This Net Zero Carbon Blog aims to bring you the latest news and essential developments around the topical term 'net zero' which is now frequently the focus of the media, including actions that are being taken to contribute towards achieving net zero emissions in the UK by 2050.
This blog is led by one of our experts in the sustainability team, Susanna Jackson, but multiple members of the Comply Direct team contribute to this blog which is shown below, including links to their staff profiles so you can read more about their roles in the business.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero emissions means reducing emissions as much as possible whilst acknowledging that where greenhouse gas emissions still occur, they must be offset entirely through carbon capture or storage. This is often through the planting and growth of trees for example.
Comply Direct's 2020 Carbon Footprint & our Pledge to Net Zero
Posted 27 January 2021
Author: Susanna Jackson
Every year we report on Comply Direct's carbon footprint. 2020 was an unusual year due to Covid-19 and this has certainly impacted on our carbon footprint for the year.
First you can see our carbon emissions in 2020 followed by the difference in emissions 2019 v's 2020:
We have seen a number of decreases in 2020:
- Employee commuting remains the highest contributor to our emissions at 41%, but has reduced significantly compared to 2019 by 17 tCO2e (52%) due to homeworking increase
- Business travel has also seen a decrease of 79%, and is no longer our second largest contributor, again due to the impact of Covid-19 on travel
- Heating is now the second largest contributor to our emissions, and has increased by 21% compared to 2019, as we spent an entire year in a new office space vs. just half the year in 2019, however when normalised against floor space, heating usage has actually decreased
- Market based electricity consumption has decreased by 100% as we purchased green energy for the full year in 2020, which counts as zero emissions.
Objective: To reduce the emissions per member by 10% from 2019 figure in 2020
Business Travel Emissions by member number (kgCO2e per member):
This was achieved:
- Business travel emissions per member has reduced by nearly 100% compared to 2019
- Remained beneath the quarterly target every quarter
- Q1 only quarter where still operating as normal prior to Covid-19 – still achieved
Objective: To reduce emissions heating oil consumption per square foot of office space by 10% in 2020
Emissions from heating of leased office (kgCO2e per square meter floor space):
This was achieved:
- Heating per square meter floor area has decrease by 19% compared to 2019
- Exceeded quarterly target in Q1 but below in all other quarters.
Pledge to Net Zero
Objective: Achieve an average 4.2% per annum reduction in emissions by 2025 for scope 1, scope 2 and relevant scope 3 emissions:
- Heating now makes up 80% of out pledge to Net Zero emissions compared to 38% in 2019, while business travel emissions has reduced from 55% in 2019 to 20% in 2020
- Electricity was all green energy throughout 2020 so now makes up 0% of emissions
- We have achieved a 36% reduction in total gross emissions and have remained below the target for 2019 which was 30.15 tCO2e, with total gross emissions of 21.06 tCO2e.
This now leads on to our Pledge to Net Zero thought piece .....
Our thought piece addresses steps to delivering an economy in line with climate science and in support of net zero carbon.
Comply Direct’s practical steps
As a small service-based company there is perhaps less opportunity to reduce our overall emissions than other larger, product-based companies. However, we have a very wide member base whom we have constant interactions with and potential influence over, from a range of different sectors. We want to lead by example for these members as a company with environmental issues at the heart of all decisions, so that we can provide expert guidance and expertise having gone through the motions ourselves to reduce our own carbon footprint.
These are our thoughts on the practical steps which need to be taken to support a net zero carbon economy:
Measure and monitor
The first step towards net zero carbon is measuring and monitoring your carbon footprint. We have been doing this for a number of years, but 2020 was the first year we set ourselves reduction targets focusing on 2 of the highest emitting areas of the business. Without a comprehensive carbon footprint calculation, you cannot identify the areas which are contributing the most to your carbon footprint, and therefore determine which areas will be most effective to focus on for reduction.
As well as understanding the highest emitting areas, it is also important to assess which of these areas is something which can actually be influenced and controlled. For us, the largest contribution to our carbon footprint was employee commuting, at 49%. However, due to the location of the business on a remote country estate, alternative transport options for employees are extremely limited and employee commuting is something we have less control over. Heating and business travel however, which were the next 2 highest emitting areas, were activities we had more control over.
Heating and business travel were therefore the 2 areas we selected to make our objectives around in 2020, and managed to successfully meet both targets. In order to do this you need to ensure you have a clear plan of action over how to meet the targets, and outline to all employees the actions to be taken over the course of the year, for us, this included:
- Strict temperature controls on thermostats
- Company wide shut down on a Friday evening
- A strict electric company car policy
- Justification for the need of any site visits and why this could not be conducted remotely
Providing updates on targets is also important, to remind everyone of the goals and what actions they should be taking to help achieve them, and show progress towards meeting the targets so everyone is aware. We used monthly company meetings to do this.
