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 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) 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