still the biggest concern to UK households. Latest figures from the UK governments 2016 Fuel Poverty Report suggest that nearly 11% of households are now in fuel poverty, with fuel prices increasing more than energy efficiency gains. It’s our view therefore that the Heat Network Regulations offer housing associations a real opportunity to:

  • Improve the quality of service they offer tenants
  • Reduce tenant’s energy bills, pulling many out of fuel poverty
  • Improve SAP ratings of their properties (heat meters can increase SAP ratings by 4 points)
  • Move ahead of the curve and pre-empt future legislative requirements

 

To learn more about the heat networks regulations and what you need to do to comply, please get a copy of our guide here.

Just received your CDP summons? Our top tips for scoring success in 2017

Last week, over 5,800 global companies received their annual call to action from the CDP. Over the coming months, the reporting community will gather strategic, qualitative and quantitative evidence to respond to their investors regarding environmental performance.

But, how do you score well without spending every waking moment perfecting your response? Here are our top tips to take the pressure off:

  • Plan ahead – your CDP response should be a collection of your sustainability successes throughout the year; try writing up your journey as you go along rather than scratching your head at the end of the year for good news stories
  • Keep abreast of barriers to success – the CDP framework means you can’t access top marks without embedded targets and third party verification; so ensure you have engaged the right internal and external parties to achieve these
  • Live and breathe the scoring matrix – a key stumbling block for businesses is lack of knowledge of the how the CDP responses are scored. Even the most well crafted responses can still score poorly if they miss out the basic requirements – spend time studying what CDP is looking for before you put pen to paper
  • Ask for help – we have worked with a range of FTSE listed organisations, consistently helping them to improve their narrative and boost their scores

Carbon Smart has helped clients to maximise their CDP results year on year – whether your business needs strategic advice on how to boost your scores, assistance to manage the response process, or to gain third party verification of your sustainability reporting in time for the deadline, Carbon Smart are ready to step in and help.

Marie Broad, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SThree Plc said:

 “We were really pleased to work with Carbon Smart on our CDP submission this year and increase our score from an E to a B. We find the team very professional and efficient in helping us progress on our environmental agenda.” 

To learn more about the CDP requirements and how to boost your score, please get a free copy of our CDP paper here.

Get in touch to talk through your requirements: Julie.craig@carbonsmart.co.uk / 0207 048 0450

Creating resilient energy supply for communities

Resilience is a key sustainability and climate adaptation concept – perhaps more closely associated with “developing countries” – concerning how we will cope with the impacts of climate change on our lives and communities. But what about resilience on your doorstep? How would you and your community cope with the impacts of climate change?

Unless you live on the Somerset Levels or the south coast of England, you are unlikely to be immediately impacted by global warming in the near term – but what about your energy supply? How resilient is your electricity and heat provision?

Our current centralised system of generation far removed from consumption means we can supply power at scale – coupled with the National Grid, we can send electricity all around the country. But it has the effect of separating our perception of energy generation from our own energy behaviour and choices – as well as presenting a host of complex challenges to “balance” the system, avoiding resonance, and maintaining sufficient backup sources ready to spring online when the nation boils their kettles simultaneously. Our heat is supplied predominantly through the gas grid – dependent on imports from abroad, highly influenced by the political situation, and then delivered to our homes and businesses with varying volume and pressure.

What about if we could generate energy where we needed it? That would avoid the need for massive infrastructure investment, which would cut the cost of our energy supplies, and reduce pressure on the current electricity and gas grids. This approach has been widely and successfully used in other countries – notably Germany – putting power generation in the hands of local communities and users. It was also strongly advocated by the last coalition government – a poster child of the Conservative – Liberal energy policy.

So is it just a relic or for our Teutonic neighbours? The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs clearly think not. With £15m to distribute to community groups, the Rural Community Energy Fund is being used to explore all sorts of decentralised energy systems across England and Wales. By funding feasibility studies for community-owned renewables, charities and parish councils, these groups are able to develop local, resilient, low carbon energy systems, which present value for money to end users, and return benefits into the community. We’ve seen schemes use the proceeds from energy supplies to fund fuel poverty work, issue grants for local projects, roll out broadband and more.

‘The Parish Council is looking forward to working with Carbon Smart to explore the possibilities for a renewable energy project in Woolpit. With an emerging Neighbourhood Plan for the village, this is a particularly opportune time to identify a local environmentally friendly scheme to benefit the community’.

John Guyler, Chairman of Woolpit Parish Council 

But beyond the financial return, local energy networks raise awareness about how energy is generated, and drive more conscious “pro-sumer” behaviour in energy use. Residents on the Isle of Eigg have a traffic light system indicating how much power is being generated by their wind turbines, hydro power plant and solar panels – telling you if it’s a good day to run your washing machine and your dishwasher simultaneously – or not! This proactive use of energy is drastically reducing the Islanders’ carbon footprint and energy costs – shifting consumption away from diesel generators to their mixed renewables sources – giving them energy independence with their home-grown power supply.

Woolpit Parish Council in Suffolk have successfully secured a grant from Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to explore renewable heat systems for the key facilities in the village – a health centre and a primary school. This is great opportunity for the village to assess the potential for a biomass heat network to improve the resilience of these core community facilities by reducing energy costs and generating new revenue streams, increasing the viability of these services for the future. I’m particularly excited about how a local renewable energy supply can augment the Neighbourhood Plan for the parish, currently in development. This will put the Council on the front foot when planning the development of the village, and help shape a resilient, future-proof energy supply for their community.

 


RCEF is a £15 million programme, delivered by WRAP and jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS). It supports rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community.

For more information on RCEF, visit www.wrap.org.uk/renewables

The Heat Network Regulations are catching up with housing associations

As the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) starts to chase non-complying organisations, are housing associations about to be caught out?

The Heat Network Regulations require organisations that supply heating, cooling or hot water through communal/district systems to submit a notification document to the enforcing body, install meters, and bill customers based on actual supply. The deadline for the first compliance stage was way back in December 2015. Despite the fact that the Regulations have been around for a couple of years, and that non-compliance could result in fines and/or civil sanctions, many organisations are not yet aware of their obligations.

In our experience, of all the organisations covered by the Regulations, housing associations are most at risk of non-compliance. This is because: they often have large and varied property portfolios which include many systems captured by the Regulations (communal and district heating and cooling systems); information on the systems is often spread across multiple asset management databases, spreadsheets, hardcopy files and even simply in the heads of site managers; and there appears to be a widespread lack of awareness of the need to comply across the industry.

Carbon Smart has helped many of our housing association clients to fulfil their compliance duties. A recent example was Nehemiah UCHA, a housing association based in the West Midlands. Due to the complexity of the regulations, and being a small organisation, Nehemiah has limited internal resources and asked for our help to take on the Phase 1 compliance tasks. To do this we:

  • Evaluated the Nehemiah portfolio and helped them to understand their obligations
  • Collated the essential compliance information
  • Conducted a gap analysis of any missing/incomplete data, and obtained this on their behalf
  • Completed the required calculations
  • Submitted the required compliance notification forms

“Carbon Smart has helped us to accurately interpret the legislation relating to The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and Amendment Regulations 2015. Carbon Smart’s knowledge and understanding of the regulations has help to guide us through the data collection and submission process, ensuring our business is compliant. The level of detailed information and customer service has been exceptional. Having our consultant on the end of the phone has proved invaluable”.
Bernadette Kennedy, Finance Officer, Nehemiah UCHA

To comply with the next stage of the regulations, the following steps would be to:

  • Assess whether meters/cost allocators are cost-effective/technically feasible to install where they do not currently exist
  • Deliver a programme of meter installation, if required

For more information on the Heat networks regulations, please read our guide paper here and my articles in edieand The Energyst Magazine.


