Understand your business emissions
1) What causes emissions
Direct carbon emissions produced by the construction industry include:
- energy use – for on-site machinery and lighting and heating in work buildings
- transport – using vehicles which run on petrol or diesel
- general waste – when it isn’t recycled and ends up at landfill sites
2) Calculate your emissions
Use a carbon calculator to work out your business’s carbon footprint. This is measured in tonnes, over a year.
3) Estimate the cost of your emissions
Once you have your carbon footprint, you can calculate how much your emissions are costing you. This will give you an idea of potential savings you can make by taking action.
4) Sign up to the SME climate commitment
Make a climate declaration to show customers you are committed to reducing emissions.
1) Support in your sector
You can get advice and guidance from the following organisations:
- the UK Green Building Council (GBC) – offers sustainability advice, courses and networking for paid members
- the Centre for Low Emission Construction – provides guidance on reducing emissions
- Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) – provides information on waste issues relevant to the construction industry
2) Support in your region
The following grants, schemes and loan programmes are available in Scotland:
- Circular Economy Investment Fund gives SMEs and non-profit organisations matching funds to reduce waste and develop green products
- Domestic charge point funding gives up to £700 toward the installation of an electric vehicle charge point
- eBike loans offer interest-free loans of up to £6,000 for the purchase of an approved electric bike – the repayment period is 4 years
- Electric vehicle (EV) loans gives interest-free loans up to £28,000 to buy a new EV or £10,000 for a motorcycle or scooter – the repayment period is 6 years
- Energy Savings Trust gives funds for vehicle retrofits and safe disposal of non-compliant vehicles – must be a SME with 9 employees or less and located within 20km of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Dundee
- Energy Investment Fund offers loans and investments for commercial and community-based low carbon energy projects
- Funding for green jobs gives matching funding from £50,000 to £500,000 for the creation of green jobs – must be a registered company within the Scottish Enterprise area
- Home Energy Scotland offers interest free loans and cashback for energy efficiency and renewable upgrades to a domestic property – maximum loan amount is £32,500 and cashback is £14,000
- NESTRANS Sustainable Travel Grant Scheme gives SMEs up to £10,000 in matching funds for sustainable transport initiatives – must be based in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire
- Private Rented Sector Landlord Loans lets property management businesses borrow up to £15,000 for energy efficiency and £17,000 for renewable systems – interest and fees apply
- SME Loan Scheme offers interest-free loans from £1,000 to £100,000 to pay for energy efficiency and carbon reducing upgrades – up to £20,000 can be provided as a grant if installing eligible equipment
- Used Electric Vehicle Loan for Business gives interest-free loans up to £20,000 for businesses of all sizes to buy a used electric car, van or moped
Zero Waste Scotland also offers free support and advice for businesses, including:
- a free energy assessment – to identify where and how you can make savings
- a comprehensive report showing key actions you can take to reduce emissions
Actions you can take right now
1) Save energy at your office and workplace
Quick, low-cost actions include:
- lighting – use LED bulbs for greater efficiency
- heating – put your thermostat on a timer and seal your windows for extra insulation
- office equipment – try to turn off and unplug devices when they’re not being used
2) Change your energy tariff
Switch to a green energy tariff with your energy supplier. This will reduce your reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels.
3) Switch to a smart meter
This will allow you to see and control how much energy you use. Find out more
4) Manage your waste
Recycle waste to prevent it being taken to landfill sites where it takes longer to break down and causes more emissions.
Longer term actions
1) Making changes to your offices and workplace
If you are the legal owner, there are a number of long-term measures you can take to improve energy efficiency.
Check planning permission guidelines before you go ahead with any structural changes to the property.
Improving insulation and windows
You can make long-term savings on energy bills by insulating your workplace and replacing old windows.
You can also make significant long-term savings by installing renewable sources of energy.
2) At the construction site
Avoid using fuel-powered generators
More efficient alternatives include:
- a high-capacity electricity grid connection
- hybrid power generators (HPGs), which work with renewable technologies such as solar, wind, battery and biodiesel
Use sustainable materials
Many building materials contain high amounts of embodied carbon. Find out about sourcing low-carbon building materials from the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products
3) Reducing transport emissions
Over 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions are caused by transport. You can take measures to reduce the impact.
If you have employees you could introduce a cycle-to-work initiative or encourage them to take public transport.
If you use a work vehicle, you can reduce emissions by switching to an electric vehicle (EV). You would be exempt from road tax, congestion charges and parking fees in certain areas.
For easy overnight charging you could install EV chargers at your home or workplace. A government grant scheme covers up to £350 per charging point.
To reduce indirect or ‘supply chain’ emissions you need to consider what happens before and after your business provides a service or makes a product.
1) Choose greener ‘upstream’ suppliers and products
- use suppliers that measure and reduce carbon
- help your suppliers with carbon reduction projects
- buy products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
2) Reduce emissions ‘downstream’ of your business
- make products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
- reduce water consumption and waste disposal needs
- make investments in lower carbon financial products
- give incentives for lower emission activities in leased assets or franchises
3) Certify your supply chain action
The Carbon Trust offers the following verification schemes:
Share your progress
Sharing your progress will help employees and customers feel confident that you’re reducing carbon and moving towards net zero.
You should share your progress once you’ve done both of the following:
- worked out a benchmark of emissions
- started to take action