On 27 June, the UK became the first major economy to pass legislation on net zero greenhouse gas emissions – which means we have a legal commitment to end our contribution to global warming by 2050. Angela Terry, founder of climate action website One Home offers practical advice on how firms can seize the initiative and gain a competitive advantage in the process.
As we experience floods and heatwaves, action to tackle climate change is urgently required. Fossil fuels provide nearly 80 per cent of our energy and in 2018 the private sector made no reduction in its carbon emissions.
Going forward, every sector has to drastically ramp up climate action to stay within safe levels of warming. The good news is that cutting carbon emissions is good for the bottom line and essential to future-proof your business.
Unilever serves as a case in point. The company’s sustainable living brands have outperformed the average rate of growth at Unilever by 69 per cent and delivered three-quarters of the company’s growth.
To put it simply, businesses that grasp the challenge will succeed and those that don’t won’t. Here are One Home’s top six ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
1. Benchmark and set targets
The cheapest form of energy is the energy you do not use. Simply switching things off when not in use or using more efficient products, such as LED lights, saves money.
Energy prices increase at a rate that far exceeds inflation, so a 20 per cent reduction in your energy costs can represent the same benefit as a five per cent increase in sales.
Businesses can also sign up to demand side response schemes, which incentivise moving energy consumption to off-peak hours.
Check your bills to understand your consumption and set targets to keep lowering demand.
If you have more than 250 employees and/or an annual turnover exceeding £44 million, the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (Esos) is a mandatory assessment that helps to identify energy-saving measures. The deadline for Esos 2 is 5 December.
2. Commit from the top
Board members must prioritise sustainability for the whole company.
All directors have a duty to act in the best interests of the company, which include the long-term success of the business.
The ability to endure increasingly hinges on whether we can adapt to the effects of climate change and dramatically cut our greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Remove fossil fuels from your business
As fossil fuels are the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions, it makes sense to switch to renewable sources, especially as the prices of clean tech such as solar and wind power have plummeted. It is often cheaper to generate your own green electricity than buy in brown power.
The Renewable Heat Incentive is a government scheme providing financial support for green-heat tech such as ground-source heat pumps and biomass boilers. This is particularly worth looking at if you are off the mains gas grid or have a high heat or hot water demand.
4. Switch to electric vehicle (EV) fleets
Upgrading to electric cars will significantly cut your fleet costs. Electricity is significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel per mile. EV maintenance costs are lower too.
EVs are also exempt from clean air zone charges and the tax regime incentivises EVs. So whether you are buying or leasing cars, all-electric vehicles are the only sensible choice.
5. Become climate resilient
With extreme weather events increasing, it’s vital for businesses to build resilience into their operations.
Climate change poses serious safety and financial threats to people, property and infrastructure. For example, one in every six properties in the UK are at risk of flooding.
Having a plan and insurance in place to weather these storms, droughts and floods is essential to ensure business continuity.
6. No more business as usual
However big or small your business is, one thing is clear: we need industry leaders to become climate leaders.
Every business needs to adapt – for itself and its customers and for our planet. There’s no downside to this.
Renewable energy, electric cars, energy conservation and waste reduction will all save you money – and your customers and staff will respond positively to these changes.
One thing is certain: as the level of carbon dioxide increases in our atmosphere and weird weather becomes the norm, business as usual is no longer an option.
CREDIT: Angela Terry photograph by Patch Dolan