If you are not sure whether you need to comply, or know you qualify but are yet to take action, contact our team on 020 7480 0450 or email Daniel.murray@carbonsmart.co.uk.  

Energy efficiency in East Sussex: the LoCASE project

As the new year kicks off, Carbon Smart is heavily involved with an exciting new project which is both boosting the South East’s economy while reducing the carbon footprint of many businesses. Low Carbon Across the South East (LoCASE) is an EU funded project, which enables SME’s to invest in energy efficiency opportunities.

The LoCASE programme is driven by a conglomerate of local bodies including East Sussex County Council and the Green Growth Platform who have secured £18.5 million in funding for carbon efficiency projects from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The LoCASE programme will provide a whole range of benefits by supporting low carbon projects, as it will stimulate a knock-on effect throughout the economy. By supporting businesses to install carbon efficient technologies, it enables businesses to grow while encouraging investment in new low carbon technologies. To understand the scale of the LoCASE programme, here are some key statistics on what the project will deliver through to 2019:

  • Business support to 1,050 SMEs
  • Cut emissions by 6,510 tCO2e
  • Invest £18.5 million in businesses
  • Introduce 80 new products
  • Create 270 new jobs in the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) Sector
  • Encourage knowledge transfer across the region

Carbon Smart was selected by East Sussex County Council to deliver the LoCASE programme across East Sussex. As a result, our energy advisors are offering free energy audits across East Sussex, visiting a whole range of businesses looking to move forward in the envisaged low carbon economy. In the past couple of months, Carbon Smart has visited Breweries, Catteries, Printing companies, VW campervan restoration businesses and Village halls, to name but a few of the wide range of businesses we’re helping to secure funding for their energy efficiency project.

The LoCASE project represents a very positive move by the local councils involved to help local businesses in the area to execute projects that may have not been financially viable without the grant support. The maximum value of a grant awarded to a business is £10k, which would make up 40% of the total project value while the remaining 60% needs to be funded by the business. Eligible expenditure includes a massive list of potential upgrades including on site electricity generation, building upgrades, CAD software, and many more. As long as you can prove it will make a real difference to the businesses’ costs and carbon footprint, it may well be eligible for a LoCASE grant.

Similarly, LCEGS suppliers are eligible for the same grant funding to help promote and develop their goods and services. In addition, business support for the LCEGS suppliers is driven by the Green Growth Platform – a members organisation which supports businesses through industry experts, business advisors and leading academics.

Once a grant has been approved by the grant administrators, a business has a three-month window to install the recommended technology. Throughout the process, Carbon Smart is directly involved in identifying opportunities, securing funding and reviewing the final installation. Helping businesses to identify and install low carbon technologies has been a real privilege and what makes this project so exciting. LoCASE provides small & medium businesses an opportunity to achieve tangible results over a short space of time with ongoing support along the process.

 


If you have a business in East Sussex area and you’d like to join the LoCASE project, please give us a call 01323 790 030 or email locase@carbonsmart.co.uk.

Wonky vegetables: should you buy them?

Every year, approximately one third of the food produced is wasted, this is equal to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food waste is a problem not only because this food can be used to feed people, but also due to the large carbon footprint associated with food production. Food waste occurs throughout the supply chain, starting from the farm it is grown on, to the household it ends up at. But what about the food that never even reaches our supermarkets?

The term ‘Wonky vegetable’ is used to describe a vegetable that is aesthetically imperfect. In 2008, an EU law which stated that all vegetables that were sold had to be of a certain colour, shape and size was abolished. Any product that did not fit this description was disposed of, despite the fact that these vegetables were perfectly fit for consumption. From 2008 to 2015, supermarkets in the UK continued to uphold their own stringent conditions on the appearance of the vegetables that they sold, convinced that the consumer would not buy a Wonky vegetable.

In 2015, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall began a ‘War on Waste’ campaign. The War on Waste exposed that up to 40% of vegetables never reach the supermarket shelves because of their appearance. By acting in this way, the supermarkets, were not only affecting the farmers by putting them out of business as they are not making enough money on their crop produce, but also adding to the large amount of food waste that the UK produces each year. This is all because of the way a vegetable looks!

The War on Waste made an impact, and in 2016, most major supermarket chains enrolled schemes in which they sell these wonky vegetables to consumers at a lower price, making it beneficial to customers to buy food that may look different, but tastes the same. ASDA has created a wonky vegetable box, which they are selling in 497 of their stores. Tesco has also rolled out various schemes throughout the year – one under the headline of ‘Scary vegetables’ – which came out in Halloween 2016, and allowed you to fill a bag of aesthetically imperfect vegetables for 30p. Tesco’s now also has a ‘perfectly imperfect’ range of fruit and vegetables. Waitrose has a ‘little less than perfect range’, which you can buy on their online store. Morrisons also sells wonky vegetables in their stores.

Now, in 2017, wonky vegetables have entered many stores, however, the War on Waste has not been won. Even though supermarkets are now putting these vegetables on the shelves, it is still in small proportions. It is important, as a consumer, that we continue to buy these imperfect looking vegetables so that we show supermarkets that we don’t care if a vegetable is wonky or straight. Ultimately, driving down the amount of food waste that is produced due to its appearance and reducing our carbon footprint.

 

Focus your efforts where it matters: impacts of the food packaging industry

This week BBC Radio 4’s PM programme has been running a series on packaging; how much of it there is, whether there’s too much, how easy it is to reuse and recycle. Much of the focus has been on food packaging.

The journalists have been careful to point out how important food packaging is, and how much of it is a response to what customers want. The demand for food packaging is growing rapidly as we all want more goods delivered to our door and more convenient portion sizes. In developing economies, demand is increasing with people purchasing more packaged food and consumables. The negative impacts of this growing sector are of course growing with it and awareness is key to mitigation.

The environmental impact of the food packaging industry is well understood – the main materials used for packaging are plastics and paper/ cardboard coming from the oil and timber industries, both have very significant environmental footprints. The BBC has explored some interesting ideas for how this impact can be reduced, including giving packaging back, changing the materials used and levying taxes.

But there is another impact that the food packaging industry must wake up to. The plastics and paper / pulp industries and their supply chains are amongst the highest risk sectors across the globe for modern slavery and child labour. The risk of these kinds of workplace abuse rises in sectors where survival for suppliers requires very fast turnaround of orders, ever lower prices and handling of very volatile volumes. The food packaging industry and its supply chain frequently experience these kinds of pressures.

The supply chains of food packaging manufacturers extend across the world into countries where there is a well-documented risk of modern slavery and child labour. Many food packaging manufacturers based in Europe and North America have direct supply relationships in countries such as Eastern Europe, Turkey, China and India, where societal conditions combined with extreme commercial pressure can create dangers for workers. Careful screening, auditing and local engagement with suppliers in these markets help to reduce the risks.

A more difficult problem to tackle, however, is the risk of slavery and child labour further up the supply chain. Working with tier 1 suppliers in countries such as France, Germany, Canada and the USA does not mean that risks are absent. Carbon Smart’s research shows that suppliers to packaging manufacturers in these and other well-regulated countries are themselves at risk through their supply chains. This indirect risk requires a different approach, focused on specific issues, high risk markets and based on transparency and partnership.

