A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by organisations, communities and individuals.
The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.
For example, when you jump in your car to pop to the supermarket, you’re adding to the carbon footprint. The food you then buy has a carbon footprint attached to it. Why? Because of the machinery and resources required to grow, harvest, package and deliver the items.
Additionally, when you use public transport to get from A to B, you’re adding to the carbon footprint. And in terms of your office? The lights and the air-con units both contribute to the carbon footprint of your business.
Eco-conscious businesses have Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals. These objectives centre around waste, pollution, local community relationships and working conditions.
Another aim is to tackle climate change by reducing CO2 emissions – individually and collectively.
Workplace carbon footprint: causes
The impact businesses have on the environment has roots in a handful of areas. Before employees even get to the office, their carbon footprint is on the move. Let’s look into a few factors one by one.
Transport is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, accounting for 34%. And the majority of the emissions are emitted from travelling by road. When you get into your car or catch the bus, there’s an impact on the environment. Travelling by rail and tube emit less CO2, but they still contribute.
Walking or cycling are zero-emission alternatives, but these aren’t viable for some people. There are other staff transport solutions businesses can offer – more on these later.
Office Energy Usage
The workplace emits greenhouse gases in a handful of ways. These include lighting, heating, cooling, computers, equipment, and refrigeration. Energy usage from these varies depending on the climate and the energy grid the office connects to.
Let’s use a workplace situated in a super cold area where the grid uses fossil fuels as an example. That has a bigger carbon footprint than a space located in a mild climate where the grid uses renewable energy sources.
Common good versus self-interest
Most people are guilty of behaving a bit selfishly at times; the same applies to businesses. It’s easy to consume resources and let others take the emission-reducing reins. That’s known as the tragedy of the commons – a concept that has its origins in 1833 with British economist William Forster Lloyd.
Instead, people and organisations should work together to reduce the collective carbon footprint. Continue reading to find out how that can be achieved.
Workplace carbon footprint: solutions
1. Changes to the office environment
Reducing the carbon footprint of your business is achievable by a few simple steps. For example, switch to energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs and utilise natural light as much as possible.
Think about investing in technology, too. Motion sensors that automatically turn lights off when rooms aren’t in use and dimmable lighting are two options. These suggestions help lower electricity usage (and costs).
It’s also worth implementing temperature controls that are timed and set according to the climate outside. Or you may want to think about taking away people’s ability to manually change the thermostat.
Another office-based method is to minimise the energy your data centre uses. The optimum temperature for many data centres is 23°C, yet they’re often set at around 19°C.
By raising the server inlet temperature by 1°C, data centres guzzle less energy. And you’ll also save 8% to 9% in energy costs.
2. How About An Employee Bus Service?
Public transport is a valuable service and the primary way many of us commute to work. In London alone, around 9,300 buses operate across 675 routes. But more than ever, now is the time to reinvent public transport. How can that be done?
Our company Zeelo is a prime example of an innovative solution. We provide a sustainable commuting system via a fully managed bus service. Our affordable and flexible offering allows for instant booking and cancellation. And it’s possible to pre-book via our app or website.
What’s more, there’s the option for employers to split the cost with their employees. We can help you provide dedicated bus services and build routes around where your employees live. Your business can reach its sustainability goals by reducing parking and congestion issues at your site.
Let’s take a warehouse workplace as an example. There may be people who would jump at the chance to work there, but they can’t afford a car to make the daily journey.
To make the most of employment opportunities, people need access to reliable and affordable transport. Without that, pre-existing social and labour mobility issues are exacerbated. Zeelo can help by providing vital transport links to people who may otherwise struggle to get to work. It’s a safe and easy option that shows you care about your workers.
And even better, our smart bus and shuttle services are making the move to electric. All Zeelo partners will be given the option to upgrade to a fully electric service, further reducing emissions. In 2020, Zeelo saved clients more than 3,560,000 kilograms in carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of planting 186,059 trees.
