Reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint and its impact on the environment will play an important role in supporting the Government’s Climate Action Plan which aims to see Ireland becoming a net zero nation by 2050. Climate change and the impact of your business’s carbon footprint is a priority as customers, investors and business stakeholders look to organisations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
According to the Bank of Ireland, 91% of Irish adults are concerned about sustainability – and 64% are more concerned by climate change than they were a year ago. In the wake of events such as COP26, customers and employees alike are keen to put ethical concerns ahead of purchasing, job hunting, and company loyalty.
By implementing sustainable business practices and reducing carbon emissions, your business can reduce its carbon footprint while reaping benefits such as lower operational costs and increased energy efficiency along with a better brand reputation among employees, customers and investors.
Achieving ISO 50001 certification can help demonstrate your organisation’s effective implementation of an energy management system (EnMS), which can be a requirement when applying for certain tenders or business contracts as corporations look to ensure their supply chain is low emission and meets their own ESG goals.
Why you should measure your business’s carbon footprint
You cannot manage what you can’t measure. If you cannot identify the areas of your business that are contributing to your carbon footprint, it is challenging to put in place systems to reduce carbon emissions and to measure how effective they are. Calculating your carbon footprint allows you to show progress against GHG reductions, which can be important to customers and investors.
An easy way to measure your business’s carbon footprint is to use a carbon footprint calculator. This involves providing data on energy usage and other emissions, such as through energy use across premises and sites or from activities such as logistics and transport.
For a business, several actions and factors can contribute to the size and impact of its carbon footprint, including:
Energy use for powering office space, premises and warehousing.
Transport for shipping and supply chains.
Employees commuting to and from work.
A lack of sustainability goals or culture.
The energy providers used.
How to reduce your business’s carbon footprint
Set sustainable business development goals
After calculating your business’s carbon footprint, set clear and achievable business goals to reduce it. Regularly monitor performance and report progress transparently, such as in annual reports or on your company website, which can help stakeholders understand what your carbon footprint is.
Consider goals such as achieving ISO 140001 certification, which can bolster your sustainability commitments and inspire confidence in customers and investors.
Encourage remote and flexible working options
Remote or flexible working can improve productivity, allow employees to save money, safeguard their mental health and spend more quality time with their loved ones. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Ireland had one of the highest home working rates in the European Union.
Remote working can help reduce CO2 emissions and the emission of other GHGs. With cars staying parked and public transport services reduced due to a lack of passengers, air pollution levels were significantly reduced during national lockdowns across the world.
With the rise of virtual meeting software like Zoom and cloud technologies, working from home and keeping in step with your team has never been easier.
In line with Ireland’s goal of having 900,000 electric vehicles (EV) on the roads by 2030, a route businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprint is to electrify their fleet and switch to electric vehicles (EVs). This, however, can be costly.
Besides the high costs of EVs, there is also concern around the infrastructure and logistics of having enough charging points. While electric vehicles are hailed as the future of eco-friendly transport (with 2,714 registered in Ireland in 2022 compared to the 977 in 2021), it could be difficult for businesses to switch from diesel and petrol vehicles.
Grants are available to help businesses and sole traders make the change, with the Climate Action Plan proposing other incentives such as vehicle scrapping schemes and an 800,000-capacity charging network in place by 2030.
Invest in sustainability
Organisations can invest in technology that enables sustainable practices to reduce energy consumption from office spaces and materials. For example, cloud technology that allows a team to collaborate seamlessly while working from home requires less energy than requiring workers to commute to the workplace.
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G and driverless vehicles may be on the radar for some businesses. However, they are still far enough in the future that more everyday switches are worth considering.
Examine how business activities such as waste disposal, recycling processes, and business activities result in emissions or wasteful activities such as sending materials to landfill. Assess how engaging third-party recycling organisations can reduce these to process waste more effectively. Examine how materials can be reused throughout the manufacturing process and identify ways to reduce packaging and shipping materials to reduce emissions produced during transportation.
Improve your energy efficiency
Businesses consume energy for facilities such as heating, lighting, plant and equipment use – from manufacturing machinery to heating and ventilation in warehousing – so it makes sense to identify where you can reduce energy use or waste, such as through low-energy alternatives or insulation.
Analyse your current energy tariffs and compare your existing provider to green competitors – could you pay the same or less for green energy? Consider implementing an energy management system and becoming ISO 50001 certified to manage and reduce your energy consumption and costs?
Larger SMEs can investigate adding renewable energy generation to their energy strategies, such as solar or wind turbines. This can support an organisational approach to ensuring energy security and protecting the business from excessive or fluctuating energy prices.
There are also loans available, such as Green Business Loans through the Bank of Ireland, which offers organisations discounted finance if they are committed to incorporating energy-saving initiatives to save them money and reduce their carbon footprints.
Make it a part of company culture
Ultimately, the organisation you run needs to actively embrace and accept the challenges associated with reducing a carbon footprint for it to happen successfully.
From the small steps such as recycling in the workplace to sourcing more sustainable suppliers, reducing your business carbon footprint is a collaboration between your leadership team and employees.
Once you’ve conducted an energy audit and have your sustainable business goals set, ensuring they’re shared with the whole organisation and everyone is aware they have a daily responsibility to the planet is vital.