As Abley prepares for its second Toitū carbonreduce audit, Charlotte Harris reflects on the journey to certification and increasing pressures that businesses face. Providing clients with excellent service and innovative solutions is no longer enough.
Making change when it comes to climate and carbon reduction is incumbent on us all, yet habits are hard to break. Like with many things in life, it is easy to coalesce towards the ‘way things are’ and ‘what everybody else does’.
I feel fortunate to be surrounded by several active and inspiring climate change instigators. Abley is jam-packed with positive inspiring individuals who care deeply about the world around them. After joining the business, it quickly became apparent to me , that getting buy in to telling the world about Abley’s commitment to carbon reduction was not going to be a hard sell.”
Small to large businesses face increased compliance activity and this is not expected to slow down. ‘Nice to haves’ in bids are now ‘must haves’ and, while we are not mandated to have an emissions management plan in the private sector, our public sector clients are asking us to tell them what we are doing.
Change is not easy
Change required at a global level must be driven by government and major corporates. But who influences what those governments mandate and how corporates act? We do. Consumer and voter power is huge. The full circle of this is that all businesses, large and small, need to act proactively, systematically and with focus to reduce their carbon footprints. They must also provide support to employees who individually want to reduce their carbon footprint.
I have been aware of Toitū for a long time, having previously worked toward the old CEMARS certification, now known as Toitū carbonreduce. This requires businesses to measure, reduce and annually audit progress against emission management plans.
In the year ending 30 March 2020 – the base year for our Toitū carbonreduce certification – Abley emitted 166 tonnes of carbon, of which the vast majority was our air travel. Our Emissions Management Plan has set a target to reduce that footprint by 25% by 2025. This target was considered carefully to ensure we were within the limits for 1.5degrees warming set by the Paris Agreement.
Why carbonreduce and not Toitū carbonzero?
We are planning to offset our emissions this year (and become carbonzero accredited) but in terms of making a difference, absolute reduction is what counts, hence our decision to focus initially on the carbonreduce certification.
Preparation for the audit process itself was guided by our customer manager at Toitū and our auditor was top notch. Even so, and without a huge amount of complexity in our emissions – we found the edges in the ISO standard. Which aspects of working from home count? Do we include commuting? Is it a commute or business trip if I visit a client on the way to the office? I’ve also learned that emissions factors are changing as we learn more and more about the impact of different carbon sources and this resulted in last minute changes to our data pre-audit.
The vast majority of our emissions are what are termed Scope 3 emissions. Going forward the ISO14016 standard breaks down emissions into six categories, with current Scope 3 emissions broadly being refined to categories 3,4,5 and 6. Our highest emissions – business travel – will be captured by Category 3 and are relatively within our control. But it’s a tricky balance. We are not done with growth. We see business opportunity overseas. Being “Connected” is one of our values and whilst our Teams calls and virtual interactions set a high bar (fruit art carving competitions anyone?) we all know that nothing beats that face to face connection and real world interaction. Our whole company get togethers are legendary and we are fortunate to still be of a size where we all know each other. When we ask ourselves deeply – how far will I go and what will I give up – it leads to some deep soul searching. I land at any outcome having to be sustainable, in all senses of the word.
Our year ending March 2021 is in large part a fortunate side effect of Covid19 travel restrictions – our carbon emissions are sitting around 1/3 of our base year. But even when we travelled again all travel was done with purpose. And there were takeaways; more can be done remotely, international travel is not necessary for international business; in some ways our offices and remote workers feel more connected when we are all being seen through a screen.
Collating your data can be time consuming but manageable with some focused time from our finance team, and wider goal setting and initiative planning has ongoing management oversight. It’s not an insignificant effort but with our next audit scheduled for this month, we are refining the way that we capture and report data. We are seeking to automate and systemise the reporting of our carbon emissions internally to provide staff with a monthly view on progress against our KPIs and emissions targets.
I’m pleased Abley has demonstrated commitment and credentials towards reducing its carbon emissions. But in reality, it is the work we do with our clients day in and day out in this space that makes the biggest difference. We support them in creating safer roads; people friendly urban areas; provide technology and tools to measure and monitor their carbon footprints; and help them support their employees to make greener and healthier travel choices. The challenges we face have lead Abley to develop travel and commuting tools to support the wider business community.
As we reach the half-way point in our five-year emissions reduction journey I’m determined to take the gains of the last 12 months and continue to drive and inspire positive change along with my Abley colleagues.”