Five years ago, how many of us would have understood the term, “net-zero”? How engaged, at that point, were you with the issue of climate change and all that we’re doing to stop it?
From a topic that appeared on the evening news once in a blue moon, to a universal goal that many businesses and individuals now strive to achieve – net-zero is no longer just a buzzword, it’s now an imperative. We now have just eight short years to drive down greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5˚C
The new Net-Zero Accountancy Initiative, launched by Net Zero Now is a climate action platform that offers accountancy firms industry-specific guidance and tools to help them calculate and improve their carbon emissions and footprint. It’s part of the wider Net Zero Now Certification Programme, which, in itself, is a vital step that our industry is taking to become more sustainable.
In line with its launch, we wanted to update you on our own net-zero progress, here at Foxley Kingham: what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and how it affects our business as a whole.
We spoke to Tara Aldwin, Director at Foxley Kingham, who is leading the team’s sustainability action, about how they got started, their approach and what’s next. Plus, how they hope to inspire other businesses to soon follow suit
“Sustainability is important to me and I’d like to share what we do on this with others, anything to make it easier for businesses to make the change. Through my work and personal life, I’m fortunate to know people who work in sustainability, so we met Anya Ledwith, consultant at Eschon environmental consultancy, to help us take this forward. Net-zero is a lot for businesses to unpick and there’s a relatively short window of eight years to reach it.”
Kicking off the journey
We’d already made some key steps towards reducing our carbon footprint, albeit at the time these were made for sound business reasons. We had been working towards minimising paper use over the past 20 years, and our move in 2019 to an office newly refurbished to stringent new standards for insulation, lighting, and heating has helped. Then the technology shift as a result of covid restrictions has normalised online meetings and hybrid working, which reduces business travel and commuting emissions.
Last summer, in the run-up to COP26 in November, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) asked us if we wanted to join the Race to Zero initiative and although we knew this was the right thing to do, we weren’t quite ready, but we are now.
We kicked off the net-zero journey by meeting Anya Ledwith, a Consultant at Eschon Environmental Consultancy. This piece of work looked at our energy use, business travel and business waste, and calculated our current carbon footprint to provide our starting point.
The results measured our use against a broad benchmark of similar service based businesses and showed that Foxley Kingham had a carbon footprint of approximately two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (TCO2e) per employee, which ranks well against the industry average of between two and five TCO2e.
“Everything that comes in, and every aspect of operation, has a carbon cost to it. But Anya was able to measure where we are now, giving us the all-important baseline, which helps us form our plan and set targets. I was pleased to see the broad benchmark of where we already compare favourably to industry standard.”
To continue the momentum, the next step is to set up an internal net-zero workshop where interested team members meet to discuss what action can be taken to reduce carbon, looking at issues such as electricity, gas, business travel, commuting, water, and waste. At these meetings, we will decide upon actions and assign individual responsibility for the different elements to make sure it’s truly a team effort.
“Energy usage is interesting. You can look at the data and ask, why are we using energy here? What can we do to reduce it? It’s not as difficult as you think,” says Tara.
Going forward, we’ve learned that behaviour change within our teams is going to be key to our success. Some people will embrace it more naturally than others, so we will continue to encourage all employees to engage with the heart of the issue. And through these actions, we’ll reach the ambitious net-zero targets we’ve outlined for our business.
Good for business
At a time when businesses are struggling in so many areas with rising energy and material costs, shortages, wage inflation and a potential recession, it’s a good time for businesses and individuals to address the sustainability agenda, potentially unlocking efficiencies and helping the bottom line. Saving money by using energy and fuel more efficiently has dual wins for both the business and the environment.
Corporate Social Responsibility is moving higher up the business agenda and investing in a genuinely credible CSR strategy may be the part of the difference that wins potential tender contracts and improves the engagement with teams and clients, which is important in the current competitive marketplace. Plus some of the changes such as active travel can improve the health and wellbeing of employees which is also very important to us right now.
Helping you to start your journey
Tara Aldwin, Director at Foxley Kingham is a long-standing advocate for the environment and leads our Sustainability Action Plan. She said the following:
“Net-zero is a lot for businesses to unpick and there’s a relatively short window of eight years to reach it. There are so many good things we hope will come of this journey, but it can be hard to start so we want to share what we do on this with others, anything to make it easier for businesses to make the change.”
“We’ve now completed a lot of the groundwork and will soon firm actions in place. For anyone else looking to do the same for their business, I’d say don’t wait. Businesses need to start planning now for the future. This is about financial resilience and growth as much as it’s about sustainability and net-zero. Get the information, get a plan, then implement and monitor.”
For further information, materials, webinars and tools to help with your move to net-zero, you can visit the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce. We’ll continue to share learnings and actions from our journey to net-zero, with the hope that it helps and inspires other businesses to do the same.