A new way for companies to cut carbon footprints as they go Net Zero

Well over 1000 businesses and nearly 500 cities have committed to reach Net Zero through the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. The Science Based targets initiative and We Mean Business are also supporting businesses to cut emissions in line with what is required to prevent climate change spiralling out of control. 

These commitments focus on business operations, covering either Scopes 1 & 2 – direct emissions from fossil fuels burnt, or electricity purchased respectively, and may also cover Scope 3 – indirect emissions from areas including travel, supply chains or product use through to end of life.

What is the impact of staff personal carbon footprints?

For many companies, these emissions will be significantly lower than the combined personal footprint of all their staff. We analysed data from typical large services companies and found that the carbon footprints of staff can be up to ten times larger than the operational footprint of the firm.

Combine this with the blurring of lines between home life and work life brought about by the Covid pandemic and this is leading to a new trend for companies to help their staff understand and reduce their own personal carbon footprints.

This coincides well with staff wanting their firm to behave more sustainably. 70% of people surveyed say they are more likely to choose a firm with a strong sustainability agenda. And for firms already committed to sustainability, helping staff understand environmental issues through the lens of their own lifestyles is becoming an effective way to embed sustainability priorities within the culture of a firm.

Furthermore, this is proving an excellent way for firms to scale impact in terms of absolute carbon reductions brought about as a result of their activities.

How significant are personal carbon footprints?

Globally, three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions[1] can be attributed to people and households. In the UK the average personal carbon footprint is 9 tonnes per person per annum, based on consumption. This figure needs to reduce to just 2.5 tonnes per person[2] per annum if we are to have a good chance of capping temperature rise below the all important 1.5 degrees, laid out by scientists.[3]

By helping staff understand and find ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint, companies are enabling further carbon reductions through influence and education.

Where there was once a time when firms kept firmly out of staff private life, the influence of the pandemic on our lives, combined with a renewed sense of urgency on climate is changing perspectives. Increasing numbers of staff and leaders across businesses, from SMES to global giants are taking us into a new frontier, where firms see the potential good of helping staff cut carbon, both in terms of scaling impact, but also in terms of creating a culture which is ready for the significant changes inevitable as we transition, either by choice, or by necessity to a low carbon economy.

[1] https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-imperial-college-london/

[2] Giki Zero https://zero.giki.earth

[3] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/