3. Consider Carbon Offsetting
To become a more eco-friendly employer, consider offsetting your carbon output. Achieve that by donating to tree planting organisations such as the Woodland Trust. Forests capture and store carbon, locking up many tonnes of the gas. That contributes to the fight against climate change.
A survey of UK businesses found that nearly half of them aim to be carbon-neutral by 2030. That term means offsetting carbon emissions by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world.
Note: although carbon offsetting and neutrality are valuable, they’re not the ideal resolution. The optimal solution is to stop harmful carbon emissions from getting into the atmosphere in the first place.
4. Divert To Green Energy
By switching to a green or renewable business tariff, not only are you helping the environment, you may save money as well. Many suppliers offer these types of contracts. By signing up, some or all of the gas and electricity you use is matched by the amount your provider buys from renewable energy generators.
How is renewable energy generated? It’s created at solar and wind farms and hydroelectric power stations. The Big Six suppliers (British Gas, Scottish Power, SSE, E.ON, Npower and EDF) offer green contracts. Other companies like Bulb and Good Energy take things a step further. How? As well as offering green tariffs, they offset carbon emissions by running their own wind farms.
Joining a renewable tariff feeds green energy into the grid, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Another way to reduce carbon emissions is to generate your own renewable energy. Choices include solar panels, thermal energy, wind turbines and biomass systems. The feasibility of these suggestions will depend on your budget, business size, and location.
5. Invest In A Revolving Green Fund
UK companies are entitled to become more eco-friendly by claiming a rebate on their energy contracts and establishing a Revolving Green Fund. The fund acts as a self-financing way to bankroll energy-saving initiatives.
6. Encourage Carpooling And Cycling
Carpooling sounds like something you do for school runs, right? But it works for adults commuting to and from work, as well. Car sharing is an easy, efficient and low-cost solution employers should encourage. By doing that, cars on the road decrease and emissions fall.
Alternatively, encourage your staff to cycle to work. That may not be an option for everyone, but if people are interested, think about incentivising cycling. For example, you could offer bike loans.
7. Is Telecommuting An Option?
In these ‘work from anywhere’ days, it’s possible to reduce the carbon footprint if employees work from home some of the time. By eliminating travel on these days, commuting-related emissions reduce.
There are a handful of factors to think about with telecommuting:
The daily commute time of your staff
The mode of transport taken to commute
Working from home preferences
8. Reduce waste and recycle
When thinking about waste reduction, keep reusing and recycling in mind. Every business generates waste; it’s what you do with it that matters. It’s important to get into good habits and recycle. To help with that, instal clearly labelled recycling bins. Consider buying recycled paper, or even better, go paperless in favour of digital files. And donate old electronics and furniture for other businesses to use.
9. Lower Aviation Emissions
This point is only relevant if you’re a company with international offices or your employees travel overseas a lot for business. If that’s the case, consider reducing these emission-laden journeys with conference calls. Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams are popular software options. Travelling less by aeroplane not only helps you be kinder to the planet, but you’ll also save money.
But if air travel is unavoidable, consider the type of ticket you book. Most of us wouldn’t say no to turning left as we get on a plane, yet there are emission implications.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy looked into that. It found the carbon footprint of first class passengers is up to four times greater than economy travellers. And business class can be three times as high. Why? There’s more space per seat, meaning each person accounts for a higher proportion of the aircraft’s total pollution.
Reducing Workplace Carbon Footprint
The carbon footprint is 60% of humanity’s overall ecological footprint and has increased 11-fold since 1961. An essential step a business should take? Reduce its CO2 emissions.
There are many ways companies can reduce CO2 emissions and achieve their ESG and CSR goals. These include investing in a Renewable Green Fund and offering a commuter bus service.
Employee shuttles and coaches are safe, affordable and reliable. And they encourage sustainability by lowering the number of cars on the road. To find out more, check out your transport options here.
Looking after our planet is a more pressing issue than ever. Your business can be part of the solution by doing all it can to lower emissions and reduce the carbon footprint.
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