We all need to make a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprint, and at Vertas, we have set the target to be carbon net zero 2030. It’s an ambitious plan but one everyone is taking seriously. Find out from Kelly Fellowes, Associate Director of HSQE C&G, what steps are in place at Vertas to become carbon net zero in the next eight years.
At Vertas, we’ve committed to being net zero by 2030, which is an ambitious task for a company that delivers facilities services across Great Britain. However, we’re always up for a challenge and are all working together on the journey to achieve our goal.
Before figuring out how to make changes towards becoming net zero, first it’s vital to identify and understand your carbon footprint. At Vertas, we worked with Carbon Charter, who helped us identify out our carbon footprint, what it’s made up of and what we need to do to reduce it. Following this, we developed our Making the Difference Sustainably Strategy, which breaks down our journey to becoming net zero into four key themes: Waste & Recycling, Energy and Carbon Management, Travel and Transport, and Sustainable Procurement.
Travel and fleet is our biggest carbon footprint, so we are considering ways to make our transport more efficient and sustainable. However, while we’re starting our switch to electric vehicles, at the moment, the infrastructure isn’t quite in place across the UK to support with this. So, with only eight years to our net zero goal, we’ve focused on the ‘quick wins’ – changes that can be made easily, and will have an immediate impact.
We can’t make all the changes at once, and it’s the small changes that will make a big difference in the end, such as using low energy light bulbs, and turning technology off at source when it’s not in use. And what about waste and recycling?
· We’ve clearly marked recycling stations, and have taken all paper towels out of our toilets
· We’ve diverted all of our waste from landfill
· We recycle all the cooking oil that we use and turn it into a biofuel product
· All of our paper is recycled and we’re working towards a paper-free office
· At some of our service areas we use biodegradable travel mugs.
We’re all on this journey together, with the same goal. So, we’ve been working with our clients, colleagues and suppliers as well as pupils from school councils to see how we can work together with the aim of Making the Difference. It’s really important to get everyone onboard and engaged – by getting them involved with making and measuring the changes. Just some of the things this has achieved already is removing all plastic cutlery out of educational settings, and last year we planted 2,700 trees across the communities we work within. We’ve got colleagues who’ve gone out on litter picks and planted trees – if you’re part of the initiative, it has more of an impact.
For the Vertas Group, it’s all about how we can come together on this journey to make a difference. We’ve developed a Sustainable Procurement Policy which has been shared with all suppliers, to ensure we procure environmentally friendly and ethically sourced products where possible. We have also asked all key suppliers to sign up to our Supplier Code of Conduct – as our suppliers have a huge impact on the services that we provide. It’s great to see how they’ve all taken on board positive changes in every area from the products they supply to how they are packaged and delivered. While it’s easier to control the changes on the energy and fuel used directly within our organisation (Scopes 1 & 2), the biggest task is ensuring that everything else that has an impact on your business attains the goal of net zero (Scope 3).
Everyone is working together, and we know we can’t do this on our own. Whilst we are being innovative within the Vertas Group, it’s really important that we all learn from each other through networking and other initiatives. We sponsored the Greenest County Awards, and it was really good to see how everyone else across different industries is moving towards their own net zero goals.
Measuring the difference is a great way to understand, communicate and engage with colleagues and clients and we do this through various channels, including, emails, newsletters, and social media. This means, information about all the good stuff that we’re doing isn’t only shared with our colleagues, but with our clients and stakeholders. We’re all joining forces.
Our new e-learning modules, such as the eco driving and sustainability modules keep our colleagues involved, educating and inspiring colleagues on our journey to net zero. We’ve also introduced a salary sacrifice scheme, so colleagues can lease an electric vehicle through their salaries. Another huge impact is that now more people are working from home on the flexible working scheme we can ensure that colleagues only go into the office if they really need to. Our new employee app is an online hub that everyone can access for information and inspiration about all areas of work and the positive impacts we are making industry-wide. If everyone pledges to make just one change in their professional or personal life, imagine the difference that we could make.
It’s a quick exercise to work out your personal carbon footprint at: http://www.footprint.wwf.org.uk/ then you can make some little changes that will have a big impact at home and at work. Why not walk or cycle to work? Take a bus or train instead of driving, or book a ferry instead of a flight next time you go away?
With rising fuel costs and climate change, there’s all the more reason to make changes at home to save money as well as the planet. Quick wins include switching off lights and technology, swapping to LED bulbs, turning down your thermostat and reducing heat loss with simple measures such as draft excluders and curtains. Make sure you use renewable energy supplies, choose low energy appliances, wash clothes on a cool setting and air dry your laundry. You can get more information at https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/energy-at-home/.
We Brits individually create on average three tonnes of carbon per year, or 8.2kg per day, from the food and drink we consume. And a third of the food we buy is wasted – which is responsible for a whopping 25 million tonnes of carbon emissions globally. We could easily reduce this by thinking about what we are buying and wasting less. Eat seasonal produce, cut back on meat and dairy, only buy what you need and buy less packaging. Even better, compost and grow your own veg.
At Vertas we’re approaching the net zero challenge from every area. For us it’s not just about making a strategy from a leadership perspective, it’s about what our colleagues and clients can do, too. People are taking it seriously – whether it’s our Head of Grounds cycling to a site visit, or the Vertas Green Fingers Gardening club initiating a competition to win free seeds and plants.
10 Steps to Net Zero:
1. Calculate your Carbon Footprint
2. Sustainability Strategy and Carbon Reduction Plans
3. Colleague Engagement – educate and inspire people inside and outside of the work place
4. Make buildings energy efficient
5. Switch to renewable energy
6. Reduce carbon footprint from transport
7. Minimise waste and recycling
8. Procure sustainable goods and services
9. Carbon offset through planting trees and other initiatives
10. Quick wins such as chemical-free cleaning, banning single-use plastics and recycling