Easy ways hybrid teams can get to Net Zero

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In a world on fire, it’s easy to feel numb. Between delta variants, inflation and all the other things on our increasingly vegan plates, COP26 Glasgow is just one more thing to add to an already buckling mental load. Bla bla bla. Or is it?

What if we took “our last best chance” and gave ourselves permission to just make a start, any start, in preserving the planet and all the delightful potato-based snacks it has to offer?

In this blog, we share some of the questions asked by “the UK’s most promising tech companies” at a recent Tech Nation session on Becoming Net Zero, as well as some helpful answers from the experts.

“Firms must commit to net zero to win major government contracts”
UK Cabinet Office

My company has less than 50 employees, where do we start?

Estimate your emissions with the Carbon Trust’s SME Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Do our measurements need to be accurate?

When it comes to emissions, improving data collection takes time, but it’s much easier to get started as a small company than it is for a large enterprise, and getting started is the key.

Begin by estimating Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which make up around 30% of the emissions of most businesses, then work up to a life cycle assessment of products, supply chain and everything else over time.

Scope 1, direct emissions

Office heating
Company vehicles

Scope 2, indirect emissions

Electricity

Scope 3, everything else

Business travel
Commuting
Cloud servers
Search engine usage
Software suppliers
Internet
Catering
Waste disposal
Hardware and furniture
Work from home
Deliveries and gifts
Company socials
Stationary
Recycling

READ MORE: carbontrust.com

How can we calculate the emissions of a hybrid team?

When some colleagues are working from home and others are in a rented office space, it can be tricky to calculate emissions accurately at first, so the easiest way to get started is on a per capita or per square metre basis.

How many people hours will it take to make my first calculations?

According to Michelle You, CEO of Supercritical, a team of under 50 is likely to appoint one person to work informally on initial calculations alongside their other duties. This takes two to three months to complete on average. Outsourcing this work to organisations like Supercritical can reduce that time to two to three days of team input, if investors or procurement professionals need data turned around more quickly.

Do we need a Head of Sustainability?

It’s not necessary to have a Head of Sustainability right away and it’s okay to have huge room for improvement in every area when it comes to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) commitments. Starting early and engaging colleagues and company leadership is the most effective way forward. From joining Tech Zero to organising offsite beach cleanups, sustainability can be a powerful tool for connection among colleagues as well as communication of your brand or product’s added value to customers.

What’s the better option, carbon offsetting or carbon removal?

When it comes to carbon offsetting you get what you pay for and offsetting remains a system that is open to fraud and lacking in evidence-based claims. If you buy offsets for the same price as a packet of biscuits, then the chances are they’ll be about as useful to saving the planet as binning your batteries.

Michelle You says, for many of the companies she works with, reckoning with a spend of about £100-200 per employee per year, on a mixture of nature-based carbon removal solutions and emerging technology-based solutions to carbon removal, is one way to contribute to the research and innovation required now to halt global temperature increases later.

Nature-based (less costly, impermanent)

  • e.g. A tree-planting search engine like Ecosia (impermanent)
  • Seaweed farming (needs to scale)

Technology-based (more costly, permanent, but emerging)

  • Direct air capture (expensive)
  • CO2 to durable carbon (needs to scale)

READ MORE: gosupercritical.com

“Getting to ten billion tonnes of carbon removal requires a portfolio of carbon removal solutions that are technology-based and permanent.”
Michelle You
CEO Supercritical

So it’s not as simple as just planting a few trees?

Tree planting is an excellent method of impermanent carbon removal which, when done in the right way, can have many additional benefits but, in 100 or even a 1000 years time, when a tree’s life comes to an end, who is to say that it won’t be consumed in a forest fire or chopped up for firewood?

There’s also simply not enough land available to remove billions of tonnes of carbon by tree-planting by the middle of this century. Other natural solutions, such as seaweed farming, are potentially just as effective at removing carbon as tree planting, if not more so. Ideally, businesses need to look at a mixture of natural and technological solutions, while being wise to the fact that the science is still emerging and no one should be selling you a quick fix for offsetting emissions.

“All of this leaves the world facing a fundamental conundrum. On the one hand, putting more money into carbon removal will help scale up—and drive down the cost of—technologies that will be needed in the future. On the other hand, the growing excitement around these technologies could feed unrealistic expectations about how much we can rely on carbon removal, and thus how much nations and corporations can carry on emitting over the crucial coming decades. Market demands are also likely to steer attention toward cheaper solutions that are not as reliable or long-lasting.”

Jonathan Goldberg, chief executive of Carbon Direct
MIT Technology Review

That being said, every well-informed effort towards Net Zero shifts the dial towards systems change; the kind of change that’s capable of healing the earth’s ozone layer.

What’s the best way to shift the dial and build Net Zero into everyday decision making?

Look at the cost-saving, marketing, hiring and product diversification potentials linked to reducing emissions and make a “carbon budget line" part of everyday financial decision-making.

“Almost two-thirds (65%) of our survey respondents said that they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies. Climate change, human rights and social equity are all issues of growing importance, especially for millennial employees, who now make up the majority of the workforce.”
Leyla Acaroglu
Reuters

Most of my emissions are in my supply chain, can I do anything about it?

Incrementally yes. The more you ask suppliers to report their emissions, the more it will make it easier for everyone to do so and there may also be things you can do without engaging suppliers directly. For example, if you use AWS, there may be settings your engineering team can adjust to improve energy efficiency.

“The finance is available to drive this transition – but to deploy it at speed and scale will need a real shift in mindset,” he says. “The financial sector has got used to thinking about climate risk. Now it needs to focus on deployment of net-zero investment across every sector and region of the economy. This will need a system-wide response.”
Nick Robins, professor in practice – Sustainable Finance at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
ft.com

Amiqus is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working towards a wellbeing economy, delivering human and ecological wellbeing.