Learn and take action
2020 has likely been a bit of an anomaly year for most companies due to the Covid-19 impacts, and therefore should be treated with caution when assessing progress against targets. However, many companies can learn a lot from what they have had to change as a result, namely the new style of working. Homeworking has proven for us to work more effectively than any of us realised possible, which automatically cuts down any emissions contributions from employee commuting, and energy/waste/water usage in the office.
Furthermore, a ban on external site visits meant our annual audit season saw a complete shift from onsite audits to all desktop audits, which remained successful and beneficial, showing that much more can be done virtually, cutting down on miles and miles of business travel. Having spoken to a variety of members, it has also massively reduced their air miles, cutting down unnecessary flights for in-person meetings which would have taken the whole day previously, but they can now complete virtually in 2 hours. As challenging as the Covid-19 pandemic has been in many ways, we need to take the positives out of the transformation to the way we work and move forwards using this as a tool to transition to a net zero carbon economy.
Aside from those 2 main areas, we are keen to reduce our environmental impact in any other way we possibly can. This includes moving to a completely paperless office (again, another necessary step taken due to Covid-19), which has proved effective and significantly reduced paper usage from 25,000 sheets in 2019 down to 10,000 in 2020. We also switched to a completely renewable electricity supply in 2019.
Our passion to do the right thing for the environment has now extended into developing new areas of the business. We have introduced a carbon footprinting service, which involves helping companies calculate their own carbon footprint, and can include guiding them in setting their own science-based reduction targets to achieve net zero, and providing suggestions for improvements to help them get there. We are also trying to increase our involvement in the community through projects such as school recycling projects, and a business park sustainability project.
£12bn Ten Point Plan unveiled by Prime Minister to push UK towards achieving net zero emissions
Posted: 18 November 2020
Author: Cherry Whittaker
Yesterday (17 November 2020), Boris Johnson announced his highly anticipated Ten Point Plan setting out the government's commitments to achieving net zero by 2050 in the UK. Described as a "green industrial revolution" by the Prime Minister, the plan will be funded by £12 billion of government investment aiming to create up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK.
The plan covers ten areas built around the UK's existing strengths, setting a clear pathway to make the UK a world leader in clean technologies across energy, transport and nature. Specifically, the ten points of the plan are around the following:
- Offshore wind
- Electric vehicles
- Public transport
- Jet Zero and greener maritime
- Homes and public buildings
- Carbon capture
- Innovation and finance
We are pleased to be based in Yorkshire and the Humber as this is one of the key focal-point areas of the strategy, alongside the North East, West Midlands, Scotland and Wales, who will all drive the green industrial revolution.
Our law firm partner Squire Patton Boggs have produced an informative document providing a detailed overview of the ten point plan, which you can access HERE
The official government press release regarding the ten point plan can be read HERE
Comply Direct's Lowdown on Net Zero
Posted: 28 October 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
During the past few years, many councils, companies and industries have declared climate emergencies and have pledged to hit environmentally focused targets to help combat this. This has been widely reported on in the news and has been growing in popularity with the general public becoming more and more concerned.
These pledges are a positive step toward climate action. However, the exact definitions around these terms can vary greatly, which can then lead to uncertainty around expectations. The issue is often that businesses, councils or industries interpret terms such as ‘Net Zero’, ‘Carbon neutral’, ‘Carbon positive’ and ‘Carbon negative’ differently.
Pledging Net Zero is where a business quantifies their greenhouse emissions and sets a meaningful plan to reduce and offset the equivalent emissions by, in line with the Paris Agreement, investing in carbon removal projects to generate offsets.
For example, our loyal member Waitrose, have committed to having zero carbon emissions in their operations by 2050. You can read how they plan to do this HERE
To achieve Carbon Neutral status, an entity (such as a company, service, product or event) offsets the carbon emissions caused by their activity by funding the equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world.
For example through the use of avoidance offsets such as clean cookstoves projects
The reduction of an entity's carbon footprint to less-than-neutral, so that the entity has a net effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rather than adding it.
For example, another one of our fantastic members BrewDog has achieved this through offsetting actions such as planting trees and restoring peatland. You can read further about this HERE
This involves removing more carbon dioxide than is being produced by the entity by using more efficient processes and producing surplus renewable energy.
For example, producing more energy via solar panels than an entity requires and feeding this back to the grid.
We hope our examples can give you further insight into what to expect from the entities that are making these environmental pledges. You can be forgiven to feel a little confused and find these definitions unclear. In response to this, the growing momentum and escalating climate protection measures, an international standard is necessary.
