TBLA Carbon Footprint Report Year Ending December 2021

 

What a story!

 

Did Triple Bottom Line Accounting Improve its Environmental Impact in 2021?

 

The short answer – we can’t prove it!

 

With carbon calculator software developing and improving each week (or so it seems!) it is difficult for small businesses to calculate their own emissions affordably year on year and get comparable results. At the end of 2020, we beta tested the Carbon Labs calculator designed for service-based SMEs. At the time it was one of the few accessible and affordable calculators to incorporate spend based scope 3 emissions.  This calculator was discontinued. We did our best at the end of 2021 to come up with comparable data.(See chart 1).  By March 2022 we were asked to beta test the new Normative calculator which made it possible to compare some year-on-year data.(See chart 2 and the following two illustrations).

 

So we have one set of figures that show that we have reduced our emissions per employee slightly and another that says we have increased them slightly.  Should we worry when between 98 – 100% of our emissions (depending on calculator used) are Scope 3[1] indirect emissions? Although we have updated our sustainable purchasing policy most of our supply chain emissions are out of our control. While we continue to lobby our suppliers, we cannot measure what impact this might have had – if any. (See Appendix 1 for 2021). But we can rationalise our purchases further, including an investigation of secure, zero emission cloud storage. We will lobby our main suppliers to become carbon neutral as part of a commitment to Net Zero emissions and change suppliers if necessary. There are other areas that we can work on see full report from page 4.

 

Meanwhile we are continuing to beta test new carbon calculators that integrate with bookkeeping software. We think this is the way forward and hope that this will simplify the process for busy and potentially cash strapped SMEs. We hope to have some results of our research soon. As these business calculators evolve there will be less differences between each calculator. Meanwhile we advise our clients not to get hung up on the measurement – but to concentrate on the actions needed to reduce emissions with a workable net zero strategy.

 

Comparison of Carbon footprint using different calculators for:

Baseline period:                                  1st Jan 2020 – 31st Dec 2020

First year comparison:                        1st Jan 2021 – 31st Dec 2021

 

Chart 1: Carbon Labs[2] and Carbon Labs equivalent[3]

Chart Carbon Labs and Carbon Labs equivalentChart 2: Normative (Spend-based calculator free of charge on the SME Climate Hub)

Chart Normative Spend based calculator free of charge on the SME Climate Hub

Normative illustration of TBLA Carbon Footprint 2020

Normative illustration jan to dec

Normative illustration of TBLA Carbon Footprint 2021

Normative illustration jan to dec

 

What is going well to reduce emissions/ achievements in 2021

  • The TBLA sustainable purchasing policy has resulted in the following achievements:
    • Reduced purchases from Amazon, using local suppliers with ethical standards.
    • A zero-emission fortnightly delivery of locally sourced organic fruit and snacks.
    • Using local and smaller businesses to source sundries and essentials.
    • While buying new hardware for new employees in a rapidly growing organisation has been necessary, TBLA does reuse, repair, and repurpose older hardware and mobile phones when possible. New hardware is often the only option because of the security issues with older models.
    • If using a non-local supplier, we wait to make a bulk order to reduce number of deliveries.
    • TBLA has written to its software providers, but the only reply has been from FreeAgent so far – they are making some progress with sustainable practices and advocacy.
    • The TBLA website is powered by 100% renewable energy.
  • Climate Advocacy – This is the most powerful thing TBLA can do when scope 1 and 2 emissions are so low. The downside is that this cannot be measured, but feedback has been positive. This is where TBLA can have the biggest impact and much has been achieved: summary of 2021 achievements in Appendix 1.
  • Working from home: When last polled in October 2021, nine out of eleven employees sourced electricity from a 100% renewable source (2/11 uncertain).
  • Commuting – Public bus transport to the office from the outskirts of Norwich requires one bus into the city and another back out again. Some lift sharing has been happening when hours are compliant, where possible employees walk or cycle to work. There is one shared company EV and one privately owned second-hand EV within the team. Both offer lift sharing when possible.
  • Personal commitments and individual climate advocacy: see Appendix 2
  • Publicising climate neutral status and sharing positive actions taken by regularly updating website blog and posting on socials.
  • Support not-for-profit clients -whereas TBLA originally subsidised NFP clients at a loss to our business, TBLA now offers a range of prices that allows it to remain commercially viable and therefore continue its climate advocacy. Two main options:
    • A simple once a year service for those without a realistic budget for accountancy support.
    • For those with financial resources: A 20% discount is offered on the retainer services. Most find this money well spent as we can suggest further financial savings which more than compensate these fees.
    • If TBLA’s biggest impact comes from climate advocacy, it needs to continue making a profit to keep this up.

 

Our team came up with the following actions for 2022:

