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Neutral on Carbon?

14 June 2010

Carbon reduction initiatives need not just be about meeting the demands of legislation but can be a business benefit and give a competitive advantage in the current economic climate, explains Rebecca Fay

AS THE UK CONTINUES TO drive down carbon emissions to meet its commitment for a reduction of 80 percent by 2050, nondomestic buildings, accounting for 18 percent(1) of the UK’s carbon footprint, have a key role to play. FMs have an opportunity now to take a leadership position on reducing carbon emissions and respond to customer demands for low carbon facilities.
By implementing an offset inclusive carbon management programme FMs can make immediate, cost-effective carbon reductions to demonstrate that they have reduced carbon emissions and present competitive environmental solution to potential  customers. FM companies that reduce their carbon emissions to net zero in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol, the global standard for CarbonNeutral® certification, are able to demonstrate to their stakeholders a credible, scientifically significant statement on their commitment to carbon emission reductions. Whether developing a CarbonNeutral credential for their own business or offering their tenants a CarbonNeutral office space option, the process for developing a cost-effective carbon reduction plan which delivers immediate business benefits is the same.
Typical of a companies reducing its own environmental impact is Treasury Holdings Group, a global property development and investment firm currently controlling a property portfolio valued in excess of €6bn. In 1997, it made a strategic decision for its Irish operations to reduce its emissions to net zero and achieve CarbonNeutral company certification. To achieve this certification, the process involved:
● An independent third party assessment of the CO2 emissions produced by the headquarters of Treasury Holdings located in Dublin, Ireland. The assessment included premises’ energy use, refrigerant gas loss, waste disposal, business travel, deliveries and employee commuting
● Setting a credible, scientifically significant, carbon reduction target of net zero
● Achieving a reduction of CO2 emissions to net zero through a combination of internal reductions and external reductions in the form of high quality, independently verified,
permanent carbon offsets. Internal reductions included initiatives for increasing recycling, setting printers to only print double sided and forming a Green Team to lead on environmental initiatives. For external reductions to reduce emissions to net zero, Treasury Holdings offset its emissions by purchasing carbon credits which enable an equivalent amount of CO2 to be saved by a clean technology or renewable energy project somewhere else in the world. These projects are validated and verified by independent third parties to prove that without carbon financing the projects would not be viable and to ensure that the emissions reductions they claim, actually happen. It communicated the actions taken to staff and customers and encouraged suppliers to do the same.
In addition to these initiatives, Treasury Holdings has created a Sustainability Team to focus on its construction business and to ensure that sustainable practices are implemented wherever possible. Treasury Holdings offices in the UK and China have now also become CarbonNeutral.
Ciara Davin, a member of the Treasury Holdings Green Team, said, “Going CarbonNeutral is a long term strategic commitment for us. We want to ensure we are meeting scientifically significant targets in our carbon reduction activities. Our activities also have an immediate benefit for the business by reducing our energy costs and purchasing from greener suppliers will encourage enterprise in a sector that is still in its infancy.”
Why offset inclusive carbon management? Such a programme represents:
● The most efficient way to reduce emissions beyond a certain point
● For many, the only way to reach scientifically significant emission reduction targets
● A cost benchmark against which to measure the efficiency of all internal reduction opportunities
● A driver of operational behavioural change to adopt energy efficient working practices
● A cost effective way to present a climate change credential to customers that will drive revenue and to stakeholders that will enhance corporate reputation.
Simmons & Simmons, an international law firm with 20 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, achieved CarbonNeutral certification in 2006 through the implementation of an offset inclusive carbon management programme.
The drivers for this were:
● Stakeholder engagement – to ensure that staff, clients and other interested groups were aware of environmental issues and how to combat climate change
● Best practice – to ensure that the firm followed best practice principles and managed carbon emissions and energy consumption as efficiently as possible
● Bottom line protection – to manage energy consumption (of utilities and consumables) to reduce operating costs.
To help focus FM emission reductions, Simmons & Simmons implemented an offset inclusive carbon management programme and set an expectation to continually improve operational efficiencies and further reduce emissions. It achieved this through the use of reduce, reuse and recycle plans and the development of initiatives such as the introduction of a systematic scheme to 'virtualise' servers and remove the need for server cabinets; the replacement of Halogen spotlights with 9W LED equivalents; changing standard printers to Multi-Function Devices, and continued involvement with Green500 and working with The CarbonNeutral Company.
James Clark, Office Services Manager at Simmons & Simmons said, “Sharing carbon footprint data and offset information with stakeholders is an intrinsic part of our annual  communications strategy. All our offices have a year-on-year measure for their carbon emissions to use as a 'yardstick'. It should not be ignored that there is also a cash incentive for reducing carbon emissions, not only through reduced operational costs but also reduced offset costs year on year.”
Companies reducing their tenants’ environmental impact can also take advantage of the immediate customer demand for reducing carbon emissions by partnering with The CarbonNeutral Company and reselling the CarbonNeutral office space solution. This enables tenants to measure and reduce the carbon emissions produced within their individual office and/or retail unit to net zero.
The assessment includes measuring the carbon emissions produced by the energy consumption, refrigerant gas loss and waste disposal. The carbon footprint is then reduced through a combination of internal reductions and high quality, robust and permanent carbon offset projects.
Through the offer of a CarbonNeutral office space certification to their customers, FM companies can leverage commercial opportunities, such as increasing their return on investment by providing a competitive environmental solution to prospects, creating an additional revenue stream by addressing existing tenants’ requirements for low carbon office space and adding value to tenants. This can be done by helping them understand their environmental impact, developing programmes to reduce their footprint and cut costs.
Carbon reduction initiatives undertaken by FM companies need not just be about the threat of impending legislation, they will also enable businesses to gain immediate business value and, as resellers of CarbonNeutral office space, an additional stream of revenue. This will help make a dent in the 18 percent of carbon emissions from commercial property in the UK.
Rebecca Fay is Marketing Director at The CarbonNeutral Company
1The Carbon Trust

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