An SME's road to net zero


Businesses getting to net zero is increasingly important: the business sector contributes a large proportion of the UK’s carbon emissions so if companies make changes, it’ll have a huge impact. One of our members, Quantem, did the pilot of our course, Climate for SMEs: 4 Steps to Action, in summer 2021. We asked them about their journey to net zero.

Why did you want to start your net zero journey?

“As a business, we feel strongly that achieving net zero is the best course of action for our industry (professional services). The nature of our position in this industry means that we’re in the centre of the field between our clients and their supply chains, so it’s crucial that we better understand our own impact in this relationship. Likewise, our clients are all increasingly aware of the need to reduce carbon emissions. By working from the ground up to improve our own business’ carbon impact, we hope to create a meaningful message to our employees, clients and other stakeholders that we’re actively working to reduce our impact on the environment and that others should, and can, follow suit.”

You’ve measured Quantem’s carbon footprint as part of your journey to net zero. How did you get your employees engaged in doing this?

“Our business is an Employee Ownership Trust and our employees were naturally very eager and interested in getting involved in this journey. To kick start our efforts, the business established a dedicated Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) group which was composed of employees from a range of levels within the business, from graduates up to board level, Prior to collecting the data, the ESG group would spend time to discuss Heart of the City with the business as a whole and explain the purpose behind our journey, which would be followed up with the various rounds of data collection. We planned to present our findings internally as soon as possible to keep interest moving, and we were able to present our baseline carbon position to the entire business only two months after starting the modules. From establishing our baseline our employees remain vested in hearing our plans for the future, as they’re intrinsic to delivering our plans.”

What was the most challenging part of measuring your carbon footprint?

“As an SME based in the professional services industry, we have to be very conscious that our carbon footprint is largely driven by operational requirements (gas/electricity), employee commuting and remote working. This has become challenging to measure due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the significant adjustments that our employees are continuously making to their working lives. Fundamentally, and individual’s carbon impact on the business can change weekly and calculating a carbon position based on moving data is inherently difficult. So, it’s important that we continuously work to refine our data collection methods and goals, together with actively supporting people with information about the impact of the decisions they make. We do this with information provided by Heart of the City.”

What are the next steps on your road to net zero?

“We’ve calculated our carbon emissions baseline, and now we’re looking to take action. Over the next few months, we’ll be exploring the options available to us which can help first mitigate and then offset our carbon. This will largely be driven by internal business changes (such as sourcing green energy tariffs, reducing waste and encouraging greener modes of transport) and investing in responsible, ethical and accredited carbon removal programmes. There’s a very long list of solutions for SMEs, and it’s important to take time to find the right one for your business.”

What advice would you give to an SME that hasn’t started planning how they’ll get to net zero yet?

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. It’s important that we all play a role in carbon mitigation and a responsible attitude is to start now if they haven’t already – it doesn’t need to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. Heart of the City offers a fantastic net zero programme. The support is always on hand with excellent learning material, which crucially means that the process is a matter of months, not years.”

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