Big Climate Change Issues, Small Business Matters

This elephant in the room may be old news but it is still impossible to ignore the evidence of increasing global temperatures, extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels. Climate change is, without doubt, the single biggest environmental challenge facing our planet today.

So what can a small business do to mitigate global events?

Climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere - these are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, hydro-fluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. Each gas has a different capacity to cause global warming.

The primary source of these gases is the use of electricity generated from fossil fuel power stations, burning gas for heating or driving a vehicle. Within the UK it is estimated that business activities account for about half of all the UK GHG emissions.

What your business can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and why you should do it

    Saving money is normally a good enough incentive for any business - identify those aspects of your business which are energy and resource intensive and develop a strategy to reduce the level of usage and costs
    Sustainable business management stimulates business growth - if you brand yourself as a 'green business' and embrace best practice, you not only reduce your resource use and costs, you satisfy customer demand for green products and services, attract new business and become more competitive
    Satisfying procurement demand for information on your sustainable management plans for greenhouse gas emissions is the key to business growth
    Understand the contribution your business is making to climate change and reduce it

So, you've decided you want to do your bit for the environment - well done, but...where do you go from here? how do you measure your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Well, you'll be pleased to know that you already have much of the information you need at your fingertips. You just need to put the tools in place to help you calculate your greenhouse gas emissions.

Start by identifying the parts of your business that you need to include in the measurement process. You need to take into account the aspects of your business which you own or have control over to ensure that you measure only the emissions which relate to your business operations.

If you are a small business this should be relatively easy since you are likely to own or control all of the aspects of your business. If the structure of your business is more complicated and includes subsidiaries, joint ventures, partnerships or franchises, it will take a little more effort to identify the aspects which you can directly control or influence.

Now that you know which parts of your business you need to include, you need to identify which activities your business carries out that release greenhouse gas emissions. This is likely to include, but may not be limited to;

    Resource use - raw materials
    Energy use - electricity/gas use
    Waste disposal and recycling
    Business travel
    Owned or leased vehicles under you control
    Employee business travel
    Staff commuting

To calculate the greenhouse gas emissions for your business, you will need to collate data from each relevant emission-releasing activity. You'll be pleased to know should already have most of the information you need to collect this data in the form of energy bills, materials invoices, waste invoices, travel / expenses forms, staff surveys, etc...

The quality of the data you collect is important to ensure that GHG emissions measurements are as accurate as possible. You can quickly develop a simple spread sheet to record your data. This will provide a useful means of analysing and evaluating the data and tracking your performance.

Data sources include;

    Electricity and gas - total usage rate from energy bills or meter readings
    Water supply - total supplied in cubic metres (m3) from water bill
    Water treatment - total water treated in cubic metres (m3) from water bill
    Waste disposal and recycling - tonnes of waste sent to landfill and / or recycled (from your waste contractor)
    Fuel used in company owned or leased vehicles - litres of fuel purchased from receipts
    Vehicle mileage from mileage returns / expenses
    Employee passenger travel receipts / details of travel

Try to measure your greenhouse gas emissions over a twelve month period and align this with your financial accounting period.

Once you have the data monitoring and collection arrangements established its time to convert the data to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each aspect of your business.

You will need to convert the data you have collected using emission factors - multiply the data by the emission factor and you have the level of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for your business. You might want to use GHG conversion factor tools which are freely available from the Carbon Trust; (

You can input your annual figures into the appropriate spread sheets which will automatically calculate the greenhouse gas emissions. These convert input data into Kg of carbon dioxide equivalents.

The information you obtain through the calculation process can then be used as a baseline which you can use to benchmark performance against as you introduce efficiency measures.

Setting emissions reduction targets is a good starting point but only set targets which reflect;

• the aspects of your business which you own or control

• all the emissions you measure are based on reliable and robust data

• your emissions compared over time against your baseline year

• achievable targets (over three to five years initially)

Monitor your performance routinely and communicate the results internally. Breakdown the headline targets to encourage behaviour change and staff "ownership" at a local level.

While you are not presently obliged to release this information into the public domain, there are benefits in publicly disclosing this information as part of your 'green branding' marketing strategy.If you do decide to do so, decide who would be interested in your greenhouse gas emissions data (e.g. customers, suppliers, staff, etc....) and where you wish to publish the information - business website, corporate responsibility report, customer surveys, supplier questionnaires and contract tenders.

Whatever you do, by taking climate change seriously and building 'green actions' into your business model you become a part of the solution and can take comfort from doing your bit for the environment while establishing a foundation for sustainable business growth and increased profitability.

EMC Business Solutions aims to assist businesses in the development of environmental quality management systems, providing a platform for regulatory compliance, sustainable business growth and increased profitability.

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