I was at COP26 last November and was hopeful to see so many people coming together to save the planet. Although our problems are not as simple as reducing carbon dioxide equivalents in the atmosphere, and I believe we need to take a more holistic approach which includes increasing biodiversity, particularly in the nature-depleted United Kingdom and producing less waste, COP26 was, primarily, about carbon. Broadly speaking, we all need to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.
It’s a massive ask but is doable. I recently held the first annual veterinary Green Discussion Forum with many of the top veterinary companies in the room. It’s good to see so many companies engaged but sometimes it just feels hard to take the first step. My advice would be to be bold and just do it. This really is the decisive decade where we can still make a difference.
1. Consider signing up for an environmental accreditation scheme.
There are many of these from ISO to Carbon Trust. As a small business owner, I chose the Investors in the Environment scheme. I loved that although carbon usage was a massive part of the award, it has a holistic approach to the environment and looks at resource usage and biodiversity as well. When a company signs up to be accredited, it must first measure its carbon usage. This is essential if the company wishes to reduce its present consumption.
2. If the company owns its own building, it should look at energy-saving strategies.
This is becoming increasingly important from a financial perspective as well as an environmental one during the present energy crisis which has been exacerbated by the present regime’s failure to invest in renewable energy over the last decade. Initiatives can include; turning off lights and computers overnight, using motion sensors and using the most energy-efficient equipment with the best energy rating. This can include LED lighting.
3. If we all insulated our homes, offices and factories more efficiently, energy consumption would decrease by about 35% in the UK.
It’s a massive number but isn’t deemed as exciting as some initiatives. Nevertheless, this is an area to also consider
4. The company should produce its energy.
Solar panels are becoming more mainstream but air-source heat pumps or even windmills may apply to some companies and if appreciable energy is produced, batteries can be fitted to store the energy for use at the factory, warehouse etc. Brewdog has recently fitted an anaerobic digester to deal with its waste but also to produce biomethane- a beautiful circular process.
Smaller businesses should also consider similar innovative schemes, particularly as some banks like NatWest offer lower rates and no arrangement fees for businesses borrowing for green purposes. Whilst energy costs are so high, payback will happen quicker and also protect the business from outages and future crises.
5. Offsetting is controversial.
However, whilst we attempt to cut carbon it is also important to help protect sources of carbon like forests, peat bogs and seagrass colonies from being destroyed. The company must seek out reputable, gold-standard offsetting companies or may be accused of greenwashing.
During our present crisis, it might seem worrying about the planet is the least of our concerns. However, the lack of attention to environmental issues has brought us to this unstable time. Green strategies can help to build a world fit for purpose for this century. We must do all we can to not miss this huge opportunity to mitigate climate change.