Carbon Offsetting

A business’ guide to carbon offsetting

Whether you’ve read an academy study, saw it on the news or simply watched a David Attenborough narrated wildlife show, people are becoming savvy to the environmental damage being caused by rising CO² levels.

We need look no further than the recent revelation that global carbon emissions jumped to an all-time high in 2018 to understand why experts are concerned.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest culprits of CO² emissions in the UK are businesses.

Despite the government setting tough long-term carbon targets, and widespread concerns from the British public regarding the climate crisis, recent studies have shown that only 10% of UK businesses have officially set a carbon reduction target. So, if you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 90% of firms who haven’t.

Therefore, businesses are being encouraged to consider carbon offsetting in their energy strategies. But what exactly does this mean? How easy is it to implement? And is it worthwhile?

What is carbon offsetting?

For businesses, carbon offsetting involves a company compensating for carbon pollution they produce. The aim is to act as a balancing act, reducing or replacing (more of that later) emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases generated by your firm.

How exactly do I offset my Carbon Footprint?

How long have you got?

There are numerous ways you can make an impact, ranging from simple everyday changes in behaviour to complex, large-scale projects.

The process can be split into two objectives:

  • Use less energy.
  • Give more back to the environment.

Before calculating how much you need to give back, it’s best to get your house in order first by starting with your current emissions.

Consider undertaking a thorough audit of your business and its practices (check out our top 10 energy management tips for businesses for a starting point) to find areas where emissions can be reduced. Don’t be fooled into thinking such a practice is only appropriate for large energy consumers, you’d be surprised at the size of the changes we’ve made for businesses with smaller facilities.

If you have a fleet of company cars, it might be time to consider acquiring electric vehicles and installing charging points at your sites. With the government keen to achieve carbon emission targets ahead of deadlines, there are plenty of grants and schemes available (CRC, ECS & RTZ) for businesses looking to turn their back on non-eco-friendly vehicles.

Once you’ve done everything you can to reduce emissions, the next stage involves measuring your carbon footprint and identifying your deficit. You’ll need to measure greenhouse gas emissions across all your business’ activities, usually split into three scopes:

  1. Direct emissions (heating, lighting, company vehicles & fugitive emissions).
  2. Indirect emissions (purchased electricity, heat and steam).
  3. Other indirect emissions (business travel, employee commuting (known as your grey fleet) & usage of sold assets).

To do this effectively, third-party software will be required to officially measure and itemise your footprint, and only then can you accurately identify your carbon deficit.

One of the most popular ways of offsetting your CO² emissions is to engage in green projects, namely, woodland creation. Planting woodland is a great way to compensate for your carbon emissions. Through photosynthesis, trees you’ve planted absorb carbon dioxide in the air, creating a natural equilibrium and effectively removing from the CO² you’ve created.

There are numerous woodland creation schemes and projects taking place throughout the UK, with 13,000 hectares of newly created woodland reported in 2018 alone and more businesses than ever getting behind the initiative. Speaking to an energy expert will allow you to identify those nearest and most appropriate to your business.

You may even investigate the possibility of purchasing carbon credits, which are certificates denoting that a company has paid to have a certain amount of CO² removed from the atmosphere. By correctly calculating your deficit levels, you can purchase these credits to offset your excess emission levels.

How will it benefit my business?

Apart from the obvious benefits carbon offsetting has for the environment and our future generations, there’s also some conveniently attractive business benefits to be had.

Firstly, huge savings can be made from the old “use less, pay less” scenario. If your business is consuming less energy, you’re going to start seeing a reduction in your long-term energy bills. Increased energy savings will have a positive impact on your bottom line and might even enable you to invest further capital into low-carbon technologies and practices (such as the aforementioned woodland creation).

Lowering your CO² emissions will also bring about a reduction in the levels of carbon tax paid out by the business.

Finally, as cynical as it sounds, carbon offsetting is plainly and simply good PR. The general public care about our environment, a view reinforced by recent studies which found that 71% of the British public think climate change is more pressing than the impending Brexit, and that 92% of people are more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. Going above and beyond to rectify any damage caused by your business will go a long way in showing the public that your company is a business that cares.

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This blog was brought to you by Great Annual Savings (GAS). An expert in the energy field, GAS produces a wide-range of informative business energy-related content, accessible via the Business Advice Hub.

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