As British based packaging manufacturers take on the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act, and others in states such as California face similar legislation, they need to be critically aware that some of the 46 million people in modern day slavery and some of the 160 million child labourers may well be working in their supply chain. It is not possible to address every strand of a global supply chain, yet an approach based on high risk sectors, focusing efforts where it matters and developing open collaborative relationships with suppliers is critical to stopping these abuses. As the BBC programme shows, we are often very happy to moan about the size, shape, colour and material of the packaging our food arrives in, but the food packaging industry and all of us who buy our food packaged need to do more than moan to eliminate workplace slavery and child labour.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for a better world

 

Come January 1st, most of us will make big promises to ourselves in the effort to make a better us. More often than not, these resolutions are a just a distant memory a month later. So, at Carbon Smart, we encourage you to do something a little different in 2017. Rather than going for the same old ‘I will go to the gym this year’, or ‘I will stop drinking so much’ resolutions in the pursuit for a better you, why not try and help create a better world with your New Year’s resolutions?

Here are our top 5 picks for New Year’s resolutions that will help you and the planet.

  1. Eat less animal products
    While meat consumption continues to rise exponentially globally, people are becoming more aware of the damaging environmental and social effects the animal agriculture industry has. Not only is the meat industry responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all global transport (yes, that’s cars, busses, trains, boats, and aeroplanes), but a diet based on animal proteins is a leading cause of food insecurity. This is because animal products are far less efficient than plant foods, as they require considerably more land, water and grains to produce.

    You don’t have to switch to being vegan on January 1st (unless you want to!), but small changes to your diet could make a big difference. You could do ‘Meatless Mondays’, or maybe cut out red meat from your diet. Red meat such as beef uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than pork or chicken – so if you are to cut out one meat, this will make the biggest difference. In fact, experts say that cutting out beef will reduce your carbon footprint more than stopping using your car.

  2. Reduce your reliance on your car
    Cars account for 79% of all motor vehicle traffic – they have travelled 244.4 billion miles in the UK in 2014. The majority of these trips can be taken by other methods, such as bus, train, cycling or, best of all, walking. Now, this one can help achieve your fitness goals as well as reduce your carbon footprint – win win! Check whether your workplace offers the Cycle to Work Scheme – a great way to help you buy a bike, and if it doesn’t – suggest it!
  3. Buy less, buy better
    We live in a world of over consumption, where people are prioritising quantity over quality. With this comes increased production emissions, an extraordinary amount of waste and the possibility of modern slavery. When you buy something make sure that you ask yourself 1) do I really need it? and 2) it is ethically sourced? When shopping, opt for high-quality goods that will last and do your research. Of course, buying Fairtrade and local produce are easy ways to shop smarter.
  4. Make your home energy efficient
    Energy used in homes accounts for more than a quarter of energy use and carbon emissions in the UK – a larger proportion than any other sector. Therefore, ensuring our homes are energy efficient is a great way to reduce our carbon footprints. This can come from simple fixes such as installing a new, more efficient boiler, drought-proofing measures, or installing more efficient lighting. If you have already implemented these measures, why not go the extra mile and install renewable power such as solar panels – these will reduce your bills and can even generate profit.
  5. Have a flight-free year
    It is estimated that flying alone accounts for 13 – 15% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, flying is predominantly used for leisure purposes, and therefore can really be avoided! We often forget that the UK has some stunning holiday destinations, most of which can be easily accessed via car or train. If you must go abroad, Europe is only a drive or train ride away!

There are many more ways to reduce the impact on climate change and every one of us can help to make sustainability work. The most important thing is to take action now.

Happy New & Sustainable Year from all of us at Carbon Smart!

Top 5 guerrilla renewables trends from 2016

 

Working on renewables projects this year, with the likes of ASOS, Dentsu Aegis Network and South East London Community Energy, has revealed a number of interesting developments across the sector. Not just the headline-grabbing, international energy policies or political horse-trading, but also significant breakthroughs in key technologies and renewables being embedded at all levels of policy development, commercial operations and community life.

Here’s five trends that may have gone under the radar – but I think will be increasingly significant in 2017.

1) Renewables in the board room

In my work with businesses of all sizes this year, there’s been a growing interest in accounting for their commitment to renewables, and reporting back on the impact that self-generation and green tariffs have on the bottom line. We advised Dentsu Aegis Network on setting realisable targets for decarbonising their electricity supply, and are also quantifying the benefits of their existing self-generation for a national skin care manufacturer in their annual report. RE100 reached 83 members this year – the business case for renewables continues to strengthen.

2) Marine surfacing

Could 2016 be the year marine power starts to climb out of the valley of death?! I think so. Power first flowed from Nova Innovation’s tidal turbines on Shetland in August and more capacity was added at Inverness on the mainland weeks later. We are poised to start realising the potential of marine from Welsh and Cornish waters – and beyond as Canada seek to learn from British expertise. With EU backing to support commercial projects through the challenging demonstration phase, 2016 could be the tipping point for tidal.

3) Supplying heat without the carbon

There are many ways to cut carbon from our heat supply – and green gas has been a key development this year. Whether from cheese in Cumbria; food waste – both macro and micro; or a different type of waste altogether – this even lower carbon source of heat is gaining momentum.

Another option is to electrify heat; heat pumps are back in fashion. This is an established technology – being rolled out in wonderfully strategic local authority-led schemes in Manchester, and on a massive scale extracting, not gas, but renewable heat from the North Sea for homes in Glasgow. Expect to see yet wider roll out next year.

4) Communities holding their ground

While 2016 saw the last award from the Urban Community Energy Fund, its sister RCEF continues to thrive. This is a lifeline for communities engaging in energy projects – and is also catalysing others to consider energy as part of other local issues. The potent combination of devolution and community energy groups has seen ownership and investment in energy shifting from national policy to hyper-local – including being written into Neighbourhood Plans. Power to the people is decarbonising energy as well as democratising it.

5) Renewables out-performing conventional sources

All this has added up to some impressive outcomes this year – solar out-supplied coal for UK electricity this year; and renewables supplied the whole energy demand for cities like Burlington, Vermont, and even the whole of Portugal. Nuclear and gas are being pipped at the post on cost by large scale solar and onshore wind. And public perception of renewables remains consistently high – latest figures from DBEIS say that 79% of people support renewables, only 33% support nuclear, and 17% fracking.

Innovation, coupled with consistently strong support from the public, businesses and policy-makers, have made 2016 a good year for renewables. It’s not just about feel-good stories, but real change and momentum building towards the sustainable energy system we need. I’m pleased to see a range of technology solutions moving forward this year, as there is no single solution to the energy trilemma.

For 2017 expect to see ongoing improvements in established tech, as well as further disruptors entering the market – particularly around alternative procurement routes, peer-to-peer trading, and robust post-subsidy financial models. Business, communities, and individuals can all reap the diverse benefits of renewables – let’s make next year even better!

What is your business doing to reduce climate impact?

Businesses are in the best position to influence leaders and reduce climate impact

Businesses are in the best position to influence political leaders and government. Ban Ki-moon’s, Secretary General of the United Nations, key message at COP 22 was to urge businesses to increase their climate commitment. He noted that “business have an enormous” role to play in reducing our climate impact. All eyes and ears are now on President-elect Trump’s plans for carbon and environmental policies when he enters the White House. The world has just over a month to influence the businessman come politician with a united private sector front for climate action and reduced fossil fuel emissions.

COP 22 marked the emergence of the private sector and businesses action on climate. The ‘We mean business coalition’ has to date 673 companies and investors committed to taking climate action on named initiatives, with 365 reaffirming their commitment at COP 22. The research report ‘The Business End of Climate Change’, launched on Tuesday 28 June at the Business & Climate Summit in London’s Guildhall, showed that businesses have the potential to save as much as China’s annual emissions by 2030 (10bn metric tons of CO2 equivalent a year), getting us more than halfway to a sub-two-degree warming target. All businesses however, big or small, can influence and make a difference to our climate impact!

