How Businesses Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

How Businesses Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Read Time: 8 Minutes


18 Feb 2022

As of November 2021, 60 of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign – the largest ever global alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year, the UK government also launched an ambitious economy-wide strategy to achieve carbon net zero emissions by 2050. With this huge focus on making the economy greener, you might be considering options for reducing your own business’s carbon footprint. But where should you start?

Here’s everything you need to know about business carbon emissions, ways to calculate and reduce them and the ways in which this will benefit both the environment and your bank balance.


What Does Carbon Footprint Mean in Business?

A business’s carbon footprint is an estimate of the total number of GHGs (greenhouse gases) it produces through its day-to-day operations, including running the business and creating its products.

Greenhouse gases make the planet warmer as they trap heat in the atmosphere. The vast majority of greenhouse gas emitted by businesses is carbon dioxide or CO2, which occurs when fossil fuels are burned for energy.

A carbon footprint doesn’t only take into account the company’s direct operations, but also indirect emissions. These are emissions from sources outside of the company, but which the company and its operations directly influence. For example, the emissions of other businesses within the company’s value chain and supporting companies.

The smaller your business’s carbon footprint, the more sustainable your business is overall.


How to Calculate Your Business’s Carbon Footprint

Measuring your carbon footprint is one of the very first steps on the journey to becoming carbon net zero, which is a pivotal building block in any sustainability strategy.

Identifying where your carbon hotspots are will also help you to spot opportunities to drive change and improve your business’s practice as you’ll be able to use key findings to inform your strategy moving forward.

The first step to calculating your carbon footprint is to collect a variety of data from different sources including travel, logistics and operations to give a more accurate overview of the amount of GHG your business is emitting.

For the reporting year, gather the following data:

  • Fuel consumption – all fuel consumed by your business in its sites and owned vehicles. This information may be found in bills, fuel card data or meters.
  • Energy consumption – the electricity used on your site. Use meter readings and utility bills to find this information.
  • Top-ups made to air conditioning units – many air conditioning units contain a type of fluorinated greenhouse gas which has a large carbon footprint. Check for this information with your air conditioning contractor.

Once you’ve got the above data to hand, you’ll be able to use a free carbon footprint calculator for business (like this one from Carbon Trust) to calculate your carbon emissions.


What’s the Average Business Carbon Footprint?

Carbon emissions differ from business to business. For example, a small office may not use as much energy consumption compared to a large factory, but it may make up for it in other ways such as employee travel emissions. Therefore, the makeup of each company’s carbon footprint can look very different, making it difficult to know what the average business carbon footprint is.

According to an analysis by Small99, the vast majority (99.9%) of the UK’s businesses are SMEs, which have a carbon footprint of 6 per cent or 25.8 million tonnes / CO2e of total UK annual carbon emissions. 

This means that for the government to hit their 2050 target, SMEs are likely to be a big focus area for reducing carbon emissions.


Business Benefits of Reducing Carbon Footprint

Monitoring and reducing your carbon emissions as a business won’t only benefit the planet. It will also bring with it a whole host of business benefits too, such as:

1. It’s cost-effective

By quantifying your CO2 emissions, you’ll be able to highlight key areas of high energy usage and other inefficiencies within your business. Lowering the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by your business goes hand-in-hand with increasing efficiency and lowering energy costs – it’s a win-win situation!

2. Access to the UK ETS

The UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a cap-and-trade system which caps the total level of carbon emissions to create a carbon market with a carbon price signal to incentivise decarbonisation. Participants in the scheme obtain and surrender carbon credits to cover their overall GHG emissions – these credits can be purchased at auction or traded with other organisations, allowing businesses to find the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions.

Find out more information and whether your business is eligible to participate here.

3. Customers expect transparency

Customers themselves are increasingly looking for ways to lower their own carbon footprint, and it’s changing the way they shop, and in particular, who they are choosing to shop with. In fact, research from Deloitte suggests that 7% of consumers even went as far as contacting a brand to raise an issue on their sustainability practices in 2021, which is why it’s increasingly important to be transparent about yours.

4. Demand for sustainability is on the rise

The 2020 lockdown saw the beginning of the rise for sustainable products in the UK, with British consumers stating that they were willing to pay £3,645 more a year on eco-friendly household goods and services according to a poll of 2000 adults. The pull of these end-users means increased demand for sustainable alternatives will impact the entire supply chain, and by monitoring and reducing your carbon emissions, you can stand out from competitors who aren’t.


How to Reduce Your Business’s Carbon Footprint

Once you’ve identified carbon emission hotspots within your company, you’ll have a clearer idea on ways to minimise your environmental impact. Here are just a few options available to businesses looking to operate greener.

1. Recycling

Recycling is one of the first areas many businesses choose to look at when it comes to mitigating the impact of their operations on the environment. When we recycle, we reduce the number of raw materials needed to create products from scratch.

Here at instantprint, we’ve set up a custom-built extraction system that runs the entire length of our factory roof. Paper trimmings from our guillotines are sucked up into the system and carried outside to our giant shredder where they’re compacted into bales before being collected and recycled.

