As we look towards COP26 with anticipation it is easy to get caught up in the policy debates. In the UK especially, amazing achievements are already underway. Here at Smarter Grid Solutions, we are proud of have helped avoid 283 ktCO2e annual emissions by the DER our software helped bring online. It is our mission to contribute more with our products but what about small businesses and individuals? What can we do local to where we live and work that will make a difference?
Create a Baseline
We are a relatively small company with 70 employee’s operating in Glasgow, New York, California, and Texas. In 2019, we undertook an internal initiative to calculate our organization’s carbon footprint. At that time, we had no scope 1 emissions (i.e. we don’t burn, process or leak any relevant material) and the total of our scope 2 (purchased energy) and scope 3 (business travel only) emissions was estimated at 270 tCO2e per year (the equivalent of about 300 return flights between the UK and New York). We used a reputable source of footprint estimation (Carbon Trust) and what we think were valid assumptions where data did not exist. We are about to embark on our 2020 carbon footprint estimate (realizing that this will be significantly impacted by Covid-19) and extend the coverage of our 2021 exercise. Our 2019 carbon footprint estimate also did not delve too deeply into some Scope 3 supply chain and embedded carbon – we know this will be a challenge to both get the data and to manage downwards. Like many things, it’s important to make a start, however small and simple, and then start an improvement cycle from there. We have a long way to go and we know the path will get harder but we are pleased to have taken our first small steps.
It is important to get the entire company on board with the mission for net zero. We initiated a survey internally and captured many helpful suggestions, some that will be very easy to implement like ordering vegetarian or vegan catering options, offsetting our travel emissions when possible (noting there is active debate on offsetting!), and encouraging more work from home and virtual/remote meetings. Others like tackling supply chain emissions, cleaner business travel, and adopting sustainable supply chain practices will take more time to research and implement.
Lots of offices already have recycling bins but even so there is sometimes confusion and lack of use from employees. Continued information and awareness-raising is the best way to maintain the momentum and show that operating cleanly is important to our company culture. We also hope that the measures taken and information shared at work will spill over into increased staff action within their personal lives.
Updating Office Equipment
Depending on whether you rent or own your office location there will be different opportunities for small improvements. At our Glasgow location we were pleased to confirm that our office energy supply comes from 100% renewables. Other options you may wish to consider are switching to LED lights, reading reports on screens instead of printing, sourcing office supplies locally or waiting an extra day to group an online order are some options. Assessing embedded carbon in our supply chain, equipment and materials purchases is something we plan to do and we know it will be tricky to make some of the changes to our IT equipment and data services.
Closely Examine Travel
Although our employees largely cycle or use public transportation methods, as you can see from our estimate, travel was the largest culprit of our corporate emissions. This was from business travel (and predominantly flying) rather than commuting to our offices.
When covid-19 hit we, like many companies around the world, went virtual and home-based for all employees. It has become clear that we can work and continue to conduct business from home and it’s time to re-evaluate the need for travel. While the essential work our engineers do on customer sites does require travel, perhaps many business and sales meetings do not. It has always felt slightly out of kilter to take international flights to clean energy events!
Many flights can be replaced with train trips or if not, it may be possible to limit the number of in-person attendees with some joining by video conference.
If you are still not sure where to start, consider joining local and global efforts. This will require companywide accountability.
This year, Smarter Grid Solutions signed the SME Climate Commitment which will help keep us accountable with annual reporting and goals to halve our emissions before 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Learn more at their website: Commitment - SME Climate hub
Another program in conjunction with the United Nations is the Race to Zero.
As a company that was founded to help bring more renewables onto the grid, we are extremely passionate about making a difference to the climate crisis and are proud of the role we play supporting our customer on their low carbon journeys. Supportive policies, investment in transmission upgrades and large-scale adoption of decentralized energy managed by DERMS software like our own will all be essential to a cleaner future. However, it is the little everyday actions in our own work and personal lives that will also make a big difference. We encourage you either as a business or as an individual, to think about your long-term goals but not let that keep you from acting today. Continual small changes bring awareness, actual results and also lead to larger corporate and global change.