With the Paris Climate Change talks and their green message still fresh in the memory, here's how your business can target carbon neutrality with four quick fixes.
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For many businesses, the desire to go green is a real one. As energy prices continue to remain high despite fuel prices falling, and EU and global green pledges increase the likely hood of emissions being fined, many are looking to alternative and renewable energy sources to future-proof themselves and lower their energy bills.
The COP21 Climate Change talks in Paris saw the UK pledge to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. In order for this to be achieved everybody, from the biggest corporations to domestic consumers, will need to do their part.
So how can SMEs begin lowering their carbon footprint now in preparation for the future?
1) Do your research
Like any successful project, you should begin by learning all you can. Before you can go about reducing your usage it would be best to find out how large your carbon footprint is currently.
Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide that your business releases into the atmosphere and there are numerous calculators on the internet that can help you gauge an estimate.
Once you know the scale of the issue you can then take steps to reduce your carbon footprint by investing in the right technology, setting a realistic timescale and having a strategy that you can carefully follow.
Even people who have great green credentials in the home often let them slide when they get to work
It would also be worth checking if you are on the best tariff for your gas and electricity consumption. Don’t just feel limited by the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, there are now many providers out there who can not only save you money, but also have impressive ‘green credentials’.
2) Find the leak
Once you have found out how much energy you are using, you then need to figure out where it may be being wasted.
Employees fighting over office temperature is always an energy-usage nightmare. As the office heats up or cools down, air conditioning units and heaters have to work harder therefore consuming more energy.
It may also be worth looking at what methods of heating you are using as electric heaters tend to generate twice as much greenhouse gas than their central heating counterparts.
"If you own the building you are working in, look into the installation of biomass boilers and solar panels as these are not just for domestic dwellings"
Leaving computers and lights on when they are not in use is also a common office sin. It may seem simple, and it is advice that is given all the time, but any change big or small should not be dismissed if there is any chance of hitting the target of being climate neutral by 2050.
For example, did you know that just one light left on overnight creates a similar amount of greenhouse gas as a car trip from Cambridge to Paris? To put this in measurable terms, this can equate to £1,000 in additional costs for a small office.
3) Give back what you take
It is not only cutting back on your emissions that can help reduce your footprint. The government do provide support and subsidies for those businesses who wish to invest in renewable technology.
Carbon off-setting, for example, allows organisations to purchase ‘carbon credits’ which go towards renewable projects such as wind farms and de-forestation.
If you own the building you are working in, it may also be worth looking into the installation of biomass boilers and solar panels as these are not just for domestic dwellings. Large multinationals are leading the way in this, such as Ikea, who announced last year that they will be pledging 1 billion euros towards renewable development.
In theory, we could power the whole world with solar energy alone
However, there are also smaller changes that can help you ensure your office is greener.
Investing in equipment that has green credentials is a must if you are to futureproof your office while maximising natural light (by ensuring windows are not obstructed) can keep lighting bills to a minimum. Investing in eco-friendly bulbs is also another quick fix to reduce, not only the amount of energy used, but also your bills!
Once again, investment in eco-friendly policies will give additional benefits to your business. A study by Nielsen in 2015 showed that 66% of global online consumers were happy to pay more for a sustainable brands, a significant jump up from 55% the year before.
4) Be realistic
The COP21 targets have been criticised for being too ambitious, and there is nothing more off-putting to achieving a goal than believing from the start that you may fail. And while it would be counter-productive to assume that your businesses will become carbon-neutral overnight and it may be the case that, in the future, new technology will be designed to make it easier.
Getting everybody involved from the start is key; ask people what they feel they are realistically capable of changing then create a strategy around that feedback. If you ask too much of staff too quickly you are in danger of sacrificing any enthusiasm they may have held for the project, so the trick is to work with all levels of the business to ensure buy-in from the very beginning.
Giving incentives or awards such as ‘Energy Saver of the Month’ or separating staff into groups and rewarding the most eco-friendly team is a great way to make reducing your carbon footprint something worth getting involved in. And a bit of friendly competition is always helpful in motivating your staff to be eco-friendly.