2. Use Recycled Resources

As well as recycling your own waste, it’s also best practice to invest in recycled resources as well. Whilst this may bring an initial cost to your business as recycled goods are often slightly more expensive, the environmental cost of using new, single-use materials is much higher.

For example, many of the printed items we sell at instantprint are printed on FSC Recycled stock, which is verified to consist of 70% post-consumer recycled materials, like reclaimed wood. Not only does recycling paper make the best use of the yield of the tree, it also reduces the amount of waste materials going to landfill sites. It also alleviates pressure on sourcing virgin paper material, which in turn helps to protect the world’s forests.

3. Assess Your Supply Chain

Once you’ve looked at your in-house practice, it’s time to assess how sustainable your supply chain is. By working with other sustainable businesses, such as couriers who use electric delivery vans instead of petrol, you’re going the extra mile to ensure you’re protecting the environment (and not funding unsustainable practices!).

When researching suppliers, make sure to look out for their environmental management certifications. At instantprint, we’re ISO 14001:2015 certified, which means we work towards a set of environmental management standards where an external auditor measures our impact on the environment. We then create a plan of action on how to keep reducing this impact every year.

We’ve also recently been certified Carbon Neutral, meaning that all of our carbon emissions have been offset in accordance with international standards, ISO14064.

4. Go Digital

During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, many of us experienced working remotely. Not only did this shift result in giving workers an extra hour of their day back, but it also significantly decreased carbon emissions up and down the country. 

Research from DeCarbon8 found that during lockdown the overall carbon emissions of commuting fell to roughly 30%-38% of what they were before lockdown. This shows that going remote and limiting staff commute times and travel costs could be a great strategy for reducing your business’s carbon footprint. 

Plus, transport accounts for roughly one fifth of the UK’s CO2 emissions, so anything that encourages a little less travel would be beneficial to sustaining the planet.

5. Invest in Electric

From company cars to forklifts, many businesses rely on petrol and diesel vehicles for their day-to-day operations. With the UK’s ban on ban on these types of cars ahead of us in 2030, now is the perfect time to invest in electric versions. 

Considering the number of cars on the road and average distance driven a year, the UK produces an estimated 38 million tonnes of CO2 a year just from driving cars. Plus, with car manufacturers investing more money and research into developing electric cars, they’re becoming a much more affordable option.

On our journey to becoming net zero by 2030, we’ve got upcoming plans to switch to electric forklifts across our factory, which will aid our ambitious goal.

6. Green Energy Suppliers

Switching to green energy suppliers is another great way to make your business operations greener. Most energy providers offer a green energy tariff as standard – so make sure to check whether this is an option with your current provider for an even easier switch. 

In 2021, we partnered with zero carbon electricity company Bryt Energy, meaning 100% of our energy usage is from renewable sources.

7. Carbon Offsetting

If your goal is to achieve Carbon Neutral Status, one technique to balance your business’s carbon emissions is carbon offsetting. To achieve this, businesses participate in schemes to remove greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for their own emissions. This can involve investing in planting trees, safeguarding forests and funding renewable energy sources.

We’ve been working with Achilles Carbon Reduce, the UK’s only accredited GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Certification Scheme to source Gold Standard Carbon Credits to offset our emissions. 

As part of their rigorous, independent Carbon Certification Programme, Achilles audits us annually to help us identify, manage and mitigate our carbon emissions. They also verify us in accordance with international standards, ISO14064. We achieved carbon neutral status for the year 2020-2021 and are committed to achieving the same again every year after.

8. Get the Whole Team Involved!

If you want your team to get on board with your company’s sustainability efforts, one of the best ways to guarantee a vested interest is by giving them a platform to voice their opinions and get involved. As well as opening up the floor to sustainability suggestions, you can also encourage a little (healthy) competition and see which teams can produce the biggest results. 

From recycling to energy-saving policies, there are lots of ways your team can champion your sustainability efforts and take pride in the results they’ve helped to achieve.

Our internal War on Waste campaign has been running since 2018 and has seen us change processes to reduce our waste output. For example, we eliminated 100% of waste in our Inkjet stream and reduced shrink wrapping on our business card packaging by 67%.


How to Become a Carbon Neutral Business

To achieve carbon neutrality, a business must calculate its carbon footprint and reduce it down to zero by balancing carbon emission output with its removal. This is usually done through a process known as carbon offsetting. 

Offsetting your emissions is the act of compensating for the CO2 produced by your business through schemes and projects to make equivalent reductions of CO2 in the atmosphere. Examples include investing in renewable energy sources, such as wind farms.


Looking for a Carbon Neutral Print Supplier?

Look no further! At instantprint, we’re committed to achieving carbon net zero status by 2030. We’ve already taken the first step towards this ambitious target by achieving carbon neutral certification for 2020-2021, and promise to work towards achieving the same result each year after.

Not only does this mean that we’re operating more sustainably, but by printing with a carbon neutral printer, you can reduce your company’s carbon footprint too! Shop the full print collection to switch to a sustainable print supplier for your business today.

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About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura and I’m the Head of instantprint. I’m dedicated to using my experience to help small businesses make the most out of their marketing.