Walking the talk – our carbon footprint

Climate change is one of the Sustainable Business Network’s main focus areas. We help businesses reduce their greenhouse gases through advice, tools, resources and training.

We also strive to practise what we preach. Read on to find out how we’re working to reduce our own carbon footprint.

Our current carbon footprint

In 2019, our carbon emissions were estimated at 18.6 tonnes (CO2-e). Our emissions were dominated by business travel-related flights (76%), with car use (including taxi use) contributing another 19%.

SBN GHG Emissions 2019

This profile, with the dominance of emissions from flying, is not unusual for an office-based organisation like SBN. Our staff took 108 separate flights, all within New Zealand.

Changes over time

The contribution from flights has dominated our emissions profile for many years, although we have been working to reduce this recently. Our 2019 emissions were 45% lower than 2018, mainly as there were two return trips to Europe that year. Our staff also took fewer domestic flights in 2019 compared to 2018 as part of a conscious move to reducing air travel.

SBN GHG Emissions 2016 to 2019

For the carbon accounting aficionados out there, this chart shows the breakdown based on the standard ‘scopes’.

Scope 1 are emissions from assets owned, or controlled, by the organisation. In our case, this is the SBN Plug-In Hybrid provided by Toyota.
Scope 2 are emissions associated with the use of electricity or heat generated by external sources. In our case, this is electricity used in our Auckland office.
Scope 3 are emissions associated with purchased goods and services, such as air travel.

SBN has grown over the past few years from a staff of 12 FTEs (full time equivalents) in 2016 to 18 in 2019. Our income has also increased by nearly 85% in that period. The following chart shows our carbon emissions relative to each FTE (left) and per million of revenue (right). It shows greater efficiency in our emissions as our organisation has grown.

What we’re doing well

We do everything possible to avoid commuting by car. Our Auckland office has no access to car parking. None of our staff drive to work. Instead, we use a mix of walking, cycling, e-biking, bus, train and ferry.

Similarly, we favour walking, scooting, cycling or public transport for local business trips, as well as some taxi use when other options are not appropriate.  Our office has an e-bike (kindly provided by Electric Bikes Auckland) for staff to use. It is invariably quicker than other modes.

Our office has a range of sustainability features, including a food waste collection in the kitchen (using the We Compost service).  During 2019, we diverted about 120 kg of food waste from landfill (based on 2.65 kg per week during a monitored period). This equates to about 28 kg of avoided carbon emissions (based on disposal at a landfill with methane gas recovery).

Where there is room for improvement

Undoubtedly, our major challenge is air travel, which dominates our emissions profile. For environmental and cost reasons we have a policy to avoid flying as much as possible, but due to the nature of our work, we do need to fly to attend some events. Whenever we do, we buy carbon credits to offset the emissions (recognising this has limitations).

However, like many others, due to Covid-19, online meetings and events are now mainstreamed within the organisation, so we expect our use of flying to drop significantly.

Electricity use in our main office made up 5% of our emissions in 2019.  It has increased by 45% since 2016 (6,572 kWh to 9,511 kWh in 2019). This rate of growth is broadly in line with an increase in staffing.  We’ve always adopted energy efficiency behaviours, such as turning off lights and other equipment, and being mindful of hot water use.

In May 2020, we moved into a new, smaller office, in Auckland CBD. Unlike our previous office, which had no insulation and relied on portable heaters and air conditioning units, this office has a central heating and cooling system. The effect of these changes on our electricity use will be interesting to see.

How we calculate our carbon footprint

We have been estimating our carbon footprint for over five years using the ACE Carbon Calculator. Our estimates are based on carbon accounting standards, but our footprint has not been independently verified or certified.

Our footprint covers our Scope 1 sources (SBN vehicle use), Scope 2 (electricity use in our office), and some Scope 3 sources (business travel and waste to landfill).  It does not cover other Scope 3 sources, such as emissions associated with the production and transportation of other purchased goods and services.

Note: we are using carbon as a general term, meaning all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHG accounting uses the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) measure to enable the different warming impacts of different greenhouse gases to be represented in a common way.