Which companies are getting ahead of the game when it comes to hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2050?

Posted by Derek Mason

8th December 2020

The Natural History Museum recently announced it would be awarding a £20m contract to help it achieve net zero carbon by 2035.

The 15-year deal to overhaul its energy infrastructure – revamping the existing central energy plant and hot and cold distribution infrastructure – will run from December 2021 to December 2036.

If successful, this work will see the museum beating the UK government’s target date for achieving net zero emissions by a full 15 years. The UK-wide goal is to hit zero by 2050.

And the Natural History Museum is not the only one. A growing list of organisations have decided that climate change needs to be tackled urgently and have set themselves a more ambitious deadline.

Here is a small election of these organisations:

Apple – net zero by 2030

Barrett Developments – net zero by 2040

HMRC – net zero by 2040

Ikea – climate positive by 2030

National Trust – net zero emissions by 2030

Nespresso – carbon neutrality by 2022

NHS – net zero by 2040

Sainsbury’s – net zero emissions by 2040

Sky – net zero by 2030

Taylors of Harrogate – net zero by the end of 2020

There are two companies in the list that stood out for me. The first is Taylors of Harrogate, which has already hit their target. And the second is Barrett Developments, with its target of 2040, since the construction sector is a tough one to improve.

Let’s start with Taylors of Harrogate. How did they do it?

They switched their manufacturing operations to 100% renewable gas and electricity, installed solar panels across their factory roof and ensured that none of their waste goes to landfill.

Changing the UK port their tea and coffee arrives at from Felixstowe to Teesport, saves each delivery vehicle 130.9 road miles and achieves a CO2 saving of 6.3kg per vehicle. They’ve also worked with their overseas suppliers to improve their energy efficiently and switch them over to renewable energy.

The company is open about the fact that the work they’ve done hasn’t reduced their footprint to zero, so they’re offsetting with projects in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda where either trees are planted, or the number of trees being cut down and burned as fuel is being reduced.

It’s good to see a company that’s managed to achieve this three decades ahead of the deadline set by our government.

Barrett arguably has more work to do than Taylors, and they have three separate targets:

  • 100% of its own electricity to be renewable by 2025
  • New home design to be net zero carbon from 2030
  • Net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

You’ll see that these targets will create a far-reaching impact, because the new home design will make it easier for their customers to reduce their own carbon footprints too.

Barratt plan to achieve these targets in a number of ways, including reducing diesel usage by using solar assisted generators, and improving the energy credentials of their buildings.

They will deliver low carbon homes – with better insulation, more efficient services and new green technology. In terms of electricity from renewables, the company is on track to hit the target of 2025, since just under half of its electricity usage comes from renewable sources already.

This shows that with a little commitment, our industry can do what’s needed to help slow the pace of climate change.

However, I do think more will need to be done to get buy in from every company. And it will be interesting to see whether the government start taking enforcement or at least “encouragement” action ahead of the deadline. Because larger organisations who don’t start working towards the official 2050 target over the next decade may struggle to make changes fast enough.

Do you have plans to reduce the carbon footprint of your business over the next few years? I’d be interested to know if you do.

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