Sustainable carbon reduction ‘demands a holistic approach’

That’s the suggestion from Graham Oxley, Managing Director of Energy with Services at ENGIE, who says facilities managers have a leading role to play

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Sustainable carbon reduction demands holistic approach  

Pressure is mounting on businesses and local authorities to make the transition to zero carbon. But the road to carbon neutrality is far from straightforward – and there are many obstacles in the way. Many organisations are fragmented, with different departments responsible for facilities, operations, energy, logistics and other factors that impact their carbon footprint. Achieving zero-carbon status requires a coordinated, determined approach from every area of the organisation, covering every aspect of its operations – and facilities managers have a leading role to play in integrating the efforts of all involved.  

Why does zero carbon matter? 

The pressure to reduce carbon emissions is coming from many directionsThe government has set a net zero carbon target for the UK by 2050. Businesses and local authorities will have a major part to play in achieving this target. That means progress towards carbon reduction is likely to become increasingly regulated as the deadline approaches and the government needs to incentivise effective actions. Businesses and local authorities will need to anticipate and adapt to these new regulations.  

Organisations also face pressure to cut carbon from their own shareholders, as well as customers and the wider public. Employees today expect their employers to take safeguarding the environment seriouslyThat means carbonreduction policies could affect an organisation’s ability to attract and recruit the best new talent.  

Pressure for climate action also comes from supply chains. Globally, organisations want to work with suppliers and partners who share their principles. Those that fail to take action on carbon reduction are likely to find it difficult to participate in the increasingly connected and environmentally conscious supply chains of tomorrow 

Benefits and barriers  

There are, of course, many business benefits of transitioning to a zerocarbon model, from improved operational and energy efficiency, to greater resource optimisation and cost reductions. The incentives for carbon reduction, and the need to take action, are nothing new, but organisations face many barriers 

These include time pressures, everyday business priorities and external uncertainties, including the UK’s exit from the EU. Access to funding to support the process, including investment in lowcarbon technology, is another significant barrier, alongside access to the expertise required to identify and implement the most effective measures. 

Facilities managers have an opportunity to lead the way in creating zerocarbon businesses, by coordinating the efforts of all sites, departments, and individuals across their organisations to maximise opportunities for sustainable carbon reduction.  

Focus on key priorities  

To help you focus on the right priorities in your carbonreduction drive, it’s essential to take a holistic view of your organisation’s operationsto understand what zero-carbon would look like for your organisation 

A good starting point is an initial carbon assessment. This should identify the origins of all carbon emissions in your organisation. These will include direct emissions from fuel combustion, your company’s own vehicle fleet and fugitive emissions from pressurised equipment. It will also include indirect emissions from electricity, heat, steam and cooling purchased for use in the business.  

Energy savings have big impact   

Any carbon-reduction programme will rely heavily on reducing energy usage. Consumption of energy generated from non-renewable sources is one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions for most large businesses.  

Facilities and energy managers need to work together to assess how much energy the business is consuming, when and where it is being consumed, and where efficiencies can be made. Accurately targeting energy efficiency requires a clear view of all energy data, and sophisticated energymanagement software can help to analyse this data and identify opportunities for improvements. In many cases, energy use can be reduced by tweaking processes, altering temperature and control settingsmodifying equipment set-points and adjusting timings. Training may be required to encourage staff to maintain these settings, and to avoid reverting to old habitsImplementing smart building systems can also help to automate many of these controls, and to manage all building assets for optimum efficiency. 

In addition, existing assets may need to be converted into more energy-efficient alternatives, or investments made in new low-carbon equipment. With the right advice and guidance, facilities managers can ensure that any investments are more than repaid over the lifetime of the new assets.  

Consider renewable sourcing  

After making the best use of the energy consumed in your organisation, the next step is to consider where that energy comes from. Sourcing electricity from renewable generators is an effective way to reduce the carbon emissions associated with your company. Corporate power purchase agreements enable you to secure direct supply agreement with specific renewable generator, enabling you to demonstrate exactly where your energy is coming from. Another option is selfgeneration. Installing wind or solar generation assets on site provides a direct source of renewable power, reduces your reliance on grid energy and offers an opportunity to earn revenue by exporting surplus electricityInstalling batteries on site to store surplus electricity and provide back-up power can further reduce your need for energy from the grid. 

Petrol and diesel vehicles are another major source of carbon emissionsMigrating your company fleet to electric vehicles would be a significant step towards decarbonisation. Installing charge points on site, connected to renewable power supplies, would make this switch a fully sustainable solution. 

Ideally, carbon reduction should be achieved by adding new sources of renewable power to the electricity network, whether on-site or linked directly to your premises. However, once carbon emissions have been cut to the lowest possible level for your organisation, it may be necessary to sign up to carboncompensation schemes to offset any residual emissions associated with your operations. 

Sustaining zerocarbon status  

It’s likely that reaching zerocarbon status will require a combination of all of these measures. It’s essential to achieve the correct balance of options for your organisation. Facilities managers will need to work closely with other departments to integrate efforts throughout the businessEliminating carbon needs to be prominent consideration in every decision takenwhether it relates to energy, water and waste management, or operational, logistical or commercial activities.   

For an organisation to remain truly sustainable, management systems and processes will also need to be reviewed continually to ensure they remain effective. It can be challenging for facilities managers to juggle all of their existing responsibilities with the need to fulfil zerocarbon priorities. That’s why the support of a specialist partner is essential, helping to review your entire operations and devising a strategy that works for youIt’s crucial to ensure that all measures work in harmony, and avoid conflicting actions in different parts of your organisation. Taking a holistic view of all actions and business activities is therefore the key to success