On the cusp of COP28, this month’s Ambassador Recommends focuses on how businesses – small and large – can drive emissions reductions and help achieve collective action to tackle climate change.
Here’s Nicky Sinker, a cost, procurement and carbon specialist at Auditel, on how to get started and realise the business benefits at the same time.
Combatting climate change can seem like a daunting task. But by taking the right approach to carbon management, businesses can take the lead in driving innovation in this critically important field, reduce their costs, and put themselves ahead of their competitors.
With COP 28 fast approaching it is a good time to think about what has been achieved to date to combat climate change and the progress made towards achieving the global target of net zero by 2050.
Worryingly, the latest UN Sustainability Development Goals Report said the pace and scale of current climate actions are “wholly insufficient” to effectively tackle climate change. As we have seen throughout 2023, increasingly frequent, intense and extreme weather events are already impacting every region on Earth. The report pulls no punches, warning of an impending “climate cataclysm” unless radical action is taken immediately.
To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, emissions must already be decreasing and need to be cut by almost half by 2030; just seven years away. Early UK success has now slowed due to challenges, particularly in the harder-to-abate sectors such as transport, buildings, and industry.
Whilst the challenge is big, there are things that all businesses can do to reduce emissions that will help achieve net zero. My recommendation for all businesses – small and large – is to start with what’s possible. And most importantly – you don’t have to do it all at once.
At Auditel, we work with businesses to help them understand which gases are impacting the environment and what the emissions sources of these gases are within their organisation. We then measure their carbon footprint; the most important first step to combating climate change for any organisation, as you can’t reduce what you can’t measure. A carbon footprint report highlights emission hotspots for businesses, and these are prioritised in a bespoke carbon reduction plan.
While there are many market forces driving organisations to manage their emissions, many are still prevented from taking action by the challenges, or perceived challenges, to carbon management.
For some organisations, carbon management can feel like too big a challenge to take on, especially when you lack the internal expertise on how to gather relevant data and use it to measure your carbon footprint. However, it is only too big a challenge if you try and do everything at once. A stepped approach will not only make carbon management achievable but is a means to drive efficiency and potentially reduce costs.
There’s a lot of confusion around what good looks like and the correct terminology to use -unsurprising given the huge variation in the quality of carbon footprint calculations and reports, and the huge number of unsubstantiated claims being made in this area currently.
In recent months there has been more focus from different authorities on greenwashing; making environmental claims about activities which do not make the meaningful difference that they should. The Advertising Standards Agency (“ASA”) and the European Union have highlighted the need to make sure there is evidence to support any claim, including verification in some instances.
It is important that businesses not only measure their carbon footprint but make sure, when working on carbon reduction plans and stating targets and achievements, that these are accurately reflected in what they communicate.
I am lucky enough to speak every day with businesses that are taking action by undertaking their carbon management journey. It is truly inspiring to see innovation across teams brainstorming ideas to reduce emissions.
One of the best initiatives I’ve seen was when a project team walked through the details of a particular process which generated an emissions hotspot. We discovered that the process cost significant amounts of money. While it required behavioural change to adopt a completely new way of operating, the significant cost savings meant the firm could give staff a daily financial reward for adopting the new ways of working. This achieved reductions in carbon emissions and costs, while simultaneously improving employee engagement, putting the organisation ahead of its competitors as a result. Good carbon management will become key to retaining top talent.
Combatting climate change will require everyone to operate differently. Those businesses that do not manage their carbon will fall behind their competitors. The time to act is now.
Here are some resources to help businesses get started:
Nicky Sinker is a cost, procurement and carbon specialist at Auditel, a business which helps organisations reduce their carbon emissions in a measurable, meaningful and potentially self-funding way. Nicky is passionate about using her accountancy qualifications to help businesses reduce their carbon emissions and costs at the same time, ultimately driving their success through winning more business and improving profitability whilst helping the planet. Nicky is a task group member of the City of London Corporation’s Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce, a three-year project led by the City of London Corporation to boost the supply of skilled workers for sustainable buildings.