Our Journey to Carbon Neutrality (and why litter picking forms part of this).
When Intelligent Facility Solutions’ founder, Andrew Cameron, founded the business back in 2012, he liked the fact that the products it specialised in, namely hand dryers, saved people lots of money, eliminated paper towel waste, and stopped trees from being chopped down.
We wanted to live and breathe our environmental ethos…
While we were delivering environmental benefits to our customers, we also believed it was important to put our money where our mouths were, so to speak. So we made incremental changes within our business, like agreeing with the team to stop bringing in single-use plastic packaging and bottles, creating local recycling guides for the public, and asking suppliers to eliminate unnecessary packaging. We then started investing in verified tree planting programmes and became ISO14001-accredited.
This all came from wanting to do something positive (and not be hypocrites) and whilst these types of projects seemed like tangible actions, in reality, we still felt we were still missing the mark in making a genuine difference.
So, over the last few years, we have concentrated on learning more about the climate crisis, carbon emissions, and how we can become part of the solution rather than the problem. In doing so, we’ve discovered that education is a critical part of the process – and we now recognise that planting and saving trees in the Amazon is certainly a big positive, but our primary aim must be to reduce the impact of our own operations.
First, know how much carbon you’re creating…. Then take responsibility for it.
This year, we have taken a huge step in measuring our entire corporate and product carbon footprint, with a view to taking responsibility for EVERY direct and indirect emission we create, including the products imported exclusively for us. And trust us, this is a big deal.
Many businesses may already claim carbon neutrality, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll probably discover that this only covers a limited scope of their emissions. For example, the products they sell may be entirely omitted as this is considered to be emissions created by a separate factory. We know our factories aren’t yet tackling their own emissions, so we choose to take responsibility for what we sell.
Because, to ignore this would be to disregard 1,825 tonnes of CO2, so imagine how many companies are conveniently ignoring the majority of their impact.
We engaged ClimatePartner to provide our carbon accounting software and consultancy support needed to help us complete our corporate and product carbon footprint. ClimatePartner audits the results, validates the figures, and provides a tracking number to a database so the results can be accessed by third parties.
Measuring informs us where the big carbon savings can be made and gives us an understanding and the data to communicate to others in our supply chain.
No more airfreighting
First off, we put a blanket ban on air freighting goods. Prior to this, airfreight was responsible for 250 tonnes of CO2 in our worst year of emissions. We’re not proud of this, but we can’t change the past, therefore, we have pledged, by 2026, to invest in carbon capture projects that equal the entire emissions we have created since the company’s formation.
The analysis of our carbon footprint also showed that the manufacture of our products was, far and away, the biggest impact in 2020, responsible for 1,816 tonnes of CO2 in materials, manufacturing, and transport. As such, we are looking at ways in which we can extend the life of our products and sell long-term maintenance contracts – as opposed to having to sell more products every year to grow our business.
We are also looking at how our products can be reused in future products at the end of their life. We are talking to manufacturers about how they are reducing the embedded carbon in their products. Another upshot is that this is stimulating innovation within our own design.
In 2020, we invested enough in carbon removal projects to be deemed carbon neutral across all our operations and imported products. We are in a tiny minority of small companies to make this kind of significant financial commitment. This is a great source of pride for every individual within our business. However, it’s the changes we have made in 2021 that are the most significant.
The small things that make a big difference
We have inspired change within our workforce. Team members take it in turns to compile the monthly ‘transport to work emissions’ report, and this is becoming a source of personal competition to improve month-on-month. We’re a small team but hopefully, we can wipe at least one tonne of CO2 off our corporate footprint in 2021 by doing this.
Transport is a perfect focus area when engaging team members with the reduction of carbon footprints, as it also carries wellbeing benefits. When making changes, they have walked more, driven less, and enjoyed the fitness and financial benefits of this. What’s not to like?
Consumption is another key area for us. As individuals, we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of stuff we buy and are starting to realise how less consumption actually enhances life. Satisfaction comes with making good choices for the planet and your own wellbeing. We reuse everything we practically can, share resources, and attempt to eat low-carbon food wherever possible. In our pursuit for greener living, we’ve enjoyed reading ‘How Bad Are Bananas – The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ by Mike Berners-Lee – a great source of information that provides simple answers to carbon dilemmas, nips misconceptions in the bud, and highlights how a low-carbon diet and a reduced footprint isn’t that difficult to achieve.
1% For the Planet isn’t much to ask…
We talk, on a daily basis, about how we personally reduce our footprints. This has led to significant buy-in from the business and all the team, so much so that we have decided to join the 1% For The Planet movement. This is seeing us commit a sizable financial contribution (that’s 10% of our profits) to environmental charities, alongside significant employee volunteering time where team members will receive full pay for doing something personally rewarding.
1% For The Planet is a great way of aligning your company with its purpose and joining a community of like-minded organisations. 1% For The Planet provides a platform to talk about our commitments and achievements, whilst enabling us to engage with local charities and bring them into the movement. Volunteering for a cause is a great way to increase engagement with an issue, but it’s also good for the soul. It gives people time out from the routine of their regular work and some space for reflection. Most of the work will be outdoors and physical, like litter picking, which is hugely satisfying and actually quite relaxing.
The wonders of a ten-minute litter pick
As an extension of our commitment to 1% For the Planet, our business has launched a litter collecting project in association with national charity, Keep Britain Tidy, called ‘Ten Minute Tidy’. This has been created to engage our internal team AND the wider business community with the issues and benefits of litter picking, for just 10 minutes per day.
Our aim is to start a movement around #10mintidy that turns into sustained action on our streets, as the council contract in Sheffield (where we are based), clearly isn’t sufficient to tackle the litter problem in the city. We would love Sheffield to become the cleanest city in Europe.
In a nutshell, we want to minimize our carbon footprint and reduce waste at every level.
Inspiring and helping other businesses to do the same
From founder Andrew Cameron giving free climate literacy courses to individuals to help them on their journey to a more sustainable life to undergoing B-Corp certification in 2022, we’re always looking for new ways of reducing our organisational footprint. We want to take this as far as we can, whilst showing how it can be achieved in a way that’s financially viable – that way, we can inspire and help other businesses to do the same.
We are by no means ‘climate change experts’, but we do believe it’s of the utmost importance to keep on driving discussions and awareness about climate change, whilst taking positive action in tackling the issue.
In doing so, Andrew Cameron, has attended courses run by The Climate Literacy Project and has been involved with the Sheffield Sustainability Network for several years, which helps individuals and organisations access support to start their carbon reduction journey.
Essentially, taking meaningful action is not as complicated and overwhelming as it needs to be. People and organisations must measure what they can without getting too paralysed by the accuracy, there is no exact science in this area.
Once measured, there is a real pleasure and challenge in reducing the figure. After all, every business needs targets to achieve goals, and quick wins are always the best place to start. In other words, impactful change needn’t be difficult.