Understand your business emissions
1) What causes emissions
Direct carbon emissions produced by the food production industry:
- chemical fertilisers – used on crops
- energy use – electricity and gas for lighting, refrigeration and machinery
- general waste – when it is not recycled and ends up at landfill sites
- product packaging – using plastics instead of sustainable alternatives
- travel – using petrol or diesel vehicles to deliver services or products
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 help and advice from the following organisations:
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – provides funding for developing innovative products, processes or services in the food industry
- The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) – offers its members guidance on decarbonisation. In 2021 they published a handbook for achieving net zero (PDF).
- The Soil Association – membership charity for sustainable food, farming and land use
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
Invest Northern Ireland offers advice on how to operate more efficiently. Support includes:
- consultancy for energy and waste management strategies and recommendations
- resource matching service to manage waste and reduce costs
- investment funding for energy saving equipment
Actions you can take right now
1) Use less energy at your office and workplace
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
- ventilation – keep clean and carry out regular checks
2) Do an energy walk-round
Walk around your buildings and see where energy is being used:
- Prepare a checklist. Look at lighting, machinery, ventilation and refrigeration.
- Identify wasteful energy use and maintenance issues.
- Check at different times of day and compare day and night time use.
- Monitor over a period of a week for accurate average figures.
- Make sure equipment is checked and cleaned regularly to ensure maximum efficiency.
Decide if you need an energy strategy
Depending on the size of your business, you might need to implement an energy management strategy. An energy manager will help you:
- Measure and monitor energy use.
- Target ways to use energy as efficiently as possible.
Train your workforce
You can train your team to be aware of energy efficiency in the workplace. Find a course
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 how.
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) Making changes to your workplace
If you are the legal owner, there are a number of long-term measures you can take to improve energy efficiency.
Check planning permissions 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) Reducing transport emissions
Over a quarter 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 also reduce emissions and fuel costs 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.
Transporting refrigerated goods
3) Sustainable product packaging
Replace plastic with recyclable 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
4) Carbon offsetting
You can offset unavoidable carbon emissions by buying carbon credits. This is where you pay for an equivalent amount of emissions to be removed elsewhere.
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