Guest post by Kevin Oubridge, Accelerated Success and Zero Carbon Shropshire

Businesses from across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin met up in late September to discuss a hot topic leading up to COP26 in Glasgow, climate change. Scientists agree climate change has been caused by greenhouse gases that humans have been pumping into the atmosphere in increasing quantities over the last two hundred years or so. The main greenhouse gas is Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is given off by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) but there are others, notably Methane (CH4), a major source of which is livestock bred for human consumption and landfill sites.

Climate change is a huge challenge which businesses have a major role in tackling, their mission is to reverse the damage human activity has caused to nature. Activities such as cutting down rain forests, concreting everywhere, use of pesticides, non-regenerative farming practices, pollution, waste, single use plastic have all contributed to this global scare causing the collapse of civilizations. Tackling one without taking on the other isn’t really an option as climate change and the destruction of nature creates what’s called a positive feedback loop, which simply means they make each other worse. So, just a couple of planet-wide challenges for businesses to sort, plus the day job of delivering products and services and generating income. No pressure then!

Aico, the European market leader in home safety, partnered with Zero Carbon Shropshire to run Zero Carbon Connect Live. The aim was to share information about climate change and damage to nature, how it relates to business and provide practical steps all businesses can take to reduce their negative impact. As it was the first in-person event for many in over 18 months, other important elements were to just talk, listen and enjoy ourselves – this was made all the more possible due to the spacious, state of the art venue in Oswestry and refreshments very kindly provided by Aico.

The day was a roaring success! We talked, we listened, we enjoyed ourselves. After learning just how deep the hole is we are all in, we discussed practical solutions and left feeling more knowledgeable and positive. Lee Duffy, Operations | Learning and Development Manager at Aico began explaining the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the company, their dedicated team partner with schools and the local community, but had only relatively recently seen the company’s impact on the environment and climate change as part of the CSR package. Since then, Aico has committed to be carbon neutral by 2030, reviewed its emissions and environmental impact, and undertaken a number of projects. For example, the company has started switching its vehicle fleet from fossil fuels to electric and will continue to do so over the next few years, greatly reducing its Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and contributing towards efforts to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious. There is also an ongoing review of packaging, the start of this impact has saved six tonnes of plastic and eight tonnes of paper per year through one single project.

Sue Burnell from Accelerated Success and volunteer with Zero Carbon Shropshire (ZCS), told us that ZCS recently teamed up with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), based in Machynlleth, Wales, to run a series of online workshops with T&W and Shropshire businesses, aimed at identifying the challenges they face in becoming more sustainable. These workshops led to ZCS recognising the need for highlighting the support that is available to demystify sustainability giving businesses a simple route map to follow in starting their sustainability journey. Events such as Zero Carbon Connect Live at Aico gives examples of what other businesses have done as well as practical steps all businesses could take.

We were then reminded by Deb Cairns from E4environment that climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is only part of the story, and that the damage we do to nature is at crisis level, highlighting how important it is to act now. There are policies in place but it is now up to the people to drive it forward. Deb shared practical ways businesses can enhance nature rather than decreasing the number of plant and animal species around us, from having a living wall on the building to creating bug houses, this can establish links with the community, generating a sense of community pride and a market of ethical consumers.

Stewart Price, Scheme Manager at WERCS spoke about Waste Compliance emphasising the impact and responsibilities. It is important to recycle to conserve natural resources, save energy but most importantly come together as a community to push for Zero Carbon as currently 55 billion tonnes of metals and minerals are extracted each year. Time is running out, waste needs to be kept to a minimum and reused, recycled or recovered.

I then got in on the act, talking about support available to help businesses become more sustainable – there’s a lot out there and it can be overwhelming wading through it all. I told those present that, despite advice telling businesses to measure emissions, this can be very complicated and isn’t a helpful starting point, particularly for the 90% of businesses in Shropshire that are 10 employees or fewer. I shared a route map Accelerated Success have produced to help businesses better understand the climate and environmental challenges we face, and also some actions businesses could take immediately to reduce impact, such as switching to a renewable electricity provider, going with a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels and even looking at how your pension is invested, all of which may have a bigger impact than other longer term actions a small business might take.

We closed the presentations with Andy Whyle from Sustainability West Midlands, who told us about Environmental Management Systems (EMS), which are designed to help bigger companies get to grips with sustainability. He presented a number of examples of how businesses can reduce their impact on the environment, as well as cut costs and increase profitability. An interesting example Andy gave was a company wanted to reduce the amount of fuel used to heat a warehouse. As heat rises, the company were burning fuel to warm the roof space rather than the employees on the ground. The solution? Fit fans up high to blow the warm air back down, meaning workers are more comfortable and fuel consumption, emissions and costs are greatly reduced. Genius!

That wasn’t the end of it though, as we then split into smaller groups to discuss individual company situations and possible solutions. All in all a great day and if you’re sorry you missed it, don’t worry, as Zero Carbon Shropshire will be running similar events in the future. Watch this space!

If you would like to get involved with Zero Carbon Shropshire or learn more about help available to businesses in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin in becoming more sustainable, please email [email protected]

Kevin Oubridge, Accelerated Success and Zero Carbon Shropshire

Caroline Talbot
Author: Caroline Talbot