(Last Updated On: 28th July 2010)

A key focus of my blogs is to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt as I pursue my goals of creating an environmentally sustainable accountancy practice.  When starting on this journey I set myself 8 Ethical and Environmental Policies to follow.  Policy 7 states; “To measure and report progress against these policies on a 6 monthly basis and generate actions to enable the business to continue on its journey to become sustainable”.

It has now been 6 months since I started my accountancy practice.  So it’s time to report back.  I am going to use blogs over the next few months to share my progress.

Starting with Craker Business Solutions’ Carbon Footprint.

There are businesses who can claim, they are carbon neutral as they have bought carbon offsets.  However, I believe that offsets are the last line of defence.  The first line is to decrease my carbon emissions.

The story starts with my 1st Policy: “To perform a full assessment of the business’ impact on the environment (local and global) identifying problem areas, evaluating the cost benefit trade-off of potential solutions and implementing solutions and/or setting up an action plan to implement solutions”.

When planning to start my business I identified the inputs needed to run a small local accountancy practice.  For each of these, I researched suppliers who put their environmental impact top of their agenda.  This would include their appetite to reduce carbon emissions but also include criteria such as reducing water use, reducing use of harmful chemicals, reducing use of natural resources, reducing waste and increasing recycling.  Along with their policies on working practices and community involvement. 

Focussing here on carbon emissions, by selecting suppliers who have reduced their carbon emissions I too reduce my business’ overall carbon footprint.  These emissions are harder to control, I can select a supplier who aims to reduce their emissions, but I can not directly make them reduce. 

However, there were many areas in my business where I could directly reduce my emissions.  These revolved around my use of electricity, gas and transport.  Put simply, I chose to use less of each and find ways to make my use more efficient.  If you are reading this you probably already know many of the quick wins, but here is a selection of some of the crazy and not so crazy things I tried: 

  • When purchasing new appliances, choosing only A to AAA rated goods (by doing research beforehand you can ensure you don’t pay too high a premium).
  • Changing the settings on my laptop to decrease the time before it enters sleep mode.  I also read that laptops are twice as energy efficient as desktop computers as they are designed to use as little energy as possible.  Plus older models have slower processors and hence are less energy intensive.
  • Religiously turning everything off at the plug when not in use (although I caved in at my Virgin+ box – if it’s not plugged in, it can’t record my favourite shows!).
  • Turning off broadband for a few hours – contrary to popular belief we don’t need to be jacked into the internet all day – it can also be more productive to work without email and tweet interruptions.
  • Turning down the thermostat for hot water and heating.
  • Only turning the heating on when absolutely necessary.  Instead I chose to put on multiple jumpers, socks, and covered myself in a blanket, I did draw the line when my fingers where too cold to type!  This was one of my crazier schemes and I wouldn’t advise this to others who are sensitive to the cold.  Also if you are employing staff you would need to ensure you comply with Health and Safety at Work rules on acceptable working conditions.  But I would advise an extra jumper before reaching for the thermostat.   
  • Choosing to cycle as my primary mode of transport.  Again cycling to a meeting in full waterproofs during gales and torrential rain maybe a little crazy!  Some friends have nicknamed me the cycling accountant!
  • To use public transport when I can’t cycle or walk.
  • To conduct business locally, reducing the need to travel long distances by road or rail (whilst also building a sense of community).

What I have found overall is that by keeping the idea of reducing carbon emissions at the front of my mind, I have reduced my carbon footprint, without negatively impacting my lifestyle.  In fact, I am sure the benefits have far outweighed the drawbacks – cycling alone has saved my business money, improved my health, and provided for a great icebreaker when turning up to a meeting in full waterproofs!  Plus you get a 20p per mile cycled allowance when calculating your profits chargeable to tax!

So after this effort what has been the impact? My 8th Policy states: “To calculate the business’ carbon footprint on a 6 monthly basis and seek to offset 100%”.

I’ve tried to keep this simply by following globally recognised standards and methodologies for monitoring and measuring Craker Business Solutions’ carbon footprint. 

The GHG Protocol splits carbon emissions into 3 categories:

Scope 1 Direct Emissions: These are emissions from sources that the business owns or controls.  For Craker Business Solutions’ these include emissions from the natural gas powered boiler and kitchen hob.  Craker Business Solutions does not own any fuel powered vehicles, choosing instead to use public transport, cycling and walking. 
Scope 2 Indirect Emissions: These emissions are consequences of the business’ activities but occur from sources owned or controlled by another organisation.  For reporting purposes, indirect emissions are divided into “Scope 2” emissions—those from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, or heat—and “Scope 3” emissions—a label which covers everything else.Craker Business Solutions’ Scope 2 emissions would include purchased electricity.
Scope 3 These are indirect emissions and for Craker Business Solutions’ includes:

  • Business travel in non-company-owned vehicles such as rental cars, taxis, trains, buses, and commercial planes.
  • Materials and resources used in the Craker Business Solutions’ office, such as furniture, paper, equipment, toner cartridges, food and drink etc.
  • Incineration of office waste or decomposition in a landfill.
  • Outsourced activities.

The definition of outsourced activities is very broad and for an accountancy practice can include areas such as:

  • Post and courier services,
  • Printing services,
  • Banking and insurance providers,
  • Website hosts and search engine providers,
  • Telecommunications providers,
  • Solicitors; and
  • Other consultants.

Under GHG Protocol guidelines, Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions reporting is mandatory for those signing up to follow the GHG Protocol, with Scope 3 emissions reporting encouraged.

At this point in time, and after many hours spent using on-line carbon calculators Craker Business Solutions can publish its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions for the first 6 months of trading.  Given Business Travel is also a significant part of Craker Business Solutions’ carbon footprint this has also been calculated and presented below. 

Scope Emissions in CO2e tonnes
Scope 1

  • Natural Gas
 

  • 0.12
Scope 2

  • Purchased Electricity

Note: I have opted for a hydro-electricity supplier, hence these emissions are those which would have been incurred if I opted for fossil fuel powered electricity.

 

  • 0.03
Scope 3

  • Business travel, including, train, bus, taxis, and car share.
 

  • 0.11

As this is my first 6 months of trading I can not present comparative information.  However, to give you an idea, a return flight from Gatwick to Glasgow emits 0.26 tonnes.  Hence Craker Business Solutions’ 6 months of travel, hot water use, and central heating has emitted less than one return flight to Glasgow! 

I also recognise that my current business model has enabled me to keep business travel to low carbon methods such as cycling and walking to visit clients as I work with local businesses.  However, as the business has grown, more travel by train is anticipated which will increase emissions in the coming 6 months. 

The Scope 3 emissions are more difficult to calculate and I am working on how to measure emissions form these sources going forward.  However, I find the best way is to vet my suppliers, choosing those who actively seek to reduce their environmental impact, so I have piece of mind my scope 3 emissions are the lowest they can be at this stage of my journey. 

I am in the process of re-vetting my suppliers’ ethical and environmental credentials to reduce further my Scope 3 emissions and I’ll be using this blog to share my findings. 

Lastly, I am seeking carbon offset projects to offset the remaining 0.23 tonnes of CO2.  If anyone can recommend a good project please let me know. 

If you would like to know more about how I calculated Craker Business Solutions’ carbon footprint please get in contact.

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