As an organisation operating at the heart of the energy sector, ElectraLink wanted to minimise its impact on the environment, ensure the sustainability of the business, and play a role in positive change in the energy sector. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because ElectraLink wants to play its part in supporting Net Zero and leading by example.
In 2021, ElectraLink set the ambition of achieving net zero emissions as soon as possible, and in June 2021 we became signatories to the Pledge to Net Zero commitment. Since then, ElectraLink has developed and implemented action and positive change across the organisation. This involved the establishment of a cross-organisational team and the support and guidance of our Chief Executive and business leaders. We finally achieved Net Zero status on 18 March 2022.
We quickly learned of the wider value organisations can gain through positive environmental and sustainable business practices. These practices range from reducing the environmental impact we have on our customers (and as a result the products and services we provide), to attracting and retaining talent, as well as getting a headstart in ensuring we adapt our business ahead of need and legislative deadlines. Progressive, self-started action is always preferable over a last-minute push for compliance.
In any project, self-reflection is important. In reviewing what we achieved on our Net Zero journey over the last 18 months, we can demonstrate that a clear plan of action and cross-business collaboration can enable positive change with clear business, customer and employee benefits in relatively short timescales.
How we did it
ElectraLink’s carbon output reduction targets
ElectraLink has set absolute reduction targets using the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). With 2019 as our base year, at the time of writing we are ahead of our annual target of a 12.6% reduction, having cut emissions from our 2019 base year level of 272 t/CO2e to 164 t/CO2e*, a reduction of over 108 t/CO2e or 40% against scopes one to three.
Trialling the four-day working week
In 2022, we ran two trial periods of a four-day working week. The first trial was six weeks and the second lasted 10 weeks – in total, this accounted for 33% of our working weeks in 2022. This translates to an equivalent weekly saving of approximately 4 t/CO2e based on reduced office use and approximately 7 t/CO2e on avoided commuting over the trial periods.
Our energy use and waste management
All of ElectraLink’s office spaces are signed up to renewable energy tariffs via our energy suppliers. We also recycled an average of 67.2% of office waste, saving 0.23 t/CO2e.
Offsetting our impact
ElectraLink has offset the CO2e for 2022 and every previous year from the base year in 2019. Additionally, we have proactively and retrospectively offset work events and other unplanned activities, whilst striving to work with sustainable partners and venues.
ElectraLink ensures that offsets are complete at the start of each year and throughout the year dependent on external or unplanned events. This allows us to offset the actuals rather than our start-of-year projections.
Desk booking, commuting and travelling
To monitor the impact of commuting to the office, our desk booking system identifies when employees are in the office, and in turn tells us if they are commuting to their local office or another office.
Over the course of 2022, there were 1,606 recorded instances of commuting taking place, 20.6% of that to our Nottingham Office, and 79.4% to our London office. In total, 86% of commutes were to local offices. Where travel was taking place to non-local offices, the higher percentage was from Nottingham to London, but only marginally (3% more).
This level of detail helps us ensure that we account for our impact accurately, and allows us to improve collaboration tools and activities to reduce non-value adding commuting, further reducing our impact. Additionally, this helps ElectraLink analyse levels of working from home versus commuting impact to the environment.
For all forms of travel, staff are encouraged to use public transport wherever possible. ElectraLink encourages employees to avoid domestic flights and solo car journeys, and all flights are subject to director-level approval.
Businesswide collaboration is key to our success
Ultimately, achieving Net Zero status and putting in place the required levels of policy and change cannot be delivered in isolation. Senior-level business buy-in was essential, and skilled colleagues from a range of teams were involved in making this transition possible. They all became invested in the process and seeing it through to completion, and also gained awareness of how behaviours can change to support environmental ambitions.
Keeping our focus
The amount of information available from sources like the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, Carbon Trust and the UK Government is incredible. However, without focus and guidance, this can create a rabbit-hole situation where you start to focus on areas that are interesting but not related to reducing the organisation’s emissions. At first, we were in danger of falling down rabbit holes; for example, learning about global carbon capture projects and underwater data centres. But with focus on pursuing 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 becomes the biggest challenge, but this was not the case with ElectraLink. All our internal teams have always focused on gathering and maintaining data, as well as retaining effective internal systems and processes. This meant that we had the majority of the data needed to support our greenhouse gas accounting with support from our ISO 9001 and ISO 14001-accredited systems.
The first phase of our Net Zero journey focused on achieving Net Zero from a compliance perspective. Our next phase will focus on living Net Zero as a whole company perspective, with a much longer and more intensive experience.
Our first stage of Phase 2 will be Education and Learning. As a Net Zero team, we will begin creating and tailoring a ‘Guide to Net Zero’ bespoke to our company and working dynamics to give employees a view of how to live Net Zero. This will include a guide to travel, procurement and simple changes that improve our impact on the environment. We will also focus on taking learnings from the wider community to highlight the big steps we could make to improve our impact on the environment.
The second stage will be to take these learnings and identify areas that could be improved and analyse the gap between compliance to living the change. We anticipate this will require changes to our policies and procedures and how we incorporate Net Zero into every decision we make as an organisation. The outcome of this stage will be an action plan to identify how we can become Carbon Negative as an organisation.
The third stage will be implementing these changes within ElectraLink and identifying timeframes for delivery. There will be a number of changes that can be implemented in the short-medium term and others that will require larger structural changes to our company, such as changing our contracts with vendors.
The final stage of Phase 2 will lead to Phase 3 where we establish and implement a policy of continuous improvement. Here, we will complete Phases 1-3 on a regular basis to ensure that we continue to improve and take learnings from others to truly achieve a Net Zero future at ElectraLink.
*ElectraLink’s 2022 carbon footprint was 28.2 t/CO2e (Scope 1 + 2) and 136.4 t/CO2e (Scope 3).