The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow from 1 and 12 November 2021 has created a renewed focus on how we can act to mitigate and prevent the worst effects of climate change. For years, many small to medium sized businesses have been taking positive steps to reduce energy, calculate their emissions and create action plans to ensure year on year achievement of climate change key performance indicators.
However, for every small to medium business that has this awareness there are many more that do not. We’ll focus on the practical standards and frameworks that exist which can support your business to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, show a reduction in your carbon footprint and offer an opportunity for independent audit and verification.
This is vital to prevent “greenwashing” and to build consumer confidence as well as stakeholder demand for environmental responsibility. We’ll cover a range of International Standards (ISOs) and frameworks, known as PAS or publicly available specifications, which any small business can purchase and work towards.
What are the credentials my business can work towards and what do they mean?
The various ISO standards and PAS frameworks that a business can work towards to show reduction in greenhouse gas and calculate their carbon footprint have been available for a long time. Many small to medium businesses may already have achieved them and can adapt them to address setting of reduction targets for greenhouse gases. Let’s explore each one in turn.
ISO 14001: 2015 – Environmental Management Standard
This standard allows you to sort your key environmental impacts and aspects, then set objectives, targets and plans to mitigate and manage them. The standard requires key performance indicators to be set for all objectives so you can measure your level of success. ISO 14001 is a great way to get going with your carbon reduction journey as nearly all businesses are responsible for emission of greenhouse gases. This means you can set a reduction target for these and report on them year on year.
ISO 50001: 2018 – Energy Management Standard
This standard is a route to comply with the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and is super focussed on energy management and energy efficiency. As a business if your energy bills are too high or your energy efficiency is too low then this standard really focusses the mind to reduce consumption and at the same time improve energy efficiency. It’s one of the shorter ISO standards that you can use. It allows you to set year on year improvement targets for your energy sources such as gas, electricity, LPG and other fuel oils.
There is also a focus on providing training to your team and subcontractors to ensure everyone can help you to reduce your energy demand. The good news is by working towards ISO 50001 you will reduce your energy bills, saving money, saving carbon and giving your supply chain confidence that you have energy risk and opportunities under control.
PAS 2060:2014 – Publicly Available Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality.
This framework is divided into 11 chapters and does require a lot of input from any business to work through them. However, the effort is worth it as it leads to a carbon management plan, yearly carbon footprint and an independent validation that you are on track to reduce your greenhouse gases.
The 2060 framework can be applied to organisations, events, activities, products and services including for projects and major developments and towns and cities. Unlike an ISO, your business will be audited annually to this framework and all three emission scopes are included. This means you need to apply the Green House Gas Protocol to capture your Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
Currently in development is a new ISO “14068 – Greenhouse Gas Management and Related Activities – Carbon Neutrality”. However, this is not expected to be published until late 2022 or early 2023.
There are also sector specific standards that might be relevant to your industry.
Where do I go from here?
Taking on either a PAS or ISO to support your carbon management journey will be a challenge. Small business owners and managers will need to create a budget, provide human and possible technology resources and commit to year-on-year reduction and energy efficiency targets. The benefits of doing this will lead to cost savings, carbon savings and potential new customer revenues.
The growth in the last five years of socially responsible investment has led to many investors checking a company’s approach to environmental management, this includes the strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many investors will only now invest in businesses that have a carbon management reduction plan that is viable, credible and independently audited.
If your business is seeking sustainability credentials which are independently audited and verified year on year, then working towards an ISO or PAS is the recommended course of action. Both offer a way to show your customers that your product or service has taken account the greenhouse emissions associated with them, and your business has a plan to reduce, mitigate or offset emissions.
It’s possible to cut your utility costs by being more energy focussed and creating processes that support energy efficiency and shrinking your carbon footprint. For the slightly larger businesses it’s also possible to align the above standards and PAS with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adding further credibility and consumer confidence.