The international standard ISO 14068 for “Greenhouse gas management and related activities – Carbon Neutrality” is currently being worked on and will help provide clear definitions for CO2 neutrality; this is scheduled to be completed within the next two years. ISO 14068 will provide clear definitions and parameters for CO2 neutrality in the future. In this way, the effect of the measures taken can be tracked and credibly demonstrated if climate neutrality is achieved. The standard is aimed at all responsible organisations, companies, cities and municipalities.
We wait for this to be completed eagerly and will update you as soon as it is published.
Posted: 1 September 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
Comply Direct can help companies with their plan with steps to Net Zero.
Read more about our Net Zero service offering here from carbon foot printing, emission reduction strategy right through to a Net Zero plan, identifying and delivering good carbon offsets for your business.
Also to find out even more out about Net Zero read our Net Zero Emissions fact sheet here.
Companies who have committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050
Posted: 7 April 2020
Author: Cherry Whittaker
Currently, we are aware of the following organisations who have made a commitment to bring their Greenhouse Gas emissions to net zero by 2050, or before. This may not be an exhaustive list but we will be updating it as and when we are aware of more commitments:
- Environment Agency Net Zero by 2030
- Sky Net Zero by 2030
- Sainsbury's Net Zero by 2040
- Nestle Net Zero by 2050
- Repsol Net Zero by 2050
- Qantas Net Zero by 2050
- ThyssenKrupp Net Zero by 2050
- HeidelbergCement Net Zero by 2050
- BP Net Zero by 2050
- Barclays Net Zero by 2050
- Exeter City Futures Net Zero by 2030
- Shell Net Zero by 2050
Delay in National Infrastructure Strategy to account for Net Zero Target
Posted: 10 March 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
The Government’s 30 year National Infrastructure Strategy, due to be published this week, has been further delayed, and it has been reported that this is in order to refocus the strategy on the UK’s net zero emissions target. The strategy will outline spending projections for transport and digital infrastructure, and the delay should allow changes so that funding is reflective of the 2050 emissions target.
This follows the recent court ruling of the proposed Heathrow expansion as unlawful on environmental grounds as it did not align with the Paris Agreement (click here to find out more). Numerous UK infrastructure projects may face court cases on climate grounds following this decision as a result of not taking emissions reduction commitments into account. An expansion scheme of Bristol airport has been rejected, a new roads programme is going to be challenged in court, and there are serious concerns as to whether the HS2 project can comply with the net-zero target. There is now significant emphasis on the government to ensure that climate impacts are central to all projects and future legislation, and this revamped National Infrastructure Strategy could lead the way in this approach.
To read the full story click here
Chief Executive of the Environment Agency gives speech on addressing climate change
Posted: 10 February 2020
Author: Liz Wood
On 4 February 2020, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency spoke of the organisation’s ambitions to be a Net Zero organisation by 2030 (20 years ahead of the UK government target). In an ambitious twist, the organisation are choosing to include supply chain emissions. The agency’s current footprint is 180,000 tonnes per year. Sir Bevan discussed the risks and opportunities associated with a low carbon future for businesses, and the cultural impact of setting an ambitious target, he openly admits, they weren’t exactly sure how to reach!
To read the full script, please click HERE
Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK: Committee on Climate Change Report
Posted: 28 January 2020
Author: Liz Wood
On 23 January 2020, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released their latest report. The document examines the impact of agriculture and land use on green house gas emissions. Land use can impact on emissions in various ways, for example, agricultural practices which involve the heavy application of fertiliser, or rearing of animals, contribute emissions, whereas the expansion of well managed forestry, through tree planting can remove carbon dioxide. In 2017, land-use and peatlands (type of wetland) accounted for 12% of all UK green house gas emissions.
As well as making an assessment of current land use practices, and the associated impact, the report suggests the changes that will be required in order for the UK to meet the government commitment to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The report sets out actions which, if adopted in full, could reduce land based emissions by 64% by 2050. These include:
- Increased tree planting – increasing forest cover in the UK from 13 to 17% by 2050
- Reducing consumption of carbon intensive foods such as red meat – the report suggests a 20% decrease in consumption of beef, lamb and dairy per person
- Reduce food waste by 20%
- Grow more crops for use in bioenergy
- Move toward low-carbon farming by ensuring better practises around fertiliser application, slurry acidification and livestock health
- Restore peatlands and prevent further drainage to prevent the release of methane
These actions represent a major shift in land use practice in the UK. In order to help the UK to make the transition, the report suggests a mixture of incentives and regulation change including:
- Low interest rate loans for energy crops
- Training in low carbon farming
- A ban on the rotational burning of peatlands and peat extraction
- Extended regulation around agricultural emissions
- Tax on high carbon industry e.g. aviation to fund tree planting
Who are the Committee on Climate Change?
