Since 1990, the UK has slashed its greenhouse gas emissions at a faster rate than any other country, with 2020 taking gold as the greenest year on record. This was primarily achieved by transitioning the national grid away from fossil fuels to more sustainable sources of renewable energy. Five years ago 25% of electricity was produced by coal generated resources, as little as 1.6% of electricity stemmed back to coal in 2020.
It is important to recognise the contribution Temple can make to this decline as an SME. In order to remain on track and in line with the Paris Agreement, the introduction of the Pledge to Net Zero campaign seeks to convene fast climate action in the UK’s environmental sector, with an ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Since the launch in 2019 Temple were an early signatory, and now over 72 organisations have committed to pledge, spanning across 80% of the UK’s environmental consulting market.
By signing up to the Pledge, we are committed to pursuing three deliverables, the first of which involves setting and committing to greenhouse gas emission reductions using Science-Based Targets (SBTs) in line with either a 1.5°C climate change scenario or well below 2°C. Setting these SBTs is a complex process with a lot of factors to include, although with the help of the SBT Initiative framework we are on course and dedicated to achieving our well below 2°C goal.
For our second deliverable, we will produce a thought-leadership piece each year on the practical steps to delivering an economy in line with climate science which supports net zero carbon, whilst also providing insight on how this is paving the way to achieving our ultimate target of Absolute Zero emissions.
The final deliverable is producing a publicly facing report for our annual greenhouse gas emissions and progress towards our SBT. With work moving to employee’s homes at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a methodology to calculate the carbon emissions of our business became somewhat more difficult and we thought this was a good opportunity to explain our approach and the challenges we encountered.
At Temple, we followed EcoAct’s Homeworking Emissions Whitepaper’s ‘Base Case’ approach to put a number on the amount of carbon we use for heating, lighting, and office equipment (scope 1 and 2). EcoAct’s methodology aligns with the standards set by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and is working towards the standardisation of their methodology.
The Base Case approach assumes a set consumption of electricity and gas per employee during working hours. We wanted to enhance our accuracy by collecting more data with a staff survey. The survey looked at the amount of annual and statutory leave to identify when energy would be used, the amount of hours heating was on throughout the year, how many people employees lived with to distribute their energy accordingly, green energy supply, and the type of work equipment staff members used. Upon our initial review of the data, we noticed a large increase in energy consumption compared to when we were still working in the office (approximately 115%). This was associated with the need for each employee to heat up an entire home in winter, compared to a single office in the previous year. However, about 40% of our staff use green energy, bringing down our market-based emissions slightly for 2020.
Throughout the process, we came across some drawbacks and questions to consider for next year’s carbon emissions measurements. Even with the support of our staff survey, a lot of assumptions had to be made to obtain data that was manageable for the calculations. Having gone through multiple lockdowns in the past year, we must also acknowledge that our working patterns have changed; many parents have had to work early in the morning or into the late hours of the night due to childcare and home-schooling during the day. Having the lights on when working in the evenings will have a higher carbon impact than working in the daytime and using natural light. Due to this high level of uncertainty, we followed the assumptions made in the ‘Base Case’ approach and assumed an annual average of 10 Watts per working hour for our 2020 reporting.
As we await a standardised methodology to calculate homeworking carbon emissions, we need to improve our approach to reduce the uncertainties we have faced, by elaborating on the assumptions that were made and expend the qualitative data captured in our staff survey. However, it is important to note that some assumptions will be required for the any method to be thorough and time effective; there are so many variables that the exercise in data capture can be time consuming and after a certain point will not make any material difference to the goal of reducing emissions. Lastly, as changes to working locations are likely to remain regardless of the pandemic we must work on our staff contribution, not only to collect more data but be engaged in tackling carbon reduction as a business when we are working from home.