The Huffington Post announced that some businesses are going further than this and announcing aspirations to be carbon neutral in just 35 years. With others signing up to long-term climate goals, as stated in The Times, and leading the charge on low carbon innovative technologies. The Climate Group announced that businesses looking at their supply chains can increase the influence and impact that business has.

Being sustainable and reducing environmental and social impacts is good for business. Renewables and more efficient practices and technologies provide efficiencies, resilience and conservation that fossil fuels do not. Good practice can include travel policies reducing flights, lower energy use, more efficient technology including lighting, and renewable energy sources. RE100 (Renewable Energy 100), one of the ‘We mean business coalition’ named initiatives, has grown in membership by over a half with 30 new businesses joining in 2016, reaching 83 businesses committing to being 100% renewable.

Our clients are also leading the way; Dentsu Aegis Network has committed to RE100 by aiming to “source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020… through their new CSR Strategy called ‘Future Proof 2020’”, Nick Priday, Group Chief Financial Officer explains, as well as having their own ‘Green Pledges’ to support COP 22. Another of our clients, ASOS, is working with us to assess the feasibility of renewables at their new distribution centre in Berlin.

Climate action is not only for large international organisations; small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can have a huge influence on the direction of the UKs climate policies too. Over 95% of businesses are SMEs with over 50% of business employees. A new ERDF programme – Low Carbon Across the South East (LoCASE) – is helping to grow the local low carbon industry by supporting SMEs to install low carbon technologies and reduce their carbon impact.

Businesses can make a huge difference to the UK’s carbon budget by improving their resilience through low carbon technologies and best practice. Organisations with a long-term view already committed and taking action to implement methods to reduce their climate impact and increase their influence – if you mean businesses, do your part today.

5 tips for combating deforestation in the publishing industry

Deforestation is one of the biggest sustainability challenges of this generation. According to Green Action News, 80% of the earth’s forests have already been destroyed. This enormous issue is largely driven by the production of major commodities – including pulp and paper. In fact, the Environmental Paper Institute state that 42% of trees that get cut down are made into pulp for paper products.

The dangers of deforestation are largely well known. However, here are some hard-hitting facts to put the issue into sharp focus:

  • 300 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in the earth’s forests
  • 15% of all greenhouse gasses are a result of deforestation
  • 70% of all animals live in these forests, and 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by 2040 due to deforestation

As terrifying as the above statistics are, they are perhaps not the most surprising. Many people are aware of these dangers. But here is one fact that most people may not be aware of: deforestation is a leading cause of modern slavery.

Walk Free has estimated that there are an alarming 48.5 million people in modern slavery worldwide. The highest risk areas are less developed countries and industries involving raw materials – this applies to the timber industry, specifically the illegal logging side, where there is little to no regulation. Estimates for illegal logging can reach up to 50% of all logging in some countries – so publisher’s need to examine their supply chain with an eagle eye. With the Modern Slavery Act now on the UK statute book, businesses must be extremely diligent to ensure that no slavery is present at any level of their supply chain.

What can be done?

As a publishing company, there are countless ways to ensure your paper is sourced sustainably. There seems to be hundreds of initiatives, certifications and regulations attempting to ensure the sustainable harvesting of our forests. So much so that it becomes easy to feel lost and confused about the best ways to act. Here are our 5 top tips to guide you through:

  1. Using recycled paper – this seems like an obvious choice, still, the benefits are inordinate. Each ton of recycled fibre that replaces a ton of virgin fibre saves 17 – 24 trees.
  2. Understand the full impact of your supply chain – the EU timber regulation requires that all companies must come from a legal source; however, the WWF predicts that over half of timber products traded into the EU are not covered by EURT. Therefore, publishing companies should dig deeper to ensure that the timber they buy is sustainably sourced.
  3. Sourcing certified products – a simple and easy way to ensure that materials are sustainably sourced. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one of the most widely recognized certification schemes – why not follow in the footsteps of publishing giant Penguin Random House and aim to have 100% of all paper sourced from FSC certified suppliers by 2020?
  4. Become a FSC certified publisher – one step beyond using certified products – getting certified! For this, an FSC chain of custody certification is required, which will enable using the FSC trademark on products.
  5. Collaborating with other suppliers – The UN has heralded collaboration within the industry as a key tactic for ensuring sustainability along a company’s supply chain. By collaborating with other suppliers, publishing companies can become more effective by extending their reach, pools resources, reducing duplication and avoiding conflicting messages.

Understanding the impacts of deforestation and setting out a clear strategy is the key to avoiding the risks associated with deforestation. By having the will to embrace effective recycling systems, by judicious auditing of all elements of its supply chain, and by allying itself to well-respected and reliable certification schemes, the publishing industry can ensure it does not exacerbate deforestation and help to reduce the risks that deforestation already poses.

The click that makes a difference

Why you shouldn’t opt for next day delivery

With Christmas around the corner, suppliers are ramping up production, retailers are introducing extra shifts and customers, wish list ready, are starting to buy presents for their nearest and dearest. Online shopping is a great way to avoid the hustle and bustle of after work shopping – a gruelling experience for many. Research also suggests, that if you don’t have loads of failed deliveries and you don’t return everything you buy, online shopping can be a more sustainable method of shopping.

However, did you know that your choice of delivery method you opt for will have a considerable impact on the environment? Here’s why:

Typically, standard delivery for UK and Europe is transport by road. With standard delivery third party carriers have the time to transport the goods to their main hubs and distribute them from there. However, when you select express, and most certainly next day, road – HGV (heavy goods vehicle) – transport is just not fast enough. So, then there are two options: express delivery vans and flights.

Express delivery vans bypass the hubs and get the orders straight from the retailer to the customers. The vans are smaller and with less goods being transported, meaning that the journey is also more carbon intensive per item transported. For example, let’s say you have ordered a brand-new pair of boots from London coming from Edinburgh, which weigh approximately 2kg. Transporting the goods via standard delivery (road haulage HGV vans) would have an impact of 0.2 kg CO₂e compared to 0.9 kg CO₂e if express delivery vans were used – nearly 5 times more carbon intensive!

Flights, and in particular, short haul flights, are extremely carbon intensive. It is 15 times less carbon intensive to transport goods via road than it is to fly them. Let’s say you decide to order your boots from Madrid instead. By road, a 2kg parcel to Madrid would account for 0.4 kg CO₂e whereas by air it be 5.5 kg CO₂e alone.

A simple purchasing decision, a click-online, can mean that the impact of the transport of your new boots are 15 times more carbon intensive than by standard delivery. So, as you’re planing your holiday shopping, bear in mind the impact of your decisions. If you don’t really need next day or express, use standard delivery – not only will you save the additional costs, but you will also reduce the environmental impact of your Christmas treats.

Jessica Cresswell is Carbon Smart’s supply chain expert with a focus on environmental and social impact assessments.

My top 5 tips for scope 2 dual reporting success

For global organisations, scope 2 dual reporting can be nothing short of a nightmare. The guidance is complicated, the terminology unfamiliar and the global availability of information hugely variable. Organisations risk material misstatement of their market-based emissions if they don’t get their approach right.

With all these challenges at play, it can be tempting for environmental reporting managers to request as much utilities billing / evidence as possible from regional reporting teams and attempt to co-ordinate market-based reporting from the centre. This is a common and costly mistake for a few reasons – the time consumed in trying to process high volumes of evidence, the challenge of translation, and lack of understanding of the local energy landscape.

