Profit Through Ethics on Reducing GHG emissions

Does your business take steps to mitigate its impact on climate change?



PTE Ltd does take steps to mitigate the negative environmental impact of its daily office operations, but not to the extent required to answer YES to this question.

Wherever possible, paper, water and electricity are economised. We also encourage our staff to be environmentally responsible consumers. However, we do not set targets for reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon dioxide emissions. We have little control over the management of the office space we rent and, at the moment, we do not generate a significant amount of CO2 to justify a commitment to monitoring our output.

In running Responsible 100, the majority of our work is office-based. We rely heavily on the internet, on email and VoIP telephones. We use cloud computing to share our work. However, we are aware of the growing environmental impact of cloud computing and keep an eye on this issue. It is company practice to turn off any machines that are not in use. This includes turning off screens during lunch breaks as the 'screen saver' uses as much energy as the computer itself. Simple, small steps nonetheless do have a big effect on energy consumption and therefore Scope 2 emissions.

Staff use public transport to get to work or live close enough to walk or cycle. Using a car to travel to work in such an urban and congested location would be expensive and impractical. We are based a couple of minutes walk from major Tube and train stations. Most of our visitors use public transport too. This reduces Scope 1 emissions.

We are tenants of Small Works King’s Cross and occupy a small portion of the building they lease, in The Old Laundry, Priory Green Estate. The windows are large enough to allow work by natural daylight but additional artificial light is often necessary. There is no individual control of the ceiling lights fitted across our area and therefore some parts are lit when they do not need to be so. This increases Scope 2 emissions. However, it is general practice to turn off lights whenever possible and switches around the office are labelled to remind people. Peer pressure is quite effective in enforcing this. Similar practices are adopted for the office heating. Ventilation is carried out by opening the windows, with the advantage of fresh air. At the time of writing (October 2015) we are investigating whether the landlord uses a green energy supplier and also offsets emissions which reduces Scope 2, and if not, whether this is something they will consider.

Should we take office space that is fully under our control, we would certainly take further steps to minimise our carbon footprint.

Answered at 05:37PM on 03 Tuesday Nov 2015

Climate change threatens the basic necessities of human life all around the world - access to water, food production, health, land, biodiversity, peace and stability. Climate change is an unprecedented issue, unique to our civilisation, and action is needed to prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.

Anthropogenic climate change is mostly caused by the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has identified six key GHGs which contribute to climate change. While carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most common GHGs, all GHG emissions have impacts of varying intensities and timescales on climate change. Some GHGs trap heat in the atmosphere and the oceans for over a hundred years, while some do so for much shorter periods of times but with far greater magnitude. Methane (CH4), from leaked gas or livestock for example is such a gas.

Feedback loops, which could accelerate climate change, add further urgency for action in order to prevent pushing the climate system beyond irreversible tipping points. Scientists fear that, as temperatures increase, huge stores of GHGs could be released into the atmosphere accelerating further warming.

GHG emissions from businesses are generally classified in three different ‘scopes’, Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

  • Scope 1 emissions refer to direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by an organisation. Examples include: company owned vehicles, chemical reactions and boilers
  • Scope 2 emissions refer to indirect emissions from electricity, heat or steam purchased by an organisation. Examples include: electricity purchased by the factories or the offices of an organisation
  • Scope 3 emissions refer to all other indirect emission which are a consequence of business’ activities but are not directly controlled or owned by the business. These can be further classified as upstream or downstream:
    • ‘Upstream emissions’ are linked to the supply chain of a business. Examples include: extraction and production of purchased materials, outsourced waste treatment and other modes of employee travel
    • ‘Downstream emissions’ are linked to life of the products or services. Examples include: investments, energy use associated with products and the end of life-treatment of products.

Some businesses are not only reducing their GHG emissions to limit further climate change, they are also working to adapt to changes that have already occurred and will continue to occur. ‘Climate-smart agriculture’ is one example, where businesses may work with farmers and policymakers to strengthen irrigation systems so that the agricultural produce or livestock are better protected against droughts or floods. Such adaptions seen across various sectors and industries suggest that integrating climate change thinking may help identify associated opportunities and risks.

The UK Government states that the costs of not acting on climate change far outweigh the costs of early action. A key step almost any business can take is to monitor and evaluate its energy use, which for many businesses is the leading source of GHGs. The modern economy is primarily based on fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil), and reducing the use of these ever more costly and limited resources through energy efficiency measures can only benefit a business. Examples of energy efficiency and further steps may include:

  • Setting annual targets for reductions in energy use
  • Improving insulation in buildings used by the business
  • Implementing smart meters for comprehensive energy monitoring
  • Implementing energy efficient lighting
  • Sourcing renewable energy
  • Producing renewable energy on-site, with solar panels for example
  • Promoting behaviour changes within the organisation
  • Appointing someone in the business for energy management.

