Owning our environmental impact

Owning our environmental impact

We impact the planet not only through the places and spaces we design, but in the way we run our business.

As signatories to the UN Climate Action Now, UN Race to Zero, the B Corp Climate Collective: Net Zero 2030, and SME Climate Hub Net Zero pledges, we are committed to halving our emissions by 2030 and cutting our emissions to zero before 2050.

Through our ISO14001 accreditation we measure and report our environmental impact annually. This transparency is not only a crucial step towards honouring our commitments, but also enshrines the values we hold that compelled us to become an employee-owned practice, the first AJ100 certified B Corp and, now for the second year running, carbon neutral in our operations.

Our latest Environmental Management Report is available to download here. Future Leap, our independent assssors, verified our data and advised on our calculations.  We welcome anyone with interest to read the report and approach us with questions, but for those wanting the key takeaways, I’ve listed them below.

People, Planet & Profit

Our latest edition of our Environmental Management Report is slightly different in that it covers an 18-month reporting period, rather than the standard 12 months. This is a ‘one off’ which allows us to align the reporting year for our Environmental Management Report with our financial reporting year. This will enable direct comparison between financial and environmental performance across a calendar year, facilitating ‘People, Planet & Profit’ to be reported together in one combined annual report in the future.

An extraordinary time

We felt that because this period was extraordinary, with no reasonable direct comparisons between the way we have worked during the Covid-19 pandemic and anything that has gone before, this was a good time to make the change.

We therefore reported three sets of data:

  • July 2020—June 2021 (12 months). Provides a direct comparison with previous years.
  • July 2021—December 2021 (6 months). Bridges the gap.
  • July 2020—December 2021 (18 months). Combines the two above periods into one data set.

Changes to the way we work

Despite significantly increasing the scope of emissions accounted for, our emissions for the last 12 months only marginally increased from 322 to 341 tonnes CO2e, with a corresponding increase in carbon intensity from 17.5 to 18.5 tonnes CO2e/£million per year.

The increase in scope was balanced by a significant reduction in business travel and a small reduction in heating and lighting, both of which were caused by the impact the pandemic had on working practices.

We support regular home working with our Hybrid Working Policy. This reduces office occupancy slightly, but the biggest impact has been made by reduction in face-to-face meetings. We now have facilities for remote and hybrid meetings, and do not foresee a return to old working practices.

The evolving best practice around carbon neutrality

In 2021 we calculated and offset our Scope 1, 2 & 2+ emissions. This was best practice at the time. But best practice evolves, and this period we have gone further to include all Scope 3 emissions – those from Working from Home and Purchasing. The only emissions we excluded are those from our sub consultants, who should be responsible for their own emissions.

Responsible offsetting

We continue to offset a portion of our residual carbon emissions with Trees for Life, a UK based organisation accredited by the Woodland Carbon Code. Our trees will help enable the restoration of the globally unique Caledonian Forest, which once covered much of Scotland, recreating a unique biodiverse environment.

Offsetting presents an opportunity to broaden our impact. That’s why we have carefully selected a range of international projects to offset the rest of our residual carbon emissions. The projects are either ‘Gold Standard’ or UN FCCC verified and include sustainable biomass, wind and hydro energy projects in Argentina, India, Vietnam and Chile, a safe drinking water project in Uganda and improved cooking practices in Nigeria. These projects support wider UN SDG goals and help create better financial, social, and environmental outcomes.

Future plans

We understand that whilst carbon offsetting will continue to play a role in meeting our carbon neutral commitments, we must continue to reduce the carbon intensity of our business.

This year we are updating our Carbon Reduction Plan, targeting further reductions in energy used in our offices, switching more business travel to sustainable transport and encouraging more sustainable commuting habits.

We own our impact on the planet and look to make constant improvements across our operations. Our findings from design exemplars like Gwynfaen, UWE’s Low Carbon Residences and Treglown Court are helping our clients reach and surpass industry targets on their projects. If we can help you do the same, please get in touch.

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