A Carbon Emission Reduction Plan


A wise person once told me that “every ocean begins with a drop of water” which is another way of saying that even small steps are progress if taken in the right direction. A shining example of this truth is the journey that many companies embark on to gain their “Eco-Advantage”. I define Eco-Advantage as a company’s opportunity for growth and profitability through a focus on environmental sustainability.

Most companies begin this journey by promoting recycling in the work place and installing labelled recycling bins which have a tangible and positive impact on reducing the amount of waste that reaches landfill. This also creates awareness amongst their staff which hopefully filters into the homes of all their employees.

The next logical step for companies is to measure their carbon footprints. The outcome of this is a clear understanding of which of their activities emit what percentage of the company’s carbon emissions. This can be clearly depicted as a pie-chart showing a breakdown of the various emission sources such as water, waste, paper, travel, electricity and fuel usage. A pie-chart is a powerful image that can be used as a tool to motivate change within the organization.

A carbon footprint is also excellent for setting goals internally against which future emissions reduction performance can be measured, but it’s important to note that goals alone are not enough to make significant reductions. You can’t have goals without a road map to get you there.

This is where a Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan comes in as the next critical step, which I like to refer to as “where the rubber hits the road”. This is where true actions that have a real impact begin to reduce a company’s contribution to carbon emissions.
It is important to keep in mind that no two companies are created equal so it is rare that one company’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan would fit another. If you are an office-based company then it is safe to say that your largest emissions will come from electricity usage whereas a logistics company will have fuel as its largest emission source. Company activities that have the largest carbon emissions will naturally be the most critical areas that will require reduction action.

A generic action plan aimed at reducing emissions and saving on operating costs would include the following categories: a staff education campaign aimed at behaviour change and efficiencies; fuel usage reduction, fuel-switching and fuel-efficiency; business travel; water consumption reduction; paper consumption reduction; waste reduction and recycling; and electricity (include air-conditioning/HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, hot water use, compressors/machines and IT).
Over the years GCX has compiled a very detailed list of these interventions and the best suppliers and service providers to help implement interventions. Let’s run through a few examples to make this more relevant.

Education of staff is one of the most important facets of implementing a Carbon Emissions Reduction plan and is often low hanging fruit due to the low cost of implementing such a program. We have found that up to 10% of companies emissions can be attributed to incorrect or poor conduct by employees. Hence in all of our Carbon Emissions Reduction Plans we strongly recommend the implementation of a thorough education program.
Structuring an education campaign for staff is dependent on the nature of the employees. Are the staff literate, semi-literate and do they have access to a computer. Are they in a single location or multiple locations? Once we understand this we can put together a program that reaches all staff and then measure the impact of this program to ensure a return on investment. Interventions include posters, signs, comic series, green office handbooks, presentations, video, competitions and many more. The key here is to ensure that the program is continuous and educates staff over a significant period of time. The knock on effect is that a self-propagating culture of awareness is created across the organization and the ideal goal of significant monetary savings and a lower carbon footprint is achieved.

Business travel is another key component and air travel policies should be carefully reviewed to ensure air travel only occurs when it is absolutely necessary.  When it is not absolutely critical the company should invest in technology like video conferencing to replace face to face meetings. Today’s video conferencing technology is low cost and excellent quality – at the bottom of the scale Skype video is absolutely free as long as you have decent bandwidth! My company, GCX practices this policy widely and not only do  most of our clients really appreciate this, but it also maximizes my staff’s productivity as the time cost associated with travel can really eat into working hours.

If flying is necessary, then economy class flights should be part of this low emissions air travel policy as economy flights take up less space in the aircraft thereby emitting less carbon dioxide per flight than business class travel. Another good tip is the pooling of air mile points which can then be used by the company rather than the individual. This ensures cost cutting for the company and ensures that the employee thinks twice before scheduling that Seychelles holiday on air mile points. From a vehicle rental perspective having a rental policy of low emissions vehicles with small engines is another good way to cut your emissions.

With regards to fuel usage GCX has a policy that allows employees to work from home 2-3 days per week ensuring less fuel usage and more productivity. This can have a significant impact on a company’s emissions. Numerous fuel- efficiency technologies also exist that can be used by companies to reduce fuel costs and increase vehicle efficiencies. Interventions include aeration, addition of gases for efficiency and addition of additives.

And so the long list of good ideas and interventions that can be used to reduce companies’ carbon footprints goes on. Should you require more information about conducting your carbon footprint or implementing a Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan please get in touch with the GCX team who will be happy to assist you.

Limited space still available for Energy Auditor Course in Cape own 19-21 April 2010