Preserving our forests for the future
By Will Perrott
At Clean Air we’re passionate about preserving the environment for future generations – through constantly re-evaluating our environmental impact and investing in sustainable growth. Our goal is not only to implement cleaner, greener practices within our own business, but also to actively influence our industry to make meaningful changes that could collectively have a significant impact on climate change.
A number of initiatives form our extensive environmental policy – one of which is our carbon offset and forestry investment initiative. You may have heard us discuss carbon offsetting before, and our views against it. Here we explain why we chose to take this action as part of our wider sustainability manifesto, and how carbon offsetting can be used in a positive manner to impact climate change.
Carbon offsetting isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s still a valuable tool in the fight against climate change.
At Clean Air we don’t really like the murky world of carbon offsetting. We’ve spoken before about how carbon offsetting can give companies a ‘free pass’ to continue to greatly impact the environment, but appear to be ‘doing their bit’ under the guise of a carbon offset. It can also allow some companies to continue bad practice, actively harming our planet while buying their way out of the collective responsibility we have to stop polluting the environment.
Greenwashing is rife across all industries, especially now consumers are more aware than ever before of the impact of fossil fuels and carbon emissions on the environment. And since there is no ‘gold-standard’ for off-setting, it’s an opaque area which some companies can easily exploit to greenwash their brand.
That’s why we’re not using offsets alone to mitigate our environmental impact. Instead, we recognise it as one component of a cohesive sustainability strategy as we work on longer-term plans to reduce our influence on climate change overall. In the imperfect world we live in, we recognised that taking imperfect action was better than taking no action at all – whilst looking into ways we could constantly strive to be better and develop more eco-conscious ways of working.
The benefits of carbon offsetting
Carbon offsetting isn’t intrinsically bad. Provided it is used correctly it can go some way towards mitigating the impact of many different industries on climate change.
When implemented alongside other environmental initiatives, such as using green power sources and actively lowering the carbon emissions an organisation produces, carbon offsetting can make a quite significant impact. This is in part due to the multi-faceted and diverse benefits carbon offsetting can bring, as it usually involves planting trees or cultivating seaweed and mangroves that can absorb or cycle carbon. In a forest environment this can support the preservation of habitats for native wildlife, enhance biodiversity and soil quality and protect sites of special scientific interest. In addition, it can enhance the lives of people who live and work in the area. In the case of marine or ‘blue’ carbon offsetting, initiatives can help to protect delicate marine eco-systems and preserve unique habitats.
That’s why in February 2021 we invested in UK commercial forestry by buying shares in the Sustainable Timber and Energy Limited Partnership (LP). The LP owns and manages 69 UK forest sites, planted with 12,000 hectares of commercial conifers and 1000 hectares of mixed broadleaf trees. All the timber harvested is FSC certified, meaning the Partnership must adhere to their strict policies regarding conservation, ethics and responsible forest management.
Supporting responsible forest management throughout the UK
We invested in the LP as we wanted to provide a suitable carbon offset for our residual greenhouse gas emissions once we had exhausted other short-term methods of actively reducing our carbon footprint. We chose UK forestry for the visibility and reliability of the carbon uptake, and the investment being backed by real assets. We were careful to conduct in-depth research on the Partnership to ensure that they were a truly ethical and environmentally-conscious choice before investing. We also actively chose not to buy abroad, as offsetting can often have undesired consequences such as harm to indigenous peoples.
We had considered buying our own forests, but couldn’t find any newly planted forests of the right size and location. Even if we had, we realised that we are fume cupboard specialists not forestry managers. The next best thing (and most sensible option) was to invest in existing UK forestry projects, managed by the experts.
Harvested areas are replanted as soon as is practical to maximise the amount of timber grown and hence the uptake of CO2.
How the Partnership has influenced our carbon emissions
For the year ending May 2022, approximately 76 tonnes of carbon dioxide were sequestered or offset by our share of LP over 12 months. 73 tonnes were sequestered by the trees themselves, with the remainder offset by solar and wind farm electricity generation (the upland forests are great sites for wind farms).
This is on top of our existing initiatives to actively lower the carbon emissions we produce, resulting in a 65% reduction (based on 2017). This reduction has been achieved despite strong year on year growth in fume cupboard sales.
Clean air, clean credentials
Although we recognise that carbon offsets are not always ideal, they are at present one of a number of tools available to businesses to help them lessen any negative impact they may have on the environment and help to slow global warming. Doing so responsibly is a wonderful way to mitigate the effects of carbon emissions, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the impact of the investment continues to (quite literally) grow year on year.
Find out more about Clean Air’s carbon footprint reduction.