Understand your business emissions
1) What causes emissions
Direct carbon emissions produced by farming include:
- chemical fertilisers – used on crops
- methane – released by livestock manure
- land use change – clearing natural habitats such as woodland
- soil-based emissions – caused by regular tilling and soil compaction
- energy use – for lighting and heating in farm buildings
- transport – using vehicles and tractors which run on petrol or diesel
- general waste – resulting from farming processes and product packaging
2) Calculate your emissions
There are a number of farm-specific tools to help measure emissions. These include:
- Cool Farm Alliance greenhouse gas calculator (free)
- Farm Carbon Calculator toolkit (free)
- agrecalc (free trial available to farmers)
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 guidance from the following organisations:
- National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – provides net zero advice and networking opportunities. You have to pay annual membership
- Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) – offers guidance on sustainable farming, as well as courses and events. Membership is free.
- Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) – promotes sustainable food and farming
- The Soil Association – membership charity for sustainable food, farming and land use
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – provides funding for developing innovative products, processes or services in the food industry.
- Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is a membership organisation for owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales.
- Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) delivers projects that increase productivity and boost farming and supply chain businesses.
You can also learn how to run your business in a more environmentally friendly way by hiring a sustainability consultant
2) Support in your region
The following grants, schemes and loan programmes are available in the West Midlands:
- Agri-tech Growth and Resources for Innovation (AGRI) gives SMEs free innovation support from experts at local universities – must be located in the Marches region
- Alternative Raw Materials with Low Impact (ARLI) gives free energy efficiency advice and technical support to SMEs in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull areas
- ATETA gives SMEs free expertise and research support for business energy challenges – must be located in the Black Country, Coventry, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull areas
- Birmingham’s Heavy Duty Vehicle Fund gives SMEs up to £15,000 per vehicle to comply with the city’s new clean air zone.
- Birmingham & Solihull Industrial Symbiosis Project (BASIS) gives SMEs 12 hours of free consulting to transition waste products into useful resources for other businesses – must be located in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull areas
- Built Environment Climate Change Innovations (BECCI) gives free advice and research support to SMEs in the low carbon construction sector
- Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP) provides energy assessments and gives SMEs up to £20,000 in matching funds to reduce emissions – must be located in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire or Telford and Wrekin
- Coventry and Warwickshire Green Business Programme gives SMEs up to £50,000 in matching funds for energy efficiency, and up to £6,000 to bring green products to market
- Crest at UCS gives free expertise to SMEs to reduce environmental impact and develop new products. Must be a B2B business in Shropshire or Telford and Wrekin.
- Energy & Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) gives SMEs expert advice and research support to develop low carbon products and services
- Environmental Technologies & Resource Efficiency Support Service (EnTRESS) gives SMEs free business and research support from experts at the University of Wolverhampton – must be located in Black Country or Stoke and Staffordshire
- GrowAgri gives SMEs 12 hours of expert support to adapt products for the horticulture and agriculture sectors – must be located in Worcestershire
- Low Carbon Business Evolution Programme (LCBEP) gives SMEs up to £20,000 in matching funds for improving energy efficiency in business processes and premises – must be located in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire
- Low Carbon Opportunities Programme (LoCOP) – gives SMEs free energy assessments and matching grants up to £100,000 to install renewable energy systems – must be located in Worcestershire
- Low Carbon SMEs gives free energy audits and matching funds up to £12,250 for energy saving equipment or new business processes – must be located in Black Country, Greater Birmingham and Solihull
- Manufacturing and Technology Innovator Growth Programme provides free expertise from the Aston Business School – must be located in Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP areas
- PIVOT gives businesses from £40,000 to £70,000 in matching funds to transfer technology across industries – currently in pilot phase, must be located in Black Country, Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire
- Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND) gives SMEs free expertise from consultants and graduate researchers at Keele University – must be located in Staffordshire
- Smarterials provides free expertise from Aston University for research and testing in material science
- Sustainability West Midlands in the regional hub for support and funding sustainable business
- University of Wolverhampton’s Smart Concept Fund gives SMEs up to £16,500 in matching funds to SMEs located in Black Country, The Marches, or Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire LEP areas
- West Midlands Innovation Programme provides targeted support to SMEs to access more national innovation funding
- Worcestershire County Business Energy Efficiency Programme gives SMEs up to £20,000 for energy assessments – must be located in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Telford and Wrekin or Shropshire
Actions you can take right now
1) Save energy in your buildings
Quick, low-cost measures 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) Do an energy walk-round
Walk around your farm to see if energy is being used efficiently.
Prepare a checklist. Look out for wasteful energy use and maintenance issues in the following areas:
- lighting, heating and refrigeration systems
- water heating
- milk cooling
- water pumps
Routine maintenance checks and cleaning will improve the efficiency of your ventilation system.
3) 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.
4) Switch to a smart meter
This will allow you to see and control how much energy you use. Find out more
5) 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) Reducing livestock emissions
If you have livestock on your farm, you can cut methane emissions by :
- feeding cattle based on their nutrient needs
- focusing on herd health and breeding practices to improve production efficiency
- using manure storage covers, sealed tanks and additives to break down manure
On a dairy farm, a Plate Heat Exchanger can reduce energy costs for cooling milk by up to 50%. Using water to pre-cool milk can reduce cooling costs by 30%.
In a milking parlour, installing a variable speed drive on a vacuum pump can reduce pump running costs by 60%.
2) Reducing soil emissions
To reduce soil-based emissions and improve soil quality, use cover crops. Avoid:
- regular tilling
- grazing and travelling on wet soil
- compacting the soil with heavy machinery
3) Installing renewables
If you are the legal owner of your property, you might consider installing renewable sources of energy.
By doing so, you can make significant long-term savings on energy bills.
Check planning permission guidelines before you go ahead with any structural changes to the property.
4) 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 over 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.
Transporting refrigerated goods
5) Sustainable product packaging
Replace plastic with recycled or compostable substitutes.
Types of sustainable packing include:
- plant-based packaging
- edible packaging – made from seaweed extract
- compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives
- plantable packaging – which is made from seeds and can be buried in soil
6) Selling carbon credits
You can capture carbon emissions from the air by planting woodland on your property.
You can then sell each tonne of captured carbon as carbon credits to:
- large companies looking to offset their carbon footprint
- the government (England only)
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