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How Green is the British Office?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 27 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
How Green Is The British Office?

The UK workplace is major contributor to the nation’s sizable carbon footprint, but there are positive signs that a shift in attitudes over climate change is beginning to marshal in real change.

The Workplace Responsibility

As the producer of 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions, the workplace has a major responsibility for the nation’s impact on climate change. According to government figures, out of a national total of 152.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions, businesses are to blame for 60.5 million. This compares with 41.2 million for households.

This vast carbon contribution of businesses is not something that must be accepted as an unavoidable by-product of industry - a huge amount is generated needlessly. The Carbon Trust believe that of the £6 billion small and medium-sized firms spend on energy annually, £1 billion is wasted. This equates to a phenomenal 12m tonnes of carbon a year.

It is believed that simply by adopting a few simple energy saving measures, firms could reduce their average energy bill by up to a fifth.

These figures are in line with the assessment of the UK as the biggest energy wasters in Europe, according a report commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust.

A major contributor to this rampant wastage is the British propensity for such bad habits as leaving electrical appliances on stand-by when not in use, leaving lights on, and using the car for short journeys.

Positive Attitude Shift

Clearly the British office is no green oasis. However, there are positive signs that attitudes towards climate change in the workplace are shifting and as a result there are increasing efforts amongst businesses and their employees to take the initiative in reducing carbon emissions.

Recent research found that employees are now for the majority willing to be more energy efficient in order to save their employer money and help tackle climate change.

The research was commissioned by the Carbon Trust as part of its ‘One Million a Day’ campaign, which set out with the aim of helping businesses save at least £1m a day by saving energy.

One Million a Day Campaign

The campaign was introduced in 2009 to help galvanise this burgeoning employee feeling towards reducing costs and energy use, and also motivate UK business as a whole. It target is to help save the UK economy £1 billion over the ensuing three years and reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by at least 17 million tonnes.

As part of the action the Carbon Trust identified three key areas that employers needed to focus on:

  • energy management – metering and monitoring, staff awareness, setting policies to identify new opportunities
  • improved lighting – installing controls, replacing and upgrading lamps, fitting motion detectors
  • efficient heating – upgrading inefficient boilers, fitting controls, improving insulation and maintenance

Carbon Reduction Commitment

This campaign is one of an ongoing list of initiatives designed to motivate UK businesses into becoming leaner, greener operations.

In 2008, the Carbon Trust launched the Carbon Trust Standard, a mark of excellence awarded to organisations for measuring, managing and reducing carbon emissions over a period of time.

During its first 12 months, 100 companies were awarded the Standard and between them managed to cut down on over 600,000 tonnes of carbon, and save over £50 million. The roll call of big businesses getting involved includes Asda, Tesco, O2, Eurotunnel, Eversheds and HSBC. This is encouraging news that businesses have started to take energy saving very seriously and are developing their long term strategies to reduce environmental impact year on year.

The number of businesses getting involved has since multiplied as organisations readied themselves for 2010’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). This is a mandatory emissions trading scheme affecting 20,000 organisations.

Future Hopes

Another significant development in the improving efficiency of UK offices came in July 2009 when the government published its white paper on energy and climate. This outlined the proposed carbon cuts in time for 2020. The plans aim to cut emissions by 13% on 2008 levels. 10% of the reductions would come from workplace improvements.

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