The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference has ended, and its outcomes have been widely documented. As leaders from across the world gathered in Glasgow to plan the UN’s next steps towards tacking climate change, the public’s attention has shifted towards business leaders to put the promises made at COP26 into practice.

Many corporations, including the likes of BT and British Airways, have already committed to becoming carbon neutral within the next 30 years. Smaller businesses throughout the UK are following in their footsteps and taking measures to reduce their own carbon footprints, particularly now that including emissions data in annual reports is a legal requirement across several sectors.

What is a carbon footprint?

In short, a carbon footprint is an amalgamation of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused, whether directly or indirectly, by an organisation. It considers all of a business’s energy usage, including heating, lighting, and transport, and calculates how much of this energy is contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Calculating this footprint is the first step that a business should take before implementing any practical plans to reduce its carbon emissions, as this will reveal which areas of the building or departments are using the most energy. Acting on these findings will not only help an organisation on its journey towards carbon net zero but will also enhance its reputation amongst customers. According to a recent survey, sustainability has become more of a concern for consumers since before the outbreak of COVID-19 early last year. In fact, 60% have turned to more environmentally friendly businesses when making a purchase, a figure that is likely to rise if the UN puts new targets in place for carbon emission reductions.

What can I do to reduce my business’s carbon footprint?

1. Work towards zero-waste

Introducing a zero-waste culture is always an easy place to start when working towards reducing your carbon footprint. Before starting, it is worth carrying out a detailed assessment of your organisation’s current waste generation, as this will provide an initial benchmark against which to measure progress over the following year.

Reducing waste can involve doing something as simple as refilling used ink cartridges or donating unwanted electrics and furniture to local charities. If your business is consumer-centric, it’s advisable to use packaging material made from reusable or recyclable materials.

2. Bamboo Business Cards

A 2019 study by CodeZero found that somewhere in the region of 7.2 million trees are harvested each year to make 100 billion business cards, a shocking 88% of which are binned after less than a week. Forest loss is accountable for around 10% of the world’s global warming, with trees releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when they’re used in production.

New bamboo business cards have been developed to help reduce the need for traditional paper ones, and work by sending information wirelessly to smartphones. Each card is installed with an NFC chip and QR code and can simply be tapped onto a phone to share contact information on the spot. Making the switch from paper to digital business cards is a small but effective way for companies to start reducing their carbon footprint.


3. Improve Lighting Efficiency

Keeping unoccupied rooms lit during office hours is a common occurrence in many office buildings, particularly now that businesses are being far more flexible with their office hours. Installing a BEMS is a reliable way of monitoring a building’s lighting system and can automatically switch the lights off in any rooms that aren’t occupied. This is likely to have a huge impact on a business’s carbon footprint, as lighting can account for as much as 60% of a building’s annual energy usage.

4. Say goodbye to single-use plastics

Whether its canteen cutlery, disposable coffee cups or plastic water bottles, single-use plastics are extremely damaging to your organisation’s carbon footprint. As a population, we produce an average of 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, more than half of which is used to make single-use items. To put this into perspective, that’s roughly equivalent to the combined weight of the entire population. The manufacturing process of these plastics involves the use of fossil fuel-based chemicals and creates plastics that are only designed to be used once before being thrown away.
Creating an office culture that encourages employees to adopt reusable items will play an important role in reducing your carbon footprint and can be as simple as asking employees to bring their own coffee mugs and refill their water bottles in the office.

5. Optimise your heating and cooling systems

With the weather becoming increasingly unpredictable as global warming takes effect, it can be difficult for businesses to balance their use of heating and cooling systems. If these systems are constantly competing, a large amount of energy is wasted and is likely to have a damaging effect on energy bills.
A simple way to solve this issue is to integrate BEMS to control when and how each system is used. Automatic timers can be enabled to heat the building during the early hours of the morning and switch off during the afternoon. It can also detect outdoor temperatures and ensure that during the warmer seasons, the heating and cooling systems aren’t overcompensating and making the office colder or warmer than it is outside.

Optimising heating and cooling systems throughout the year will not only improve the health and wellbeing of employees, but significantly reduce carbon emissions.

What are the next steps?

The outcomes of the COP26 conference are likely to make reducing carbon emissions a top priority for many organisations.

Putting new policies in place to encourage individual employees to reduce their own carbon footprint is an important part of the journey towards Net Zero and should be introduced alongside other steps to create a carbon conscious culture. This can include making all printing double-sided, switching off all monitors at the end of the workday and asking employees to use travel expenses on public transport when possible. Much like BEMS, all of these actions need to combined into a single system in order to achieve any positive change.

At Carbon Numbers, we are passionate about helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint.

Contact us today for a free, no obligation on-site energy assessment of your facility.