So here are my top five tips for global organisations trying to source market-based conversion factors:

  1. Empower each market – your regional reporters can be your local experts; with the right training regarding the conversion factor hierarchy and acceptable quality criteria they can, and should be, responsible for retrieving the required market-based factors
  2. Provide context – invite regional reporting representatives to a training workshop – help them to understand what market-based reporting is, the benefits of getting it right, and your organisations’ wider strategic energy roadmap
  3. Start with the basics – some regional reporters may never have seen their utilities bills, or know where to find them. The first questions to ask are whether there is any evidence related to energy purchases available; or if it is even possible to purchase market differentiated energy in that region
  4. Leverage your procurement team – where reporters need to get in contact with their energy providers to source supplier specific conversion factors, they should go through their procurement team, raising the question with dedicated accounts managers – this will be far quicker than contacting a utility providers’ customer services
  5. Admit defeat (eventually) – where it’s not possible to source market factors specific to your purchases; remember, residual factors and location based factors can be used as a default- effort need to be proportionate to material gain

Scope 2 reporting is in its infancy – globally, utilities providers aren’t necessarily ready to respond to their customers’ requests for information; particularly where regulation hasn’t forced the issue (the UK has the Fuel Mix Disclosure Regulations that requires utilities companies to disclose information on standard tariffs for example). Over the coming years, the market will mature; but in the meantime, regular communication and engagement with regional teams is the best recipe for success.

“The scope 2 workshop was insightfully presented. The exercises included were particularly good, as they give you the occasion to ‘get your hands dirty’.”
-Neil Quayle, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Analyst, Capgemini

Julie Craig regularly delivers Carbon Smarts’ scope 2 masterclass for organisations wishing to engage their global reporting teams. Get in touch to discuss your training needs: julie.craig@carbonsmart.co.uk or 020 7048 0450.

2016 CDP results are in!

October 25 marked the release of the 2016 Climate Change CDP results and what a successful year it has been for Carbon Smart’s clients! We helped insurance giant XL Catlin and global recruitment leaders SThree plc to tell their sustainability stories and maximise their CDP performance.

SThree plc increased their score from ‘74 E’ in 2015 (a ‘D’ in the 2016 scoring system) to ‘B’ in 2016. XL Catlin received a ‘B’ score – quite an achievement, particularly as 2016 was their first year of CDP disclosure as a group. These impressive achievements demonstrate that both organisations have gone beyond simply being transparent about climate change, and are now taking coordinated action on climate change issues, to improve the sustainability of their long-term operations.

2016 was all about change. Most significantly, CDP has simplified its scoring methodology. Gone is the slightly confusing combined letter and number score. Instead, this year CDP has implemented a more straightforward letter system, which grades companies from A to F, and is intended to shift the emphasis from simple disclosure towards calling for, and consequently rewarding, real action.

Companies are broadly split into 5 categories;

  • Leadership (A/A-) – implementing current best practices
  • Management (B/B-) – taking coordinated action on climate change issues
  • Awareness (C/C-) – having knowledge of impacts on, and of, climate change issues
  • Disclosure (D/D-) – being transparent about climate change issues
  • F – failing to provide sufficient information to CDP to be evaluated

Moving forward, as the global landscape continues to change and companies begin to take the actions required to limit global warming to below 2°C, the CDP scoring methodology will continue to evolve. CDP is placing emphasis on initiatives which go beyond the norm, such as achieving emissions reductions, adopting science based targets, implementing internal carbon prices and investing in renewable energy. The changes signify a positive step towards rewarding those organisations that go beyond disclosure, and are leading the way in terms of managing and reducing their environmental impact. To quote CDP, “companies have an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership, agility and creativity in curbing their own substantial emissions”.

“We were really pleased to work with Carbon Smart on our CDP submission this year and increase our score from an E to a B. We find the team very professional and efficient in helping us progress on our environmental agenda.” Marie Broad, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, SThree Plc

Carbon Smart will continue to work with clients across 2017 to support them on their sustainability journey and communicate their sustainability achievements in a way that helps them maximise their CDP performance.

To speak to one of our consultants, click here.

 

More plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050

Recent aerial surveys of the great Pacific garbage patch by the Ocean Cleanup have revealed just how extensive plastic pollution is in our oceans, with large islands of debris now visible from space. The environmental implications of plastic use on a global scale have, for the most part, not been considered until recently, which has led to the situation whereby The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.

Plastic waste is not only an environmental concern, it is an economic one. A recent report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that after just a single use, 95% of the material value of plastic packaging ($80-120 billion) is lost to the economy. This represents a disconnect between the ambitious internal recycling targets of organisations and low capture rates seen on a global scale. It is thought that 32% of all plastic packaging escapes collection, and of the material that is captured by waste infrastructure, only 14% is recycled.

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While the high functionality and low cost of plastic has made us dependent on it for some of our most basic needs, designing better products that enable society to move beyond plastics is a necessary step along the path of responsible consumption. Over the past few years, entrepreneurs around the world have designed new materials with strong environmental credentials to replace plastics. Award-winning Agar Plasticity is one such example of this, derived from seaweed and offering a snapshot of what sustainable packaging could look like.

Collaboration with industry is vital if such innovations are to succeed as often these new technologies fail to reach scale due to high capex or processing costs. Many leading organisations are doing just this; IKEA recently announced exciting plans to use Ecovative’s mushroom packaging grown from mycelium as a substitute to conventional polystyrene. Similarly, compostable plastic containers are becoming increasingly popular in offices around the world as sustainability and procurement teams work together to reduce plastic in their supply chains.

The widespread use of this material is just another manifestation of our addiction to oil which, in light of the Paris Agreement, must be addressed by industry, governments and consumers alike. Whilst positive steps are being taken at both a local and governmental level, plastic will remain, at least in the short term, one of the most widely used packaging materials. As responsible consumers, we should all strive to put down the plastic bags and say no to the existing take-make-dispose linear economy. Demanding change at a consumer level can have greater impacts than one might initially think.

Illustration: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Paris Agreement – entering a low-carbon era

The Paris Climate Agreement is a landmark deal in the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change. The agreement crossed the threshold on 5 October 2016 after being ratified by over 55 countries and with over 55% of global emissions reached. The Paris Agreement, signed by 191 countries, will now enter into force in 30 days. With the key objective of limiting the gradual rise of global average temperature to below 2°C, countries now have an opportunity and support to take action to achieve their emissions targets as stated in their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution). So what does this mean for the UK?

The Paris Agreement represents an opportunity for the UK, and for UK businesses, to become international leaders in a low-carbon economy, particularly in a post-Brexit world. Theresa May has already expressed the UK’s intentions to ratify the deal independently by the end of the year. At a Conservative Party Conference taken place on 5 Oct, May said: “It’s about doing what every other major and growing economy in the world does. Not just sitting back and seeing what happens – but putting in place a plan and getting on with the job.” UK businesses need to stay aware of the developing new low-carbon era and act as sustainability leaders.

It remains to be seen what emission reduction targets the UK government will set, but as part of the EU INDC, a 40% reduction in domestic emissions by 2030 across the bloc was agreed. The UK climate change act aims to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels. Regardless of the target, it will undoubtedly mean more regular changes to the UK’s environmental policy as it moves towards a low-carbon economy. This will help to develop circular economy and renewable energy in the UK as steps to achieving our emissions target. The best way for UK businesses to continue to grow and remain relevant in this envisaged low-carbon economy is to begin making changes to the way they operate today. By implementing a forward thinking approach today and making sustainability work, organisations can ensure they turn potential risks into opportunities.

