ETL's Sustainability Journey and the Pledge to Net Zero
The corporate world is awash with sustainability and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are sometimes criticised for not keeping pace with larger companies and institutions. At ETL, we know that adapting to change and taking the lead is in the DNA of SMEs up and down the country. We are an SME and social enterprise, we know we can have a powerful impact on our own operations, our supply chain and with our clients, as we support them on their journey to net-zero. This is how we’re doing it…
Triumph to Tragedy
The Paris Agreement of 2015 marked a moment of international jubilation as the world united under an agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. However, such jubilation has since dissipated into the sobering realisation that global action has yet to go far enough. On our current trajectory, global temperatures are expected to rise to above 1.5°C within the next twelve years and hit 3°C by the end of this century. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic saw a much-needed drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, they are now once again on the rise as global economies begin to recover. It’s clear, therefore, that we need to act and we need to do so quickly and effectively.
COP 26 - Now or never
Roll on the long-awaited COP 26, hosted this year within the confines of the UK in Glasgow. This November’s conference is of particular importance as, following the terms of the Paris Agreement, countries are due to report on how they intended to raise their carbon-cutting ambitions every five years. However, due to the global pandemic, COP 26 was postponed for a year. This year’s forum thus presents itself as the stage on which carbon-cutting pledges must be severely amplified and backed up by meaningful action.
The UK- Truly World Leaders?
The UK has made notable efforts to position itself at the international forefront of this global ‘green revolution’ by becoming the first industrialised nation to commit by law to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The recent release of the UK government’s net-zero strategy acts as a timely reminder of this. However, despite the government’s overt adoption of net-zero, closer scrutiny of the UK economy reveals that such ‘green optimism’ may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
A recent survey conducted by YouGov on 1,021 firms found that whilst 40% of the UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are yet to produce sustainability plans, a staggering 30% have no intention of adopting one. Whilst SMEs may consider their individual footprint as small, together SMEs are responsible for 99.3% of the UK’s private sector business and account for around 45% of the country’s business energy use. As an SME ourselves, we at ETL recognise the responsibility that therefore lies upon our shoulders and have made a conscious decision to buck the trend of SME inactivity.
ETL- Bucking the trend
We have already implemented a number of actions in order to embed sustainability at the core of our business. These actions have included:
- ISO certification: ETL has achieved the following ISO certifications, ISO 14001: 2015, ISO 45001: 2018 and ISO 9001: 2015.
- LED Lighting: All ETL’s offices are fitted with LED lightbulbs and smart building controls to ensure minimum energy wastage.
- ETL’s Travel Policies: ETL has implemented a Cycle to Work Scheme and is in the process of introducing an electric vehicle salary sacrifice scheme.
- Agile working: ETL recognises the importance of helping its employees balance their work and home life by offering flexible working arrangements complying with or exceeding current legislation requirements (The Employment Act 2002 and Equality Act 2010). This not only reduces commuting emissions but also holds social value as it increases the wellbeing of ETL staff.
- Eco Taxi Company: ETL uses eco taxi company, Green Tomato Cars, whose drivers only use low and zero-emission vehicles.
- Waste management and awareness: ETL continues to promote proper waste segregation and minimisation at our offices.
- Staff travel survey: In 2019, ETL conducted a staff travel survey to establish a baseline for travel patterns undertaken through staff commutes and business travel.
- Sustainability-based procurement frameworks: ETL provides sustainability-based procurement frameworks to our clients to deliver carbon savings; LED lighting, Energy Performance Contracting (EPC), Battery Storage and Net Zero Carbon Delivery.
- Offset Scope 1 and 2 emissions: Excess emissions (2019) were offset via the Sidrap Wind Farm Project in Indonesia; a Gold Standard project that guarantees emissions reductions and marks an important first step in the progression of renewable energy in Indonesia.
Furthermore, in 2019 our in-house sustainability team began to formulate the blueprints for ETL’s decarbonisation strategy. An emissions baseline was calculated from our scope 1, 2 and readily available data on scope 3 emissions which were subsequently offset through the gold standard. However, whilst we are proud of the progress we have made so far, we are determined to go further.
To entrench this ambition, ETL has signed up to WSP’s ‘Pledge to Net Zero’. As pledge signatories, we will ensure that ETL achieve a GHG target in line with 1.5°C, publicly report GHG emissions and progress against this target each year and provide support to smaller signatory companies in setting targets, reporting progress and meeting the requirements of the pledge. A critical phase in achieving this will be through engaging with our supply chain to account for our scope 3 emissions. Although we realise the complexity of this task, we have the experience required to achieve this and have already begun to outline the methods through which scope 3 emissions shall be determined.
Net-zero is firmly rooted in the future ambitions of ETL. In achieving net zero, we hope not only to become leaders in regard to sustainable SMEs but to illuminate the necessary procedures required to guide similar businesses down the path to net-zero and foster a better world for us all.