  • Scope 3 emissions[4] are dominant for TBLA (98 – 100% of all emissions). This is due to the nature of the business – a digital, cloud-based accountancy service. Possible actions:
    • Dropbox and G Suite make up a larger percentage of Scope 3 emissions therefore TBLA should actively investigate the authenticity of their Net Zero ambitions and claims, while researching sustainable, affordable, and secure alternatives.
    • TBLA could reduce large volumes of data being stored by rationalising shared folders which may also lead to better business efficiency.
    • Software rationalisation:
      • Email providers –ongoing research on email providers in 2021 (too expensive, not secure and/ or no migration service yet).
      • Cloud storage – again some expensive options if the necessary security for data protection is taken into consideration. This is bound to change over time, so more research needed. Maybe some best practice sharing with similar organisations. Microsoft OneDrive storage is looking like the best option in terms of their Net Zero ambitions, security, and use of European rather than US servers.
    • Lobby the other accounting software providers (i.e., Xero and QuickBooks).
    • Liaise with software integration developers such as CoGo and Spherics.
  • Offering employees an EV for salary sacrifice. In 2021 TBLA was in talks with Octopus EV. There will be a limit (likely to be 3 cars this year), based on our balance sheet. The salary sacrifice does not significantly impact net pay when tax benefits are taken into consideration. Senior managers will be offered a car first as they are likely to move into higher rate tax threshold and this would be advantageous to them. Otherwise TBLA needs to work out how to allocate fairly – e.g., length of service.
  • Hybrid working as preferred by employees: All employees are still using gas central heating when working from home. (One employee never turns on the heating). TBLA will help employees identify green tariffs (offsetting options for using fossil fuel natural gas) and provide education on more sustainable heating options that might be soon available with government grants e.g., heat pumps or eventually green hydrogen.
  • Educate employees about climate emergency, climate action, mitigation, and adaption – TBLA has been sharing knowledge in informal conversations, but this should also be formalised with a regular slot in company “away days” and team meetings.
  • Regular updates of the Company Impact Narrative – published on website and blogs but this could be updated more often and shared.
  • Actively support SME clients to improve ESG impacts – TBLA will target some clients more effectively with its ESG impact narrative service rather than sending out blanket newsletters.
  • CSR donations: Calculate the value of spend on fruit and food at office and giving this to a food charity as we did in 2021. Charity for 2022 is The Feed, Norwich.

 

Offsetting – To compensate our 2021 carbon emissions

Although reduction should be every business’s priority, carbon offsetting is a beneficial temporary measure to help improve environmental and social impact.

We decided to offset the larger calculation provided by the Normative calculator – we may be double offsetting. Either way we are contributing to this Gold Standard and VCD (Verified Carbon Standard) project which supports a carefully selected range of projects  that have strong additional benefits beyond reducing carbon emissions, including health benefits and reducing deforestation.

https://www.carbonfootprint.com/americas_offsets.html

 

TBLA carbon offset certicate emissions screenshot

 

As stated before, carbon offsetting should not be the priority, but rather a temporary solution.

 

Appendix 1: Summary of TBLA Climate Advocacy in 2021

  • ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance Impact Measurement and Narratives) service launched
    • This is a TBLA service set up in collaboration with Alasdair Wilcock of Maple Cone developed and refined in 2020 and 2021
  • During 2021 the ESG team was invited to speak at several events online and in person including:
  • The Norfolk Network -Net Zero for SMEs webinar – July 2021
  • Future Radio – Living Wage Week round table and UBI – November 2020
  • Nat West – Sustainable and Purpose-led Business – June 2021
  • Nat West – The Future of Business Travel – EVs – February 2021
  • Tech East – Clean Growth Conference – July 2021
  • Suffolk District Councils’ Low Energy Showcase -October 2021
  • A paid contract to give one-to-one advice to 200 small businesses in Essex. November 2021 ongoing through 2022.
  • Fran Ellington (TBLA Director) invited to join the Norwich Business Climate Leaders Board at the end of 2021.
  • Award of a grant from the Norwich Good Economy Commission to put 3 Norwich businesses through our carbon calculator and target setting workshops. November 2021. Research paper published March 2022.
  • Regularly sharing SME relevant climate news on socials
  • Dr Peter Ellington teaching on the UEA Norwich Business School Executive MBA programme and stressing the importance of factoring in climate change to all business decisions.

 

Appendix 2:  TBLA employees’ individual changes since last workshop

“We did the Octopus Energy Winter Workout because we wanted to see how much less gas we could use during the winter months- to save on CO2 emissions and save financially. So far, we’ve saved 210 kg of CO2 emissions. Our target was originally to save 86kg, so we’ve done much better than we anticipated”

“Shopping for products with less plastic and actively changing buying habits”

One employee stated that they have made significant changes since the last target setting workshop in March 2021. “Climate change and individual actions had not been on my radar previously”

“TBLA has had a big effect on the choices I make when making purchases. I think way more about brand ethics, amount of plastic I’m buying, ingredients in food, eating vegan etc.”

“I have actively thought more about the environment since joining TBLA. It is at the forefront of most of our decisions now at home. We recycle more, eat less meat, make less journeys. We are buying an electric or hybrid car within the next year. We are also buying more sustainable furniture and home items for our home.”

“I continue to live a vegan lifestyle – it’s the easiest way to make a difference each day and the very least we can do for the planet!”

“We used the UK Green Homes Grant to part pay for cavity wall insulation and a thicker layer of loft insulation”

“I have been trying out ethical/sustainable companies such as Smol and Estrid.”

 

Reports from previous years

 

[1] Scope 1 and 2 are those emissions that are owned or controlled by a company, whereas scope 3 emissions are a consequence of the activities of the company but occur from sources not owned or controlled by it.

[2] Created in accordance with the WBCSD/WRI GHG Protocol, Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard – see https://triplebottomlineaccounting.com/carbon-footprint-report/

And https://triplebottomlineaccounting.com/procedures-statement-for-emission-calculations/

[3] With the Carbon Labs Calculator no longer available, the 2021 emissions were put through  the Carbon Footprint Ltd Elite Business Calculator and any emissions not accounted for by comparing the major spend categories in each year and extrapolating the emissions accordingly. For extra precision, we added some calculations for employee commutes and working from home hours.

[4] Scope 3 encompasses emissions that are not produced by the company itself, and not the result of activities from assets owned or controlled by them, but emissions that it is indirectly responsible for, up and down its value chain. An example of this is when we buy and use accounting and bookkeeping software or pay for training for our employees.