The Paris climate agreement coming into effect represents the biggest international opportunity to combat climate change. The deal is the first of its kind and has passed through the legislative proceedings in a relatively short space of time, signalling a genuine desire to tackle climate change head on. Now is the time for governments and businesses to act. Understanding the impacts of climate change, developing a suitable roadmap, setting realistic goals, accelerating actions and investments and getting the required support – all are essential actions for securing a sustainable low-carbon future.

Image source: http://www.wri.org/news/2016/10/statement-paris-agreement-crosses-final-threshold-enter-force

Resource efficiency toolkit update

Good news for businesses in the North West – Carbon Smart has just completed work with Business Growth Hub (BGH) to update the award-winning Online Efficiency Toolkit they use with the latest greenhouse gas conversion factors. This ensures that SMEs working with BGH receive accurate and up-to-date figures on environmental savings from efficiency improvements.

As part of a host of environmental business services offered by BGH, the Efficiency Toolkit allows businesses to track opportunities for investment, such as retrofit of LED lighting systems and other low carbon technologies, or replacement of raw materials in a manufacturing process with a recycled alternative. The Toolkit calculates paybacks and carbon emissions savings so businesses can prioritise the most suitable opportunities. Carbon Smart has used their industry expertise to ensure the Toolkit is accurately updated with the newest available Defra 2016 conversion factors and latest energy and water prices.

Carbon Smart has also analysed the current and future environmental reporting and policy landscape to assist BGH in understanding what type of support SMEs may need in the coming years. This allows BGH to put steps in place now, to ensure SMEs are prepared for their future obligations and further growth opportunities.

Rebecca Chedd from BGH said: “Carbon Smart helped us to update our toolkit and provided a detailed review of the greenhouse gas reporting and energy regulation landscape. We had a very positive experience working with Carbon Smart – they are certainly experts in this area, and delivered clear and accurate work which helps us directly support the SMEs in the North West.”

Greenhouse Gas reporting to reflect natural gas tariffs containing biomethane

Companies that report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a global standard on how to measure, manage and report on GHG’s, can now reflect their decision to purchase a natural gas tariff containing biomethane through reduced scope 1 emissions.

In the UK, natural gas providers can include biomethane within their natural gas mix and evidence it’s presence through the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS), which issues Green Gas Certificates (GGCs) accordingly. As with Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) for renewable electricity generation, the issuing of the GGCs tracks biomethane through the supply chain and prevents double counting by multiple suppliers. The biogenic nature of biomethane means that businesses purchasing gas from these certified sources can attract a net zero (or near zero) emissions factor in company reporting.

This announcement follows the publication of the GHG Protocol’s Scope 2 Guidance published in 2015, which has enabled businesses to reflect the renewable sources present in the fuel mix of their chosen electricity suppliers.

For businesses where high natural gas consumption is a necessity for heating, processing and manufacturing, this approach provides the opportunity to reduce emissions through procurement, as well as through traditional energy efficiency methods.

Modern Slavery statement – the clock is ticking

On the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA), Theresa May, Prime Minister and author of the Act, stated that “Britain will once again lead the way in defeating modern slavery and preserving the freedoms and values that have defined our country for generations” (BBC). The UK government appears very serious about an issue that will not go away without significant action from UK businesses.

As we head towards the end of September, an increasing number of UK businesses are facing compliance with the Act. It requires larger businesses to publish a statement that confirms the steps taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in the business or in any supply chain, or alternatively to declare that no steps to confirm the existence of slavery or trafficking have been taken. Faced with this challenge, many businesses that have taken first steps to comply have produced ‘holding statements’, high level overviews of a general approach or indeed statements of intent. In many cases, this amounts to a ‘wait and see’ approach; producing a statement without really looking at supply chain risks and waiting to see what competitors, peers and indeed NGOs do next.

Why should businesses avoid a shortcut approach? There are three main reasons:

  1. Modern slavery is likely to exist in most supply chains – research from Ashridge suggests that about 70% of CEOs think slavery is present in their supply chain, some estimates have this higher still. Whatever sector a business operates in or wherever its tier one suppliers operate, any large business will have a supply chain that stretches round the globe into areas where slavery may be present. Codes of conduct only work if they are active, understood and enforced. Every business should be concerned to get this right.
  2. Large businesses have complex supply chains – many large businesses will be looking at supply relationships with more than 1,000 suppliers. It is risky to focus on only a small number of suppliers or to rely on responses to wide ranging supplier questionnaires (if responses do indeed come back). A business may simply miss the areas of real risks and impacts by avoiding a full view of their supply chain. A straightforward mapping of supply chain activity to detailed models of global social risk, such as Carbon Smart’s SPEAR, can provide a solid assessment of where both direct and indirect risks lie and where to focus action. It may not be your biggest or closest supplier that has issues you need to address!
  3. A holding statement is not enough – a short-sighted view is potentially dangerous for a business. Modern Slavery has a profile that it has not had for a very long time, it is a real and present issue for us all. The MSA statement provisions were included in response to UK businesses requesting action – business wants this issue addressed; Major businesses are taking a lead and will expect their suppliers to be doing what they should, consumers expect their brands to be right on this issue, NGOs are very active in looking at statements and the actions behind them – we can expect some businesses to be caught out.  Slavery is not an issue that sits comfortably with white wash statements full of legalese; whatever the letter of the law, the Act is about action.

UK business must once again rise to the challenge. Compliance with the Modern Slavery Act does require a statement, but it is really about action, practical, focused action that will take time to put in place and get right. The clock is ticking and many, many businesses need to act today.

To learn more about the MSA compliance from our experts, or if you have questions, call Ben or Jessica at 0207 048 0450.

ESOS compliance enforced – are you ready?

With the ESOS compliance deadline of 5th December 2015 now long passed, data published online by the Environment Agency (EA) suggests that around 3,000 of the estimated 10,000 ESOS qualifying organisations are still yet to comply. An EA spokesman confirmed in April that they were beginning to contact organisations they believe qualified for ESOS but who had not complied, using “enforcement notices where necessary and civil penalties served in the most serious cases”. Indeed, the EA’s July ESOS newsletter confirmed that they had identified 1,500 companies who they would be targeting. With the EA having confirmed they will not release information on these organisations, and given that civil penalties could be as large as an initial £50,000, and up to £500 per working day up to a maximum of 80 working days, many have speculated how effective the EA’s ESOS compliance enforcement will be.

Carbon Smart’s lead assessors can confirm that the EA has begun the process of engaging with non-compliant organisations, serving enforcement notices in many cases. The enforcement notices clearly lay out the steps that should be taken by the organisation in question in order to comply, the date by which this action needs to be carried out and reiterates the prospect of a civil penalty should remedial action not be taken. With a dedicated ESOS Enforcement team in place, it seems that the EA will continue to pursue those that they deem have not fulfilled their legislative obligations.

Act today!

Our ESOS Lead Assessors are working with a number of these organisations to ensure they are ESOS compliant by the deadline set by the EA. If you have been served an enforcement notice by the EA, or want to avoid getting caught, contact Carbon Smart today and we will provide all the support you need to meet enforcement requirements.

For more information and clients we have helped, visit our ESOS page.

Financial and non-financial reporting: Two sides of the same coin?

Annual reports have long been recognised as an important medium through which companies disclose information to external stakeholders regarding performance, strategy, risks and opportunities for growth. As good reporting stems from good governance, most companies will have sophisticated and mature systems in place to manage financial information throughout the year, across all parts of the business, thereby enabling timely disclosure at year end.

