Have you ever done an online quiz to calculate your carbon footprint?
The ones where you realise that if you walked to the shop instead of driving as you always mean to do, or remembered to turn your appliances off instead of constantly leaving them on stand-by, then you could feel less guilty about your own contribution to the climate emergency.
They’re interesting to do and can highlight areas where you could be a little kinder to the planet.
But have you ever thought about calculating the carbon footprint of your business?
The climate challenge is a hot topic right now. Scotland has set the ambitious target of becoming net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. If, collectively, we are going to succeed in that ambition, the onus falls on every business to do its bit.
Customers are becoming more eco-savvy and there is a growing number of consumers who look at green credentials before they buy. A survey conducted by GlobalData last year revealed that around 45% of shoppers want to buy products that are better for the environment and it is an upward trend.
Demonstrating that you are playing your part in the battle against climate change could give you a competitive edge and attract these customers to your business.
Depending on the sector you operate in, knowing (and reporting on) your carbon footprint could be a regulatory requirement. And for those sectors where it isn’t yet regulatory, the closer we get to 2045, the chances of regulations being introduced become more likely.
A big plus for any business working out its carbon footprint is the chance to identify cost and carbon-saving opportunities. Maybe it has never occurred to you just how much money is spent on lighting and heating, but when you go through the steps below, you will start to realise there are areas to cut costs. We typically find that a business can cut its energy use by 24% with relatively easy and quick payback projects.
Regardless of the savings, the regulations and the chance to attract new customers, there is also the argument that it’s the right thing to do.
And if we are all going to try to cut our emissions, we need a starting point, a benchmark that we can use going forward to see if our changes have made a difference.
The term ‘carbon footprint’ is common parlance and you’ll often hear the climate specialists talking about carbon neutral, but carbon dioxide isn’t the only emission that needs to be looked at.
There are seven gases included in the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to lower all greenhouse gas emissions. Aside from CO2, there are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). To make life easier for everyone, these are all converted to CO2 equivalent or CO2(e) to produce a carbon footprint.
In addition, there are three different sets of emissions you can count – these are called scopes and look like this:
This is where the fun starts as you start to collect the data and set up a spreadsheet. We would advise looking at a full 12 months of data so that if you have peaks and troughs throughout the year, these will all be considered.
For many businesses, the main contributing factors will be:
Collecting your data:
Now it is time to start doing the sums. The equation you need is:
Emissions = Total energy consumption (fuel, electricity) x Emission Factors (fuel, electricity)
You can find all the emission conversion factors on the UK Government’s website here.
Jackie Taylor runs JT PR, a marketing and communications company in Edinburgh. She heats her offices with natural gas and is still using traditional lighting. Despite her best efforts, she still hasn’t managed to create a paper-less office which means she has a lot of waste paper to recycle along with the rest of the rubbish that ends up going to landfill.
Her company car is a diesel Peugeot that she drives to London and back for meetings around 20 times a year.
She has realised that her business isn’t very energy efficient and having heard all the talk about COP26, she has decided she should assess her energy use and see if there are any areas where she could making savings and reducing her carbon emissions.
She gathers all her annual bills for electricity, gas, water and waste, and the diesel receipts to cover her trips to London.
She finds that over the 12-month period, the business used:
With the help of emission conversion factors, she uses her calculator to work out the following:
These figures won’t give Jackie her full carbon footprint as she hasn’t investigated the emissions in Scope 2 and 3 that she has no direct control over, but the data will provide her with a benchmark. We would advise her to get in touch with us so that we can advise on what changes she could make to reduce her emissions and save her business money.
If you follow Jackie’s example, you will be in a position to identify any areas where you would like to reduce emissions. You can create a plan for the next five or 10 years – or even right up to 2045 if you feel that is possible. Ensure that any goals you set are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
You can then share your successes with your staff, your customers and your supply chain through internal comms, newsletters, on your website or through social media to demonstrate your efforts.
If you run a Scottish SME and would like support in identifying where you can cut emissions from your energy use, click here.
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