In our last blog, we explored some of the key takeaways from our participation in the Journey to Net Zero (JTNZ) programme, facilitated by the Business Growth Hub. Here we look at how we’re putting those lessons into action through our Impact Assessment Project.
Our Impact Assessment Project is designed to examine and improve sustainable practice within our business, accounting for the three key pillars of planet, people and profit. When considering our impact on the planet, we know that our emissions have a big role to play so understanding the scope of our emissions and identifying how to reduce our impact in this area forms a key part of the project.
The first step in being able to take meaningful action towards becoming Net Zero as a business is to understand exactly what our impact is in the first place. When looking at this for SG, it felt like a daunting task and, before joining the JTNZ programme, I was unsure how or where to begin. Fortunately, the programme offered clear stages that have helped us to understand our baseline.
1. Identify aspects and impacts
This stage is about recognising the elements of an organisation’s activities, products or services that can interact with the environment (aspects) and the change to the environment – positive or negative – resulting from them (impacts).
As a service-based company, many common aspects – such as fleet emissions and manufacturing processes – do not apply to us. This stage was interesting as it required us to consider the less obvious aspects that make up the bulk of our emissions, such as general waste production and disposal, and server hosting.
2. Calculating significance scoring factors
Having identified our aspects and impacts, we next examined:
The purpose of this process was to highlight the areas of greatest significance in our business operations, helping to identify priority areas for change. We based our ratings for this assessment on pre-pandemic operations (2019), as the lockdowns of 2020 markedly changed the way we work and did not provide an accurate benchmark for our ‘usual’ activity. This task drew out our most significant aspects as arising from:
3. Carry out carbon footprint calculations
Having identified the sources of our emissions, we then used the workbook provided by the JTNZ programme – including the UK government’s emissions factors – to calculate the amount of CO2e (CO2 equivalent) generated by our business operations.
The biggest challenge we faced at this stage – and in fact in this whole process – was the limited actual data we have access to. Our office is on the second floor of a three-storey building and we rent the space from a landlord whose business occupies the other two floors. Our electricity, gas and water charges are included in the rent for the space and, as the floor is not separately metered, we’re unable to collect data for our actual consumption. We’ve also been unable to obtain the data for the whole building, which limits us further.
Our calculations, therefore, are currently our best estimate and are based on guideline usage statistics for the size of our premises, number of employees and the equipment we use. This is clearly not an ideal situation, and we will be continuing to attempt to gather more accurate data. But, in the meantime, we feel it is better to start with a rough estimate than to not start at all.
The other factor to be taken into consideration at this point is that emissions are accounted for differently depending on their ‘scope’.
The big challenge for us here is that we have limited control over some of the major aspects of our scope 3 emissions. As identified above, our energy consumption is our most significant aspect but, because this is arranged by our landlord, we do not have direct control over, for example, our supplier. Our initial focus for making change will therefore be on examining our consumption behaviours rather than where our energy comes from. (Although we hope to be in a position to address this in the future!)
4. Improve operations
Following the steps above, the next stage is doing something with that data! We’ve been looking closely at where and how we can use resources more efficiently, thinking about our travel habits and engaging with our team to ensure they feel involved and invested in helping us become a more sustainable business and make progress towards Net Zero.
As part of this process, we are developing a new environmental policy, moving towards conducting the majority of our meetings remotely (which is helped by this having become more commonplace over the last 18 months – one of the few benefits to come out of the pandemic!) and carrying out staff surveys to better understand our team’s thoughts in this area.
Participating in the JTNZ programme has been a fantastic, empowering experience. We know we are right at the beginning of this journey, that there’s a long way to go and many challenges for us to overcome. But we’re also inspired by the knowledge that we can make a difference, and that – even with the limitations of our circumstances – there are things we can do and changes we can make to help the UK progress towards its climate commitments.
We will shortly be publishing our first impact report, which will share the baseline data to have come out of the activities outlined above, as well as our goals and next steps. This report will also share data around our social value impact, input from our staff and clients and information about our governance. Through this report, which will be repeated annually, it is our aim to communicate what we are doing to become a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable business.
It is also a pleasure to be able to share that we will be speaking about our journey at the Stockport CAN Summit, which will coincide with COP26, where we will join other local businesses and people from the community who are likewise working for a better future.
We are so excited to be setting out on this journey and to share with you everything we are doing.
If you’d like to start your business’s journey to Net Zero but aren’t sure where to start, check out the Business Growth Hub’s blog on carbon footprinting for beginners – and if you’re an SME in Greater Manchester, be sure to sign up for the next cohort of the JTNZ programme!
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