Imagine trying to operate in an economy where companies approached financial disclosure in the same way they currently manage and report on non-financial matters, such as energy, emissions, environmental and social issues. Would you invest in a company if you could find no mention of any financial information in its annual report? Or if the financial performance of individual business units were simply estimated due to insufficient data? Or if the only remotely finance related disclosure available concerned voluntary initiatives of staff in local communities? Of course not! Such a situation would clearly be absurd. And yet, sadly, this is par for the course for non-financial reporting.

Across the EU, just 6% of EU large companies provide any form of non-financial disclosure whilst the overwhelming majority, around 42,000 companies, do not. But the reporting landscape is changing and companies ignore this at their peril. Since 2013, all UK quoted companies have had to include greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within their Annual Reports. The Strategic Report and Directors’ Report Regulations introduced legislation requiring quoted companies to disclose information “necessary for an understanding of the development, performance or position of the company’s business”, which includes disclosure of KPIs on non-financial matters, such as energy consumption. And regardless of Brexit, by December 2016, the UK is required to transpose the EU directive on non-financial reporting into law, placing obligations on companies to include relevant and useful information on policies, main risks and outcomes for non-financial issues.

Following the UK government’s consultation on “Reforming the business energy efficiency tax landscape”, a new, consolidated reporting regime is now expected in April 2019 to reduce the administrative burden of complying with several overlapping schemes (such as ESOS, CRC and MGHG). Whilst the results of the consultation revealed scope for consolidating tax and reporting requirements, the business community remains unequivocally clear in supporting the benefits of non-financial disclosure. Prior to the March 2016 budget, representatives of several leading organisations including BT, Aviva, Nestle, National Grid and IEMA signed an open letter stating that mandatory GHG reporting has helped to improve board level oversight, investor engagement, resource efficiency and productivity. Earlier this year, Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, with $4.6 trillion assets under management, stated that “over the long-term, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness, have real and quantifiable financial impacts”. And a recent survey conducted by PWC revealed that 97% of Limited Partners (LPs) carry out an ESG assessment prior to allocating funds and that “70% of institutional investors are turning down projects on environmental, social and governance grounds”.

As the saying goes, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. The financial industry is increasingly awake to the risks presented by a failure to manage and report on ESG issues. Although legislation may currently be targeted primarily at larger companies, a trickle-down effect is inevitable as they demand greater disclosure from suppliers in order to meet their obligations.  Aside from need to ensure compliance and meet rising expectations of external stakeholders, a robust and proactive approach to non-financial disclosure presents an opportunity for companies to report on their “handprint”, i.e. the positive effects they have, as well as their “footprint” – the impact they leave behind. In the 21st century, can companies afford to manage non-financial disclosure with any less rigour than traditional financial concerns? For leading companies, it is already clear that financial and non-financial reporting are simply two sides of the same coin.

*This article was published in The Energyst magazine Aug/Sept 2016 edition originally.

 

ASOS continues to improve its environmental responsibility

ASOS have appointed Carbon Smart to deliver a renewable technology appraisal and recommendations for their new, state-of-the-art distribution centre in Berlin. ASOS continues to improve its environmental performance as part of the company’s corporate responsibility programme, ‘Fashion with Integrity’. This project will equip ASOS with the knowledge to invest in carbon reduction technologies and secure the long term viability of their European operations.

Carbon Smart has been selected to assess the potential for a range of renewable energy technologies at ASOS’s new build distribution hub in Berlin. This assessment will include modelling relevant renewable and low-carbon energy systems, including solar PV, CHP, biomass, wind, and ground- and air-source heat pumps, to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of such systems for the facility. Given the different policy regimes and support landscape in Germany, Carbon Smart will also review local incentives for the proposed technologies, and advise on routes to implementation during the construction phase of the project.

The site in Berlin presents an exciting opportunity for ASOS and Carbon Smart to set the direction for low carbon, cost effective and sustainable energy. We will apply our expertise and industry-tested modelling tools into this project to support ASOS on their sustainability journey. This marks the fourth collaboration between Carbon Smart and ASOS in the past 12 months, with Carbon Smart having previously assisted ASOS to comply with the ESOS legislation, calculate their global carbon footprint and improve their supply chain sustainability.

 

What is your post-Brexit environmental strategy?

As the dust still settles from the UK’s decision to leave the EU, we are left to speculate on the long term impact on the UK’s environmental agenda. Will there be changes to the environmental regulations that businesses need to respond to? What implications could there be on Government subsidies for environmental technology? What impact could be seen on the 2015 Paris climate conference agreement? Carbon Smart can help you plan your strategy and be prepared.

At Carbon Smart we are minded to be optimistic:

  • The UK is bound by the Climate Change Act 2008 – this is a UK law which requires reduction in GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels – the UK’s commitment to this has been reiterated by the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change since the result of the referendum and the fifth carbon budget has been set
  • Whilst businesses in the UK are still required to meet the requirements of EU regulations that improve environmental performance, the UK took a leading role in defining many of these regulations, and as such are unlikely to unwind their commitment to these issues on the world’s stage
  • Even if the UK did step away from some EU environmental regulation, this would not be possible until at least 4 years from now (this is the forecast amount of time it would take us to leave the EU). Moreover, it is likely that UK-specific environmental regulation would be put in place in the meantime – this in itself could reap additional environmental benefit through legislation that is more tailored to UK businesses
  • Brexit could accelerate innovation and growing environmental commitment –  businesses will need to be prepared to compete in global markets more than ever before, ensuring their environmental strategy and credentials are robust enough to trade into the EU, and provide a clear point of difference between themselves and competitors will be key

In order to start preparing your business today, you should be abreast of the current environmental pressures being exerted in terms of regulation, stakeholder requirements and competitor activities. Understanding the potential impacts of Brexit on the UK and the upcoming EU regulation is essential for developing a roadmap for the short and long term to improve your environmental performance and enhance your organisation’s competitiveness.

Carbon Smart’s experts can help you be Brexit-ready – call us now.

Where should I put my solar farm?

How do you balance the need for low carbon energy sources for the community with treasured landscapes, areas of growth and development, and an electricity grid built for centralised power distribution?

With top-down targets to meet as well as demand from communities across the region, this local authority sought expert advice to ensure a robust assessment of the potential for solar PV farms within their planning boundary, in order to influence their Local Plan. Using GIS mapping data available to the local authority, 50 sites were identified with potential to host a solar PV farm within a kilometre of a substation, accounting for AONBs, agricultural land, urban areas, future development zones, and other constraints.

Sounds great! But that’s an unrealistic proposition for a local authority trying to prioritise effort and give clear signals to the market, when developers are proposing sites to the Inspectorate. Carbon Smart was required to apply further constraints to give a realistic picture of the prospects for local generation in this region.

The feasibility of a solar farm is governed by a number of factors, including distance to substations or transmission lines, as well as the condition of that infrastructure. Our team assessed the state of the grid at each location, prioritised those substations through liaising with the DNO (Distribution Network Operator). Since  this is a system in constant flux, with reinforcing works, new connections and upgrades on the wider network taking place on a rolling basis, setting priorities for the next ten years in the context of a Local Plan was a challenge. We addressed this challenge by analysing longer range trends in the region, including scheduled future works, the volume of planned local generation sites, and the condition of grid stations and super stations on the wider network. We successfully delivered a target list of a handful of optimal sites for solar farms, along with a longer list of potential sites on the network. While these mid-priority sites are in areas constrained by the local grid, future works to reinforce the grid will release capacity for new solar PV farms in these locations within the term of the Local Plan.

By working with Carbon Smart’s team of experts, the local authority successfully identified multiple prime locations for solar PV farms within their planning remit to include in the Local Plan, with robust support for each site, offering an attractive proposition for developers seeking new sites in the region.

