Business leaders today are faced with the challenge of maintaining momentum whilst massively cutting back on their company's carbon footprint. Whilst an exciting opportunity, this balancing act can also feel daunting. Even for a team that operates in the carbon space, we’ve had many ‘where do we even start’ moments here at Pawprint.
This is why I’m not surprised when businesses turn to offsetting—it’ll feel like a fast-acting aspirin, whisking your climate troubles away. The problem is, much like aspirin, offsetting isn’t dealing with the root cause of the problem.
Businesses must first look at how they can reduce their carbon footprint before deciding how to offset what’s unavoidable.
You probably know this already—it’s a message that Pawprint, and most environmental experts, are really hammering home. But it dawned on me recently that we often tell you to ‘reduce your impact’ without sharing any ideas on how.
So, I (and my trusty research team) sat down this week to pen a list of ideas on how businesses can reduce their carbon footprint—specifically scope 3—without offsetting. Here’s what we came up with. If you have suggestions, please reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update the list as we learn of more!
1. Support your supply chains
Scope 3 emissions make up the ‘lion’s share’ of a business’ total emissions (Edie). So, despite its complexity, these types of emissions must be dealt with.
But how? Here’s an awesome idea we came across:
Global financial advisors, KPMG, set up KPMG IMPACT: a platform that supports their clients in reducing the carbon impact of their business and supply chains. It utilises the knowledge and experience of KPMG employees to slash their indirect emissions and build a more sustainable and resilient future worldwide.
As employee engagers, we absolutely love this. The workforce is often an untapped asset in the fight against climate change, yet there’s so much eco-energy available there. In a recent survey commissioned by Pawprint, 59% of employees said it’s important or very important that their employer has a strategy to tackle climate change. Amongst Gen Z, that number rose to a whopping 71%.
If you have knowledge or skills to offer in this space, why not set up something similar to support suppliers as they transition towards greener operations? It might be carbon expertise, or it might be more of a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing initiative. Either way, harnessing the eco-energy of your employees to support your supply chain’s green transition is win-win.
2. Encourage employees to switch onto renewable energy tariffs
When employees work from home, the energy they use feeds into a business’ scope 3. So encouraging (or incentivising) everyone onto a green energy tariff is a really impactful way to minimise your footprint.
WARNING: not all ‘green’ tariffs are created equal. I recommend doing your research—starting with this blog on what to look for in a green energy provider—and creating some guidelines to educate employees on the greenest options.
Here’s a company that’s walked the walk on this one:
When Wholegrain Digital decided to get all employees onto renewable energy at home, they found there were 4 main reasons few had made the switch already:
- Lack of awareness that it was an option
- Fear that it would cost more than a conventional energy tariff
- Fear that changing energy supplier would be difficult and time-consuming
- Uncertainty as to how to change energy supplier, especially if they weren’t the person that normally managed the bills at home
It took them 3 years, and some trial and error on incentives, but they’ve recently managed to swap all employees onto renewable energy at home. Read about how they did it here.
Pawprint has recently committed to following in Wholegrain’s footsteps, so we’ll be using their approach as a blueprint.
Wondering how to calculate WFH emissions? We’d recommend using the standard set out in Eco-Act’s Homeworking Emissions Paper, which was shared with us by our Scientific Advisors at Small World Consulting.
3. Give the power to your people
An employee-led eco-movement not only fosters a mutual sense of responsibility, it will also channel environmental motivation into your sustainability initiatives and boost your progress towards climate targets. Wins all round.
Here’s a company after our own heart:
Global investment firm, abrdn, came to us back in 2020 with a team full of people who cared about the planet, but who needed a steer on how to work together to cut emissions and make a difference.
After working with Pawprint to develop their tool, abrdn rolled out an early version to their entire employee population. So far, 300+ abrdn employees worldwide have saved a collective 7,000 kg CO2e from their work and lifestyles. The firm has also acquired data on employee sentiment towards their sustainability agenda, which will allow it to make more informed, employee-focused decisions about sustainability initiatives going forward.
Abrdn is using Pawprint to cultivate a green culture. Aside from the planetary benefits, this environmental ethos will help the firm attract and retain top talent, improve performance, maintain a good brand image, and much more. Never underestimate your people power.
4. Provide an eco-education
If your company has put in the hours to reduce its impact, share what you’ve learnt!
Often mentioned as a shining light in the sustainable business ecosphere, Patagonia implemented an employee training scheme that has done it again: they’ve used an on-the-ground strategy (literally) to educate and encourage their retail employees into greener practises. Between their NYC and Connecticut branches, they spent a total of 300 hours at non-profit composting sites to bring composting knowledge back to their stores.
I love this example for its direct impact. But it doesn’t stop there: Patagonia’s Environmental Internship Program, as well as the nature-focused childcare they provide for their workers, shows how their eco-education programme is determined to have a truly transformative effect on the lives of their employees. Here’s their full 2019 report for when you want an inspirational deep dive.
Once you’ve engaged your employees, start thinking about your customers, clients or anyone who might pick up your product, use your service or browse your website. Use the instruments you are putting in their hands to reduce your downstream emissions. Maybe this is through creatively narrating your company’s sustainability journey; maybe it’s promoting the correct disposal of your products and packaging; or maybe, it’s encouraging them to use eco-companion tools like Pawprint!
5. Cut the carbon in commuting
23% of global CO2 emissions come from fuel. Greening your business vehicles and encouraging EV usage through company charging points is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. We covered how to get your office plugged into the electric movement in a previous post, but it’s also worth thinking about business travel and employee commuting where going electric isn’t a viable option.
Of course we’ve learnt of late that these two areas can be slashed immediately by encouraging employees to WFH on certain days of the week, or taking overseas meetings via video call. Alternatively, incentivise the use of public transport, carpooling or the UK government-backed Bike2Work scheme as a solution to the daily commute. You can also give employees extra annual leave to catch a train rather than flying to their holiday destination. Is that the Orient Express I hear calling?
Case study ahoy:
PwC is a company that relies heavily on business travel to build global client relations, and they recognise it as their largest source of carbon emissions. So, they’ve set a new ‘travel intensity’ target to reduce business travel emissions by 33% per employee by 2022. So far, they’ve trained 5,000 employees in cloud-based technology to cut unnecessary travel but maintain a collaborative work environment. Additionally, employees are now required to book any air travel through an internal system which monitors its necessity and approves the greenest available option. They may still have a way to go, but the carbon slashing ambition is there.
Feel inspired to reduce your company’s carbon footprint? Want to fire up your employees with sustainable initiatives that contribute to climate targets? Get Pawprint for Business today.