As a socially responsible business, Adding Value has been looking to minimise the impact it has upon the environment and to become a carbon-neutral organisation.
To help us on our journey, we sought advice from LJMU’s Eco-Innovatory lab and would like to thank Cameron Kelly and Scott Caldwell for their help and support.
We have followed a three-step process:
- Identify our current carbon footprint
- Put in place carbon-reduction strategies
- Offset what cannot be mitigated.
Our Carbon Footprint
We found that as a service-based business, the two main environmental impacts we have faced have come from the electricity usage and staff travel to the office.
Each member of Adding Value is issued with a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop for work, and we identified that each device has an average power load of 44 watts. This is converted into a standard unit of measurement, which gives 0.076 ‘kilograms of CO2 equivalent’ per day based on a 7.5 hour working day. The conversion of power load into kgCO2e changes each year, depending on the mix of electricity produced for the national grid. The recent growth in renewable sources and the phasing out of coal-produced electricity has seen the carbon footprint of electricity use reduce over the years.
As we have a staff number of 10 full-time equivalents, and there are 231 working days a year, this gives a total impact of 176 kgCO2e per annum.
We found that staff travel to the office is actually our most significant impact. The impact is very variable, depending upon the length of each person’s journey, their mode of transport, and how often they come into the office. We undertook a staff survey which identified an average of 2.3 kgCO2e per commute day.
At the moment, we are working on a hybrid model of primarily working from home. Moving towards, we’ll adopt an average of two days a week in the office for full-time members of staff. If we assume 40% of workdays are in the office, this gives 924 commute days and a total impact of 2,125 kgCO2e per annum.
Our total carbon footprint, based on our current activity, is estimated at 2,301 kgCO2e per annum.
What can we do to reduce our impact?
One of the lessons learnt from this exercise is to realise what is within our control and what is peripheral to our control. For example, it is essential to our work to power the laptops each day, but we have no real control over how the electricity is generated and, therefore, the actual carbon impact created. Whilst individual members of staff and our office landlord may have green tariffs in place, this is something we can’t directly change as a company. More impactfully, the carbon footprint of national electricity generation is not something we can affect at all.
The main thing we can do to reduce our impact is to reduce the number of commute days. During the pandemic, we have worked almost exclusively from home, and we continue to primarily work from home over the last few months. We have thought carefully about the need to return to the office and recognise that there are benefits to teamworking and communication that working in the office brings. As a result, we are testing out a hybrid model with 40% of time in the office and 60% working from home. We’ll keep this model under review and see how it is working for all the individuals involved as well as for the company as a whole.
We can also put in place policies to encourage staff to use less impactful means of commute. Our staff survey revealed that 60% of staff take the train to work, which has the lowest carbon impact, with 20% taking the bus, 10% walking (which has no carbon impact) and 10% driving. Driving to work has a significantly higher carbon impact than other forms of transport, so encouraging staff to use public transport or to walk or cycle can have a big impact.
Offsetting provides a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions in the most cost-effective and economically efficient manner. Offsetting can play a vital role in combating climate change, but we recognise that it is not the solution if done in isolation. It is more important to reduce our emissions in the first place.
We have chosen to fund UK tree planting through Carbon Footprint Ltd. Following a QAS approved carbon footprint calculation, this tree planting package (which also includes retiring Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) credits from registered projects) meets the requirements under the Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) for Carbon Offsetting.
The Way Forward – Creating our Environmental Sustainability Policy and Action Plan
There is an environmental impact in everything we do, but as a business we have to undertake activity to deliver our services. There are activities that we can directly affect, such as decisions about place of work and which equipment to buy. There are other areas of activity where we can have influence, such as how staff choose the means of transport to commute to work.
Undertaking this exercise has helped us to understand more precisely what the environmental impact is for Adding Value and it has allowed us to identify the activities that we can change and influence, and what the impact of those changes can be.
As a result of this exercise, we have drafted our Environmental Sustainability Policy and Action Plan:
- Undertake an annual assessment of carbon impact
- Review our carbon impact at board level each year and update our carbon reduction action plan each year.
- Review our hybrid working model every quarter, and assess the relative benefits of homeworking versus office working, including the environmental impact of this.
- Encourage staff to use lower impact means of transport where possible, such as introducing a cycle-to-work scheme.
- Ensure all office and IT equipment purchased is energy rating C or better going forward.
- Maintain as paperless an office as possible – we currently print very little and will work with our clients to minimise print even further.
- Undertake environmental impact awareness training annually with staff and, where appropriate, with our clients.
- Participate in a high-quality carbon offsetting scheme for the carbon impact that we cannot reduce.