Four ways to decarbonise your workplace
27th September 2017
Decarbonisation means to reduce the carbon intensity of the economy. This is primarily done through the decarbonisation of electricity, and the growing popularity of renewable energy means that this is underway.
This is great because it means there is less pollution generated, which translates to cleaner air and less environmental damage. But only so much of electricity is generated by renewable sources.
Fossil fuels still make up a percentage of generation, because energy demand – the amount of energy needed to keep the lights on across the country – remains high. The transport network runs primarily on petroleum fuels, too, though electric vehicles have started to become popular. As a result, transport is still carbon heavy.
Everyone has a role to play as we shift towards more sustainable practices, and there are a lot of things that businesses can do to reduce their environmental impact.
We’ve pulled together four key areas where you can make changes to reduce your business’ carbon footprint.
Up your office sustainability
The best way to decarbonise your workplace is to reduce energy consumption.
One way you can guarantee a reduction in your energy use is by becoming an energy generator yourself – for example, by installing solar panels on your roof or a small wind turbine on spare land. In favourable weather conditions, your workplace can run on energy that you helped to generate – sometimes even in non-favourable conditions, if you have the ability to run a biomass generator that works whatever the weather.
This has also the added benefit of allowing you to sell excess energy back to the grid, helping to simultaneously reduce your energy bills and earn something back. Meanwhile, by monitoring and modifying your use of energy-intensive devices such as air conditioning units, lighting and computers, you can reduce your energy consumption and, by extension, your carbon footprint.
Complement this by implementing sensible eco-policies in your workplace (such as turning off lights, or not having windows open while the air conditioning is on) which will help you to improve energy efficiency and reduce your business’ carbon footprint. If you want to go the extra mile, choosing an energy supplier that can give you renewable power, whether 100% of your contract or partial.
In opting for renewable energy, you can make a real difference by reducing the carbon intensity of the electricity that your business uses.
Increase employee awareness
While you can do as much as you want to make your workspace environmentally friendly, you’ll also need to get your employees on board. Raising employee awareness about environmental and ecological issues is important to make your efforts worthwhile.
For example, the introduction of recycling policies, turning off appliances when not in use, and encouraging more environmentally friendly forms of transport (more on that shortly) are all good places to start. The more educated your employees have been beforehand, the more likely they are to understand and adopt these policies.
You can tie this in with events like Sustainable Energy Week or Earth Day, or you can provide the information on your own schedule. The important thing is raising awareness.
Cut your commute carbon
Transport is one of the most problematic issues to confront because petroleum fuels are still the norm, and these contribute a huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. With many people driving to work, the rush hour traffic has a lot to answer for.
There are a few ways in which you can help to decarbonise your company’s transport footprint, though.
Try encouraging your employees to be more conscious about the ways in which they travel to work. Inviting your employees to carpool on their way to and from work may be the easiest way to effect change. As well as being a slightly more environmentally friendly way of commuting, carpooling can help to reduce traffic and congestion. This also improves local air quality, as fewer cars on the road equate to fewer emissions.
You could also encourage employees to take public transport or to cycle. Cycling is a good one from a business perspective, too; by taking part in a government-backed cycle scheme you become eligible for tax savings.
Cycle to work initiatives are also good for employee health and your corporate carbon footprint as much as for business finances. Employees can save more than 25% on the cost of a new bike, while employers can save over 13% in National Insurance Contributions.
Finally, employers can offer flexible working arrangements and different work schedules to employees. Remote working will reduce the distance your employees must travel to work, reducing their carbon footprint.
Improve supply chain sustainability
In a globalised business world, supply chains play a huge role, but making sure that they are sustainable and environmentally-friendly is complex.
Cross-country (or even cross-continental) transportation of goods can have huge environmental impacts. One example is the notion of ‘food miles’, with consumers understanding how far food has travelled from producer to supermarket retailer.
This allowed consumers to think about the environmental impact caused by their food choices, enabling them to make informed decisions.
As such, being aware of the distances and methods of travel involved in your supply chain will give you an understanding of the overall carbon footprint of your business, an idea of the scale of the problem and an understanding of how to make changes.
The most obvious suggestion to begin decarbonising in this area is to consider procuring materials from suppliers who are geographically closer. This could make a significant difference to your carbon footprint.
Supporting local supply chains can also help you to improve supply chain efficiency; you have the chance to build good working relationships with other local businesses.
Remember, leading by example is often the best way to impact change across your workforce. Whatever efforts or policies you try to adopt, take them to heart and ask only of others what you are willing to do yourself. With a true team effort, you can and should start to see the difference.