How do I start reducing my company’s environmental impact?

In principle, recognising that you could, and should, be reducing your company’s environmental impact is the start – it was ours. Don’t be shy about having a vision for your outcomes. Share it with your team and then agree how you’ll work towards it.

Carbon data

In practice, at Clean Air we started by analysing our carbon footprint. When I decided we needed to take action to be more sustainable I discussed it with the Board. Because we had four years’ carbon data we could see how our production cycle – and even cold winters – had affected it.

Company engagement

Initially, we set up an Environmental Committee. By recruiting members from across the business the committee engaged with the entire company. Now it steers us strategically and identifies the operational actions that will achieve our goals. It’s developed themes such as Energy and Transport and we’ve assigned leads to drive each theme.

Environmental impact in £s

We’ve put carbon at the heart of Clean Air’s calculation of its environmental impact. We’ve assigned a monetary value to a tonne of carbon. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. However, we did a lot of research and sought advice from green charities and agencies. Now we can value the carbon reductions in a financial sense.

Of course, there are many benefits other than monetary. On the other hand, there are also cost implications. We understand we may take a hit in some areas, not every change will result in a cost saving.

Carbon neutral

We’ve set ourselves the challenging target of becoming carbon neutral by 2023. Ultimately, we want to understand the amount of embedded carbon in our components and our products. Working this out is complex and it’s still a work in progress.

The supply chain

We’re currently grappling with how far we go. For example, do we include our suppliers’ carbon footprints? Many of our suppliers aren’t following a green agenda yet so they couldn’t report. (Neither are their competitors, by the way, we’ve checked.)

Nonetheless, we’re prepared to support them to improve. We see this change of focus towards sustainability as a collaboration between our suppliers, Clean Air and our customers.

A level playing field

Clean Air’s fume cupboards keep personnel safe from dusts and fumes in laboratories. Our vision is that eventually every manufacturer’s fume cupboard will have published embedded carbon data.

This data will need to be calculated to an industry-agreed formula. As a result our clients will have a trustworthy way of comparing like with like. Then it’s up to them if they decide to choose the units with the least environmental impact. And it’s up to us to reduce our impact while keeping costs stable and maintaining the quality we’re known for.

It’ll be a win-win for the environment as the industry will compete to drive down carbon emissions.

What next?

My advice is, just go for it! If you’ve read this article you’re obviously keen to make a difference. Even the smallest of changes is an improvement. Find the easy wins like changing to recycled paper to keep everyone engaged. Get your team to set some challenging targets to maintain motivation. And let me know what’s working for you – I’m open to ideas that will speed our journey.

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