2021 Carbon Audit
Dealing with our organisational carbon emissions is one step we can take to reducing our impact on #climatechange, and even more importantly is the idea that it catches on so all of us start measuring, and reducing, our impact.
The idea was raised at a whole-company meeting and everyone was really positive. We're a little company, there's only 20 or so of us, we're not swimming in money, we don't have bean bags and slides, yet we are close-knit, passionate about what we do, and passionate about improving. That we might aspire to be a carbon neutral company, and not in some hazy future but right now - well that perked everyone's ears up.
So - we signed up to the "One, Two, Zero" initiative - run by Redshaw Advisors. One Two Zero is a guided process to help measure, verify, reduce, then offset scope 1, 2 and 3 operational GHG (Green House Gas) emissions.
Operationally carbon neutral.
Redshaw provide verified offsetting, so you might think that they’re trying to maximise those at all costs. Yes this is a commercial service and product, but their motivation is clear as they repeatedly drummed home that the point is to identify reductions year-on-year.
At the end we have gained certification badges to proudly show on our websites, and there’s the added benefit that there’s a 3rd party involved, it’s not just us making potentially-unsubstantiated claims.
Mandy works in our accounts dept and she takes on the bulk of the task. Carbon-accounting is a natural fit for accounts - Mandy now has worksheets and spreadsheets galore set up, and will make this a part of our yearly accounts process. Just like measuring turnover, profit, dead-stock, etc, this is a way in which we will start to give more consideration to sustainability in our business.
Part of the benefit of signing up is being "forced" to do this exercise. Sure we could have done something similar before - but we didn't. Actually doing something to improve, that's the thing, and this has helped us to do that. It's also illuminating to see where our emissions are, and where we can make savings.
Over the years we’ve already done quite a lot to try to reduce our impact, with various reviews and initiatives, such as:
- We have a renewable heating system at our warehouse.
- We use a 100% renewable electricity supply at our warehouse and office.
- Motion sensor-activated low energy lighting at our warehouse.
- A corrugating machine means we reuse nearly all incoming cardboard and have nearly eliminated bubblewrap.
- The bubblewrap we do use is biodegradable.
- Moved to paper packaging tape instead of plastic.
- Moved to paper jiffy bags instead of plastic.
- We are trialing using 2nd hand boxes for packaging.
- Most of the team work from home already so there's very little commuting.
- And all the team, apart from 1 who is living in a temporary house, are on 100% renewable electricity supplies.
- Most of the team now use micro-computers with very low power consumption.
- Our webservers are PAS 2060 certified carbon neutral already.
So within scope 1 we have our warehouse heating which is powered by wood pellets. We use this sparingly for the office and showroom space, and for the packing area. The rest of the main warehouse is unheated. A couple of the team are on oil and gas heating - in homes not suitable for wood pellet boilers. As we progress with adding in heat pumps to the systems we supply I suspect some of these homes may also move across to renewable heating and so the scope 1 may come down a little.
So you can see what a large effect that the temporary home with a non-renewable tariff has on emissions. Next year this won't be an issue - but it's illuminating to see I think.
So 90% of our emissions are Scope 3, to do with travel. Here's how that breaks down:
A large portion is travel to and from our warehouse, to and from our office, as well as visiting suppliers (which includes some flights). This year we will be selling our company hybrid car and Martin, who in a “normal” year, would be doing a lot of visits to dealers in the car, will instead continue to use the phone, Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, or whatever. We will still make visits, but we will prioritise going by train. So hopefully we can get some of those further down next year. We’d already instigated a “don’t fly if possible” policy years ago but perhaps we need to strengthen that. In 2019 I’d gone to Italy by train instead of flying (well, I lie because I missed the Eurostar out so ended up flying, but got the train back) so I will continue to default to using the train where I can. This is a long way of saying that reducing flights is another thing we should look at.
We discovered that we'd swapped away from a waste firm with zero-to-landfill why!?! I hadn't realised. Now we can fix that and this process highlighted that.
We will also look to putting in flow restrictors in the warehouse taps, and check what volume flush the toilets have. Again this process helps to guide us to think about things like that.
Putting it all together
So as we started to gather the data we thought we were doing so well, our operational emissions were looking good, I mean really good!
.....and then…. we tipped over the edge and our total operational emissions ended up being……..
21.36 tonnes CO2/year. A shame as we'd hoped to come in under the emissions of an average North American person (around 20 tonnes).
Next this should cascade through the supply chain
Part of the logic behind “One, Two, Zero” is that we now encourage our suppliers to also go through this process and we’ll have a conversation with that waste firm and see if they offer a more sustainable service before we swap. The more these conversations happen the more impetus for change there is. The emissions from manufacturing, and delivery are the Scope 1, 2, and 3 of our suppliers - and they are the ones able to deal with them, so hopefully we can encourage and inspire some of the parts of our supply chain to do the same (no we’re not on a commission!).
We’ve now gotten more ambitious - we have our sights on getting an average figure for the emissions associated with pallet and parcel delivery per km. We can then think about offsetting those OR offering that as an option on our website and OMS. And we’ve pulled some figures from the ICE database (which lists the emission factors for a massive range of materials) which seem to show that if we used a factor of 2 kg CO2 / kg for a stove or pellet boiler then we shouldn’t be far off. So perhaps we could also offset against our own brands. We have these made for us, we don't have our own factories so, like the deliveries, technically these are not within our direct scope, but then again I think it can only be good to start to try to measure that and put some value against it...
We already regularly donate to various NGOs, including planting 12 trees for every stove and biomass boiler we supply. Perhaps we should also quantify the carbon savings wrapped up in the trees that we support.
Next years target?
Obviously our target next year is to come in under the average American! Also to publish our figures so that we can see and compare any progress year on year.