Further, some businesses may be subject to mandatory emissions reporting (e.g. in the UK all quoted companies are required to measure and report GHGs), and some businesses may report their emissions strategies voluntarily through initiatives like the CDP. The CDP (initially the Carbon Disclosure Project) invites businesses to consider their impact on climate change through its detailed questionnaire. Beyond energy efficiency, additional issues on which it invites disclosure include:

  • Ensuring responsibility for climate change impacts and risks are delegated at a high level within the organisation
  • Ensuring there are appropriate incentives for managing climate change issues
  • Engaging in activities that have a positive influence on public policy for climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Funding research and innovation, internally or externally, on climate change issues
  • Establishing absolute and/or intensity emissions and regularly evaluate and report on progress
  • Assessing how third parties may directly or indirectly reduce GHG emissions through the use of the organisation’s goods and services
  • Engaging with various of the elements of the organisations value chain on GHG emissions and climate change strategies.

A comprehensive strategy to mitigate impacts on climate change forms a key part of an organisation’s ability to manage their environmental impact. There is no set way to mitigate an organisation’s impact on climate change and many innovative solutions continue to emerge from individual businesses, industry groups and others. Nonetheless, a company does not have to be expert or innovative to follow good practice. A company that considers sound environmental stewardship and reducing its footprint across its operations as good business practice will likely be able to cite numerous steps it takes – for example cutting down on its use of raw materials, reducing its use of transportation and considering end of life treatment – to mitigate its impact on climate change. By disclosing such steps, benefits include learning from each other, inspiring innovation and improving the business impact on the environment.

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

'Greenhouse gases' (GHGs) are gases in the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic (human induced), that absorb and emit radiation at certain wavelengths resulting in atmospheric warming known as the greenhouse effect.

The six key GHGs as identified by the UNFCCC are CO2 (Carbon dioxide), CH4 (Methane), N2O (Nitrous oxide), PFCs (Perfluorocarbons), HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons) and SF6 (Sulphur hexafluoride). Other GHGs as identified by the UNFCCC are SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide), NOx (Nitric Oxide), CO (Carbon Monoxide) and NMVOC (Non-methane volatile organic compounds).

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

State the organisation’s key sources of GHG emissions

State which methodology or standard, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, has been used to calculate and/or verify emissions

State if it manages Scope 1, 2 and/or 3 GHG emissions

Describe the practices or policies in place to reduce GHG emissions

Explain how performance is monitored and evaluated

All Businesses MAY

State which level of company governance is responsible for climate change

State if it sets targets for reducing emissions, and say if these are absolute or intensity targets

Indicate where they publish their emissions data, reduction targets, practices and policies and other relevant information, and provide hyperlinks if available

Describe any activities that attempt to influence public policy on climate change

Explain how they engage with partners or suppliers on climate change issues

Explain how climate change risks on the business are evaluated and addressed

Provide examples of other climate mitigation and adaptation strategies

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot take steps to mitigate their impact on climate change and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstance or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

List any practices that are relevant, but not sufficient to answer YES

Mention any future intentions regarding climate change actions

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

NOT APPLICABLE is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 1

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

Tackling climate change is strategic to the organisation

Examples of policy and practice which may support the EXCELLENT statement:

  1. Clear targets are set according to recognised methodologies (may include scope 3)
  2. Actions measured and monitored
  3. Staff and other stakeholders and/or value chain highly engaged
  4. Sources only renewable energy, where available
  5. Renewable energy produced on-site
  6. Strong track record in practical ways of reducing emissions
  7. Cited as an exemplar in its sector
  8. Clear efforts are taken to offset any remaining GHG emissions
  9. Assesses climate risks at high-level management positions
  10. Publishes reports on climate action, inviting stakeholder feedback
  11. Constantly looking for ways to go beyond expectations
  12. Constantly looking for ways to reduce raw material use
To receive a score of 'Good'

The business has established clear practices for reducing its impact on climate

Examples of policy and practice which may support the GOOD statement:

  1. Undertaken audit (or similar) and set clear targets
  2. Actions measured and monitored
  3. Goes beyond any legal minimum for GHG reductions
  4. Staff and/or value chain engaged
  5. Has demonstrably achieved a great deal
  6. Sources renewable energy
  7. Has identified various climate risks
  8. Supports constructive public policy dialogue
  9. Evident it takes efforts to reduce raw material use
To receive a score of 'Okay'

The business is aware of climate change and actively aims to reduce or measurement is impractical

Examples of policy and practice which may support the OKAY statement:

  1. Identifies its climate impacts but has little influence and/or resources
  2. Developed easy ways to implement reduction across the business
  3. Has diversity of approaches
  4. Complies with minimum legal requirements and offsets its carbon footprint
  5. Explains why measurement is impractical
To receive a score of 'Poor'

The business is aware of climate change but does not really push its people to pursue policies

Examples of policy and practice which may support the POOR statement:

  1. Statement of future intent
  2. Does not apparently implement policies or measure or monitor
  3. Will only comply with minimum legal requirements

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