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 South East England:
- Community Solar Accelerator provides SMEs up to £25,000 in matching funds to install solar panels or EV chargers – must be located in the Coast to Capital LEP
- Low Carbon Across the South East (LoCASE) gives SMEs up to £10,000 to help reduce carbon – must be located in East Sussex, West Sussex or Brighton and Hove
- East Sussex Council free energy audits and grants gives SMEs up to £10,000 to invest in carbon reduction – must be located in East Sussex
- Energy Efficiency Grants for East Sussex gives SMEs £200 to £1,000 in matching funds to improve energy efficiency – must be located in East Sussex, excluding Brighton and Hove
- EMphasis3 CO2 Reductions Project gives SMEs up to 36% in matching funds to improve energy efficiency and commercialize green products
- Greentech South’s Low Carbon Solent gives free business support from postgraduate students at the universities of Portsmouth and Winchester
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