Understand your business emissions
1) What causes emissions
Direct carbon emissions produced by professional services and office-based businesses:
- energy use – electricity and gas for lighting, heating and office equipment
- information technology – creating and storing digital information
- general waste – when it’s not recycled and ends up at landfill sites
- transport – using petrol or diesel vehicles to get to work or deliver services
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 sustainability guidance from the following organisations:
- Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA) – offers a sustainability network for legal firms
- Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) – provides advice on decarbonisation within the engineering industry
- The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) – works with members to encourage sustainable architecture
- The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) – provides advice for the finance industry
- The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and its Scottish equivalent ICAS – provide support for accountancy firms
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 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) Use less energy at your 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 – turn off and unplug all devices when they’re not being used
- ventilation system – make sure it is cleaned and maintained regularly
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 how
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 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) 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 also reduce emissions and fuel costs by buying or renting 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.
3) 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
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