They are an independent, statutory body with the purpose of advising the UK Government on matters concerning emissions targets. They also report to parliament on progress toward reducing emissions. The committee was established under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Where can I access the full report?
The consequences of alternatives to plastic packaging
Posted: 09 January 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
Under the increasing plastic free trends and ever mounting pressure from consumers and the media to eliminate single use plastics, it is important to examine the ultimate consequences of what such a ban could entail, and consider the environmental impacts of any substitute materials.
In response to the scrutiny over plastic packaging, some producers have shifted their packaging materials away from plastic and towards alternatives such as glass and paper bags. However, glass is much heavier than plastic, and can cause more pollution via transport than plastic does, while paper can be more difficult to reuse and often have higher carbon emissions than plastic bags. One study found that when considering factors such as ozone depletion, human and ecosystem toxicity, and water and air pollution, a paper bag would need 43 reuses before it had a lower impact than an average plastic bag. Some supermarkets have also started selling more drinks in cardboard cartons coated with non-recyclable materials under the impression that they can be recycled , but only one third of coated containers in circulation could be recycled in the UK’s current facilities.
Another common alternative to arise has been packaging items labelled as biodegradable, oxodegradable, or compostable, which often require industrial processes and treatments in order to actually compost or degrade. However, if this is not made clear to the consumer, it could potentially cause more harm than good through the wrong assumption that it could just be littered and would biodegrade in the natural environment.
In many circumstances, plastic remains the most effective material at reducing food waste; a cucumber wrapped in plastic will last up to 14 days longer. Food waste has a much higher environmental impact in terms of its carbon footprint than packaging waste does. Significantly more resources go into creating food, so there is a necessity to protect the food for as long as possible. Having said this, not every product is optimally packaged, and there is a need to examine plastic items where they aren’t necessary, while ensuring that where they are necessary the packaging is as recyclable or reusable as possible. Packaging technology innovations are therefore a serious advantage in the current climate, as innovative new packaging types could help reduce the environmental impact of packaging.
HM Treasury's Net Zero Review
Posted: 4 November 2019
Author: Martin Hyde
On 2 November 2019, HM Treasury announced a review into the UK’s climate agenda with the aim of determining whether a situation of “Net Zero” emissions is a possibility for the UK by 2050
This follows on from the commitment made in late June 2019, which requires the UK to bring all Greenhouse Gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As the first major economy to make such a commitment, the UK will need to be sure of its road-map to 2050, both due to the impacts on UK householders and businesses, as well as the nations and economies looking to follow suit.
Councillor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, has referred to the upcoming review as the “vital next step” towards delivering a 2050 net zero emissions target.
The Treasury’s review will be key in developing future carbon infrastructure in the UK, as well as ensuring that we are able to make progress towards the 2050 target in a manner which does not prevent economic growth or place “unfair burdens on families or businesses”.
It is positive to see a commitment to look at minimising emissions in the UK “without seeing them exported elsewhere”.
The review will aim to meet the below 4 objectives:
- Analysing the range of choices for how households, businesses and the taxpayer could contribute towards different elements of the transition to net zero.
- Identifying mechanisms to create an equitable balance of contributions.
- Maximising opportunities for economic growth as we transition to a green economy.
- Evaluating the trade-offs between cost, competitiveness, effects on consumers and impacts on the taxpayer.
A final report will be published in Autumn 2020, communicating the progress and findings of the Treasury’s review. This report will also set out the decision-making principles to be used to guide the UK’s transition towards net zero emissions.
What is meant by net zero?
Net zero emissions mean that whilst greenhouse gas emissions can still occur, they must be offset entirely through carbon capture or storage. This is often through the planting and growth of trees.
A challenge for businesses and householders alike?
The net zero target is very ambitious, as it will likely have significant impacts on industrial growth, as well as consideration for planned residential expansions over this time period as our population and economy grows.
There is also a question to be raised about what evidence for “offsetting” emissions will be accepted, and this is why a Treasury review is of significant importance. Not all evidence of carbon offsetting is equal and this disparity in evidence quality (and availability) will likely prove relevant over the next 30 years.
How can I offset my emissions?
Comply Direct offer a range of carbon footprint / offsetting, calculation and management services which you can read more about HERE. Please do get in touch if you would like guidance around how you can work towards net zero emissions within your business – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01756 794 951
Whilst we appreciate there is no current “one size fits all” approach to carbon review and management, we operate our carbon services to the highest standards and utilise the ISO 14064-1 methodology.