The impact of energy on your business emissions

In the second episode of their climate podcast, Stewart Davidson and Dr Chris Jones from our partner Edwards discuss science-based targets, and delve deeper into what individuals, companies and the government can do to cut their emissions.

If you've been following the new podcast from our partner, Edwards, you'll have seen how they are commited to supporting the transition to net zero. 

We round-up the best bits from their latest episode, to give an overview of how science-based targets and decarbonising the grid are key players when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. 

What are science-based targets?

Science-based targets are used to accurately show a business how much (and how quickly) they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, in order to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement commited world governments to keeping global temperature rise to under 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that global warming must not exceed 1.5°C to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is an organisation which facilitates calculations of greenhouse emissions using various models, helping organisations to ensure that they comply with science-based targets of 1.5°C. 

SBTi offers calculation methods used to identify emissions against targets, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This forms part of the global aim to nearly eliminate emissions by 2050, to hit net zero.

SBTi partners with CDPUN Global CompactWorld Resources Institute and WWF.

How do you measure emissions across a more complex supply chain?

Understandably, measuring your organisation's emissions becomes much more complex when you factor in the emissions of your whole supply chain. A straightforward way to measure (and therefore reduce) these wider emissions by separting them into two groups; emissions which are under your control, and those that are outside of your control.

When considering emissions under your control, these can be split into two different types; direct (those that we emit directly from our business, such as carbon dioxide emissions from boiler, fuels from transport etc) and indirect (CO2 emitted from suppliers, such as the power station that provides your electricity). 

When considering emissions which are outside of your control, these can be upstream from your organisation (emitted during the transfer of goods and services into you - this includes the provision of services and goods, and transportations of those goods to you), as well as downstream from your organisation (emitted during the transfer of goods and services away from you, such as waste treated outside of your business, distribution of goods to your customers, and the ongoing use of your products). 

To determine our total carbon footprint, with the aim of hitting the 1.5°C warming limit, we have to be able to measure it accurately. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol provides an accountancy method for quantifying emissions throughout an organisation, which are categorised into scopes 1, 2 and 3. You can read more about the types of emission categories and how they can help you measure your carbon footprint in our guide to Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

How can we control the emissions of our products in their future use?

When it comes to limiting the emissions from our products once they've left our organisation, the responsbility lies with each of us - not just our customers, but their customers too, until the end of a product’s use.

Global CO2 emissions are generally dominated by the consumption of energy, so this means that our energy use is a great place to make meaningful change. 

For example, if a mine produces raw materials, these raw materials are then sent to a manufacturer, where energy is used to create a component part. This is then sent to a business who uses the component in a larger product (using more energy, and often greenhouse gases in the processes). The finished product is then sent to an end-user, who is likely to use a large amount of long-term energy (in the form of electricity) to use the product. 

The impact of all of this energy consumption can, therefore, be significantly reduced by decarbonising our energy sources throughout the supply chain. 

How will decarbonisation of the grid help?

Whilst energy will always be needed for most businesses to operate, we can mitigate the impact by transitioning away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy sources.

As businesses and as individuals, we should all be aiming to ensure that the amount of CO2 emitted doesn’t grow beyond the budget identified to meet the 1.5°C target. This can involve switching to renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy) or nuclear energy sources, as well as carbon capture and storage in long-term storage facilities.

This combined approach will allow us to move to a lower net emission level more quickly, as well as to ‘mop up’ the last CO2 emissions once we get closer to our target.


How does carbon capture and storage work?

The process of carbon capture and storage allows us to take CO2 out of the atmosphere via air capture, as well as directly from emissions, for example from power stations.

This CO2 could then be used to make goods, creating a circular economy, as well as compressing it and storing it under the ground in geological formations - much like trees and plants sequester carbon via their roots, but on a much larger (and faster) scale!

Carbon capture and storage has been proposed for use in the UK at Peterhead Carbon Capture Power Station, making it Scotland's first power station equipped with a carbon capture plant to remove CO2 from its emissions.

How can we make a difference as a small business?

There are so many impactful changes you can make as a business, and aiming to use as little power as possible is a great place to start, as well as ensuring that the power you do use is from a renewable source.

You can take this one step further by ensuring that the goods that you buy in are from suppliers who use renewable energy sources in their manufacturing processes, and so on up the chain.

Opting for electric vehicles for business transport is another great way to cut your emissions, as well as encouraging travel by foot or bike wherever possible.

How can we make a difference as individuals?

We can increase the efficiency of our homes with measures like solar panels, insulation, double glazing and heat pumps - you can read our full guide to lower your carbon footprint at home here!

However, these measures do cost money. Ideally, governments will step up to support the switch. We also need industries to supply the appropriate products to support low-emissions options for heating and transport.

A collaborative approach is needed to hit the 1.5°C target, and nobody can do it on their own - this is a global movement, that needs action at every level.

Listen to the full podcast now on Spotify, Apple, Samsung, Amazon or through this website.