If you need help with a similar issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Clean Energy for Communities

Parish councils and other community groups have an open door to explore the benefit to their residents of renewable energy tech in their community. DECC and Defra are offering grants to eligible groups to commission feasibility studies on technologies including solar PV, biomass boilers, heat networks, heat pumps and more.

These grants allow you to investigate the technical and financial viability of any desired systems in your community – and use the income you generate for the good of the community. Some recent projects include:

  • Solar panels on schools giving pupils lowcost electricity while tackling fuel poverty
  • Heat networks at a medical centre ensuring low cost, low carbon heat at critical community facilities
  • Community owned solar farm in Oxfordshire generating returns for local share holders
  • A community owned wind turbine with profits going to a local community association for further distribution

Imagine what you could do for your community!

Carbon Smart is working with parish councils, faith groups, charities and other eligible groups to access this funding and conduct feasibility studies. To find out more, get in touch: 0207 048 0450 or email Helen.Troup@carbonsmart.co.uk

 

 

Lead, don’t follow – vote remain

We are a few short days away from the biggest decision we will collectively take for a generation, maybe longer. The decision to remain in, or leave the EU will affect our lives, those of our children and undoubtedly, those beyond, in various ways. At Carbon Smart, we have looked hard at what the debate might mean for climate action, and we firmly, to a person, support remaining in the EU.

Climate action and business

The UK is (currently) home to the headquarters of many global businesses, home to the European headquarters of many more international businesses. These businesses face a myriad of regulatory requirements, not least in respective of environmental action, across all the countries they operate and trade in.

The Leave campaign would have us believe that there is an advantage in setting our own rules, in making things different here, but most businesses, certainly when it comes to environmental action, want a level playing field. They want to be subject to the same rules as their competitors. Better still, they prefer the same rules for the many different parts of their organisations. The headache of complying with one rule in the UK, another in the EU, yet another in the US etc. means focus would move to ticking all the boxes, not taking action that could really make a difference.

When it comes to the age old arguments about the EU imposing standards on UK businesses for products (think straight bananas), a single set of standards across a 500 million person market is an extraordinary achievement. Any business looking at selling cars, medicine, telecoms, electrical goods, household goods, chemical products, safety equipment, paper products – the list goes on – benefits from one set of standards. If we left the EU, would we really make a new set of standards just for us? Or simply be signing up to follow the EU’s standards but with no ability to shape or lead them?

It is not, however, just consistency that the EU gives us. The EU has played a leading role over the years in environmental action from air pollution, to ozone, to emissions trading and energy efficiency – as part of the EU we have led the charge, been able to persuade China, India, Brazil, even latterly the US (under the current president at least) that environmental commitments and action are vital. The weight of the EU’s developed economies coming to the table as a block cannot be overestimated. It is very hard to believe that we could exert the same influence on these issues as a standalone country – one small country amongst nearly 200 others. As part of the EU we were able to lead 195 countries to achieve a historic agreement on climate change in Paris last year. On our own, would our voice have made a real difference in those discussions? As a member of the EU, we were able to lead the debate, not just follow it.

Employing great people

To continue to make the difference we do at Carbon Smart, we need great people; fired up about environmental and social issues, bright, hardworking and committed. We have many employees from the UK, but we also have had and have employees from the EU. It has been simple and quick to employ these people and to benefit from the richness that they bring. The UK leads the world in climate change services, we do so with contributions from people all over the EU. Whether it is a point based system, or something more akin to the current system we have outside the EU, anything that makes it harder to bring the right people into solving climate change challenges would be a step backwards.

Doing business in Europe

But maybe the biggest argument for staying in the EU is one that reaches well beyond the sustainability sector. At Carbon Smart we help businesses all over the world. We sell services in many markets, as do thousands of other UK service based businesses. We can do so in the EU as simply as we can in the UK. The single market makes it uniquely easy to do business on the other side of the Channel. What Leave has simply failed to address is how they think we can ensure that the UK’s massive services sector can continue to access the EU without signing up to the rules of the single market and the payments that go with it. If we left, we would be following, not leading, with no voice in the room.

Remaining in the EU, working to make it better as a large and growing economy is leading, not following. Working together with our other European allies to secure new, innovative and coordinated action on climate change is leading, not following. Ensuring the very best people come and work here in the UK, providing services across the single market is leading, not following. As leaders in sustainability, we at Carbon Smart would encourage you to vote to lead, to vote to REMAIN.

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Concerned About the Modern Slavery Act?

How should organisations address risks in their supply chain

Discussions around the new Modern Slavery Act requirements have largely focused on what exactly businesses should, or should not, include in their Slavery and Human Trafficking statement. Much of the conversations are around what should be included in the statement, who needs to comply and the timeline for responding to the Act. While the details of getting the statement right are important, Modern Slavery is a much broader issue that all organisations should investigate in their supply chains and address with utmost importance.

Transparency in supply chains is essential for any organisation that wants to tackle this complex issue and there are contradicting views around this topic. Some NGOs are championing transparency and think that in order to address this issue properly, the business community must enter an open dialogue about the challenges, pitfalls and solutions to mitigate the exploitation of people and the risks they are facing in their supply chains. As such, the more transparency and information a business can share, the better. On the other hand, there are advisors and legal firms who aim to minimise an organisation’s exposure to risk rather than identify and mitigate it. This approach could misguide organisations as to the heart of the issue and discourage them from sharing information that may invite public scrutiny.

So how should companies address the Modern Slavery Act and the potential risks associated with it? Based on Carbon Smart’s discussions with businesses since the Act was issued in October 2015, most organisations are keen to do the right thing and address modern slavery in their supply chains. There is a concern with regards to the risks that could come up as part of the process and how they should be disclosed publicly. This concern is justified. A recent survey led by the Ethical Trading Initiative and Ashridge University[1] shows that 71% of businesses interviewed believed that it is likely that modern slavery is happening at some stage in their supply chains. Globalisation has created long and complex supply chains with many players involved, creating a challenging space for businesses to truly understand what is going on in their supply chains.

Identifying these risks, understanding what causes them and developing a mitigation plan are the real challenges the Modern Slavery Act opposes for organisations. Ergon Associates analysed over 200 statements that were published before 31 March 2016 – well before the deadline. The results revealed that 60% of the statements reviewed have not identified priorities based on their risk assessment, and a further 35% did not include any actions required to mitigate modern slavery risks. It may be that some businesses are reluctant to address risks in their supply chains out of fear of what might they find.

For many businesses, the risks are mostly unknown. Businesses’ supply chains are vast, some covering 10,000s suppliers who are not always willing to share information on their sourcing practices. Businesses need to find an approach which will enable them to focus their efforts on high risk areas and start to develop the knowledge and tools to tackle the issues. Once this has been developed, businesses can move onto expanding the scope and scale of their risk mitigation efforts.

Managing risks is an ongoing process that will develop over time. The statement itself acts as a snapshot of what a business has achieved over the course of the reporting year but is only an initial step which will enable organisations begin their journey to tackling modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. Going through the process is important for any organisation and will deliver a clear message to your stakeholders and civil society. Namely, a business needs to demonstrate that it understands its impact on society and has measures in place to stop modern slavery and human trafficking.

Carbon Smart’s goal is to help organisations become aware of the issue, learn whether modern slavery takes place in their supply chains, identify any risks and develop a mitigation plan. We will also help in preparing the statement required by the Act and provide you with useful tools that can be applied by your team members to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in your organisation.

 

[1] Source: https://www.ashridge.org.uk/getattachment/Faculty-Research/Research/Current-Research/Research-Projects/Corporate-approaches-to-addressing-modern-slavery/Modern-Slavery-v3-named.pdf