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 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) 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