The late Stephen Hawking said: “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it's one we can prevent if we act now”. Though the Climate Change Act 2019 Scotland. Is committed to a reduction in our carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. Sir David Attenborough stated that "Real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and in our economics and in our politics”. The Government is introducing various legislative means, but change will also be driven by the population acting as one community by altering the way we view our carbon emissions to something within our control and that which we can take action to reduce.

SME’s will play an integral role in societies’ drive to net zero. For business owners the task may seem overwhelming, especially at a time when they are facing higher overheads, taxes and workforces with similar domestic issues. However, there are various ways we can all tackle this challenge if we break the task down into chunks of manageable targets. The benefits to reducing your carbon footprint are not just environmental, they can foster a greater sense of employee satisfaction, attract people (both staff and clients) to your business, and can in some cases reduce costs.

The first step to reducing your carbon is to set your starting point by calculating your current carbon footprint. There are many free online tools to enable you to do this, or you can ask an independent party to carry out an assessment. Once you know your carbon footprint you will see where you are emitting most energy and you can create a Carbon Reduction Plan with manageable targets to work towards. Once again, the internet will be your friend, a simple search will highlight a number of sites which can help you create an achievable Carbon Reduction Plan. Thereafter, staff engagement will be critical in moving your Plan forward. It will be worth garnering the support of keen climate advocates within your business to help make your plan a reality and help others less motivated to see the benefits of change.

There are three stages to reducing carbon:

  1. Easy Wins. These can be as simple adjustments that you are likely to do in your own home including:getting draught excluders fitted, walking or cycling to work, making sure lights are turned off and turning the boiler temperature down.These changes have the added benefit of reducing your energy bills. Looking at work practices takes time but there might be further waste reductions that could be easily implemented for example, if going paper-free or paper-light is not an option for your business, you could print to double sided and look into using recycled paper. Ensuring that everyone is recycling all recyclable output is also a very easy win.
  2. Medium term goals. These often require more financial commitments, but will make a greater reduction in your carbon emissions. These include changing to electric car fleets, and upgrading IT systems to move onto a paperless system. You could also upgrade windows (where possible) to include tertiary glazing. There are cheaper options to improve window insulation such as removable panes, which are also useful if you have a listed building or leased premises and windows cannot be readily changed.
  3. Longer term goals. Solar panels and heat pumps can be expensive and are currently not a requirement for buildings. However as gas boilers are being phased out, new heating and electric sources will be needed in the not too distant future. This will also require planning to be more relaxed around their installation. The long term aim of installing solar panels or a heat pump will be the goal of many, however, there is little point in doing so until you have successfully managed to implement the easy wins and medium term goals as those will ultimately reduce the size of the equipment you need as by then you will be using less energy.

Carbon reduction may seem daunting at first. However, as you can see, by breaking down the task into achievable steps, there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint quickly and efficiently, to make your longer term goals a reality.