Since I joined ElectraLink in March 2020, the company has always demonstrated consideration for employees, what we do and how we do it. Strong focus is placed on corporate social responsibility and doing what is right, not just what makes good business sense. With a decarbonising industry surrounding us and COP26 on the horizon, it is no surprise that in early 2021 our focus turned to achieving net zero emissions as soon as possible.
For a business to achieve net zero, it takes a united, cross-organisation effort to decide on principles, set targets and involve all colleagues in achieving the actions we have chosen. With full support from our Acting CEO and the Executive Team, we began this journey.
When we first started looking into what it would take for ElectraLink to achieve net zero, we found an abundance of information which caused some unease as we tried to understand the feasibility of this effort. Additionally, our leadership team set us the task of signing a net zero pledge as soon as practicable. Eager to get the ball rolling on our net zero journey, in June 2021 we became signatories to the Pledge to Net Zero commitment.
Deciding how we were going to meet the aims of the pledge was our first challenge. There are two ways an organisation like ElectraLink can kick off the net zero journey: managed internally or engage external consultants to assist and support.
For ElectraLink, we decided to assemble an internal project team to investigate our options. As Project Manager, I brought to the table a knowledge of external standards and frameworks, and we as a team quickly decided the best guiding frameworks for us were the Green House Gas Protocol (GHGP) and ISO14064. These are both internationally recognised standards to support organisations in defining and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With the information available online, we were able to bring together data, start discussing our emissions and define scopes and inventory.
With progress being made internally, our Net Zero team sought external training and support from consultants Carbon Action to start meeting the requirements needed for verifying our emissions.
The ElectraLink approach
The next step was to identify our unique approach to achieving net zero. We experienced some initial challenges during this phase:
Setting the scope
Defining our emission types and sources, and what can feasibly be omitted from inclusion in the GHG accounting was the initial challenge. This was due to:
- Lack of knowledge – we had an incomplete knowledge of the impact of and justification for potentially omitting some types of GHG emissions from the accounting process. Thanks to direction from our Executive Team, and through consensus within the project team, we were able to make the decision to not omit any aspects of our GHG accounting. Additionally, we felt that including areas such as Working From Home, although challenging to accurately account for, was the right thing to do. Carbon Action were exceptionally helpful and guided us through this challenge.
- Disjointed data sets – Generally decisions are based on defined and mature data. Although we do have the data, it was fragmented in some areas. This was most notably felt when bringing all emissions together within our inventory, including our home working, commuting, business travel and office energy emissions
Focusing on the right external information
The amount of information available from sources like United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), Carbon Trust and the UK Government is incredible. However, without focus and guidance this can potentially create rabbit-hole situations where you start to focus on areas that are interesting but not related to the organisation’s emissions. At first, we were in danger of falling down rabbit holes, for example finding out about global carbon capture projects and underwater data centres. But with focus and shoring up our objectives, we were able to progress with our net zero project work while leaving time to expand and share our awareness of world events relating to sustainability.
With many industries, once an emissions source list is defined, data gathering is the biggest challenge. With ElectraLink, this was not the case. All our internal teams have always focused on gathering and maintaining data, as well as having really effective internal systems and processes. This meant that we have the majority of the data to aid our GHG accounting. Our ISO 9001 and ISO 14001-accredited systems have supported this.
Rallying the troops
All the work we have done needs an increase in awareness amongst our staff and encouragement to make viable changes in the how they work. This is an area where Director of Diversity and Engagement, Amelia Heatley, has been able to apply her team to support our project communications, with the help of the net zero project team.
Having support and sponsorship at this level of seniority is vital to the success of a net zero strategy. Our project could have been completed behind closed doors with little to no engagement with staff. To make actual change, the impact must not solely be with the business, but also with our colleagues and their friends and family.
There are several things that we aim to achieve in early 2022. Firstly, offsetting our emissions for the year and assessing the impact this has on our emissions balance. Secondly, we have some commitments to Pledge to Net Zero that we need to action, such as reporting and defining a science-based target. Finally, in addition to offsetting emissions, we want to introduce plans for viable improvements to reduce our GHG emissions sources, cut emissions now and continue to reduce emissions over time.
Words by Alexander Heron, Net Zero project manager and ElectraLink Quality Manager