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Businesses, Organisations and Community Groups

How can businesses, organisations and community groups take action?

Declaring a climate emergency

Make climate change a priority for your organisation and set up a group to discuss ideas and initiatives. You may wish to formally declare a climate emergency. You can find more information about doing this on the Climate Emergency website.

You can also find our lots of information and actions you could take at the UK Business Climate Hub.

Calculating your carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of your organisation is a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the activities of your organisation. A detailed guide to carbon footprinting can be downloaded from the Carbon Trust. 

Calculating your carbon footprint will help you see where you can make the most difference to the emissions your organisation is responsible for. Calculate and report your carbon footprint annually to show the improvements you are making.

The basic approach is to:

  1. Scope - decide what emissions you want to calculate. For a simple approach, include emissions from gas, oil or other fuel used in buildings, vehicles or other equipment owned or under your control, (known as Scope 1); and emissions from the production of electricity purchased by your organisation, (known as Scope 2), and don’t include emissions from the production of goods and services you purchase, for example those not under your direct control (known as Scope 3).
  2. Collect data - you will need to collect data, such as kWh of energy used or amount of fuel purchased. This is usually the most challenging part of producing a carbon footprint.
  3. Calculate - the data collected will need to be converted into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) using carbon conversion factors from Gov.UK . These are provided by government and are updated annually. This will calculate your gross carbon emissions.
  4. Report - noting any actions you have undertaken that save carbon, you can then report both your gross and net carbon footprints (by subtracting your savings from your gross emissions). 

For Parish Councils, IMPACT is an online community carbon calculator that can be used to estimate your Parish's own carbon footprint. It is available at impact-tool.org.uk

Process for calculating a carbon footprint : scoping, collecting data, calculating and reporting.
Process for calculating a carbon footprint

Example carbon footprint

Activity

Activity data (A)

Activity data units

Carbon conversion factors* (B)

Carbon footprint in kg CO2e

(A x B)

Electricity

2,900

kWh

0.2556

741

Gas

12,565

kWh

0.18385

2,310

Business travel (assuming medium sized conventional car)

562

miles

0.27459

154

Total

-

-

-

3,205 kg CO2e

=3.205 tonnes CO2e

* Source: Gov.uk

Actions you can take to reduce emissions

In a complete carbon audit you will have to include the emissions that are generated by your staff / members travelling for your organisation, which includes their commute. By creating a sustainable transport plan you can help them find less carbon intense and healthier ways to travel. This will benefit your environmental impact and their health.

How?

Steps you should consider for creating your sustainable travel plan:

  • Create a team - The more inclusive you make the process of drawing up your plan, the more likely your staff and members will engage with it. One or two people should be selected to lead the efforts. 
  • Provision - You will have to review and improve your provision for sustainable travel. The first step is to review what you have already: Are there showers and safe bike storage for cyclists? Can you offer a notice board or digital forum for staff to arrange car pools? Do you provide enough charging points for electric cars? Implement any improvements you can identify. 
  • Incentives - Encouraging staff to ditch emission intensive and adopt more sustainable modes of transport can be done in a variety of ways. The most direct is to offer financial support towards bus passes, new bikes or electric cars.

There are currently two main schemes that help employees finance new bikes. They are an employee benefit that saves employees money on a bike and accessories. You pay nothing upfront and the payments are taken tax efficiently from your salary by your employer. The scheme are: Bikes 2 Work  and Cycle Scheme 

You can also grant staff more time for business trips to allow them to go by train rather than plane. Competitions and other awareness campaigns can raise the profile and engagement among your staff / members: Who cycles the furthest distance or produces the least carbon per mile on their business trip?

Organisation’s fleet

Decarbonising your fleet is a good way of reducing emissions - and it is completely within your control making it slightly easier to implement than other behavioural changes. 

You do not have to change you whole fleet all at once - lifecycle replacements may be a more sustainable approach, especially if you have only recently renewed your vehicles. As soon as the next car or van needs to be replaced or added, you should opt for an electric vehicle.  If you switch to electric vehicles, government currently has a range of grants available, including a specific "Workplace Chargepoint Scheme" to subsidise the costs to purchase and install EV chargepoints for staff and fleet use. 

You might also consider other types of transportation - for those shorter journeys do you need a car at all?  Consider whether a pool-bike scheme or using cargo-bikes for first or last mile deliveries work for you?

Energy Saving Trust has some useful resources around sustainable transport for businesses and organisations, and can provide a free fleet review

You could set up and/or encourage and support a scheme to generate renewable energy for use locally.  Local examples include the Gamlingay Community Wind TurbineReach Community Solar Farm and the Swaffham Prior Heating project bringing renewable energy to homes in the village.

  • A government guide has been created for local groups who are interested in setting up a community energy group.
  • The Centre for Sustainable Energy is an independent national charity working on solutions to the threat of climate change. They provide support, advice and information for those interested in community energy.
  • Rural Community Energy Fund provides funding and support for feasibility studies to help scope potential projects. 

Moving away from fossil to renewable energy sources is an important part of reducing our carbon emissions on a national level. Especially if your business is very energy intensive or if you occupy a big space, investing in renewable energy systems will make sense both financially and environmentally. Government incentives can help you get more back on your investment and stakeholder and clients will appreciate your active role in reducing carbon emissions.

How?

There are different ways to generate and store energy. Depending on the type of your organisation and the building service systems and machinery you’re using, you will need to choose the more appropriate method for you. 

The Energy Saving Trust provides an overview of all major renewable energy generation technologies as well as other support for business to decarbonise. They provide useful tips for finding a reputable installer and getting a quote, but also for checking planning permission and building warrants as well as insurance policies and financial support options.