What next: How can businesses make changes to support a green recovery post-pandemic?

Engineers at Work In a Solar Power Station

Recent findings from Climate Assembly UK show that the population wants a green economic recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what does this look like? Is it affordable? And how do businesses get started?

This year carbon emissions have undergone the sharpest drop since records began, putting climate change and sustainable practices firmly on the business agenda as lockdown restrictions ease and organisations embark on the ‘new normal’. However, a temporary boost in extraordinary circumstances now needs to translate into long-term environmental legacy.

Of course, the government’s proposed £3bn package to drive a green recovery is welcome, but it is not nearly enough and pales in comparison to Germany’s £36bn package. Yes, we need to government to do more, but the business community can begin its contribution to building a greener economy now. The key is innovation and collaboration.

Going green

The UK is committed to hitting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which may seem like a long time away, but to have chance of hitting this target we must establish a new international culture where carbon reduction is central to business models and consumer demand, whilst making it easier to offset unavoidable emissions with credible schemes and projects..

The most important step is the first, so business of all sizes should start by assessing how they can reduce emissions across their operations.

It really does all count. Swathes of businesses have already gone paperless where possible, with the tablet and laptop becoming the new pen and paper, but many may not realise the impact of digital communications on the environment. A commitment to reducing unnecessary emails would make a huge impact. If every adult in the UK sent one less email every day, the annual carbon saving would be equivalent to 81,152 flights to Madrid.

Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of annual human emissions, with 41% of this resulting from beef production alone. As a result some companies have even banned employees from expensing meals containing meat to lighten their environmental burden and encourage vegetarian diets.

The possibilities for impactful change vary widely from business to business, but I’d encourage organisations to think outside the box and remember that small changes are all vital in the long-term drive to net-zero.

Unavoidable emissions

As much as we can reduce our carbon footprint, business activities will still emit CO2. Where emissions are unavoidable, through production, necessary transactions or services, businesses should look to offset these, investing in accredited schemes that fund high impact carbon  reduction and carbon positive projects that essentially remove or prevent more CO2 production than your carbon footprint generates.

Businesses can contribute to a greener future and recovery for the UK by offsetting their employees’ commutes, business trips and hospitality endeavours – assuming they have minimised these where possible already! Takeaway food outlets are able to offset the carbon footprint of their deliveries where green transport methods like bikes are impractical, and manufacturers can offset the emissions generated through their processes, in whole or in part.

In a UK first, Motor Depot and Carsupermarket.com have just become the first dealerships to commit to offsetting the emissions of every used car they sell for the first year of ownership equivalent to 10,000 miles, ensuring consumers priced out of the electric car market can still make a greener and more responsible choice, even with a used car.

Not all offsetting is equal

Unfortunately, the carbon offsetting industry has been plagued by years of poor regulation, which has allowed unscrupulous parties to profiteer at the expense of channelling funds to project owners to support the production of clean energy. So, before you engage with a carbon offsetting company it is vital to ensure they are transparent about how they manage offsetting and which projects your money will support.

At iOffset, we work with Gold Standard (WWF) and The UN Climate Change Secretariat to ensure our carbon credits are of the highest standard and are eligible to be retired on a public registry, directly in the name of a commercial customer or consumer, meaning the same credits cannot be resold after we retire them. These credits then contribute to afforestation schemes, renewable energy projects and emerging technologies in carbon capture and storage to help actively reduce global warming.

We can make big or small changes to our behaviours, and crucially, they all count. But there is a pressing need for businesses – even at the present time of economic uncertainty – to push forward towards environmentally-friendly operations if we are to fulfil our commitment to a net-zero economy.

Mark Hammond is the Founder of iOffset – a unique Offset as a Service (OaaS) platform that enables businesses to offset any product, service or transaction in full or in part.