Steve Creed of Circular Brighton and Hove explains what Net Carbon Zero is, and how you can takes steps to reduce your business' carbon footprint.
By Steve Creed of Circular Brighton & Hove
Getting out and enjoying our new freedoms as the UK has been emerging from lockdown has been hampered by one of the wettest months of May on record as anyone who braved a pub beer garden earlier in the month can testify. A reminder that Covid-19 is not the only threat our current lifestyle is facing. Few people now deny the climate is changing. The scientific evidence clearly points to the significant increase in emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity as the cause of this climate change.
According to the UN a rise of more than 1.50 C would result in a “Catastrophic Disaster”. Brighton and Hove City Council has declared a Climate Emergency as have many other public organisations. In 2019 the UK government became the first major nation to set official targets to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
What does net zero carbon mean? It’s a simple equation:
When Greenhouse gases emitted = Greenhouse gases extracted then Net Zero Carbon is achieved
Think of it like a Profit and Loss account, emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is the equivalent of costs and extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is the equivalent of generating revenue. In any business the first step to success is breaking even which is the stage that is being targeted to overcoming climate change. The long-term objective is to become profitable or in climate terms carbon positive (extracting more than is emitted).
It might not seem like the best time to be taking on climate change as we are all recovering from the pandemic. However, I would disagree it could be the best time. We will all have to change some aspects of our business to both survive and adapt to the post Covid world. In fact, as you will see some changes might even help to ensure our survival by positively impact on our actual P&L account.
Start with a few small steps. How are you using your electricity? LED lighting, for example, uses on average 80 per cent less energy than most traditional bulbs, bringing down a company’s overall energy use and consequently, its carbon emissions while saving money. Or just switch off all your computers, while it may seem trivial, leaving 50 computers on overnight for a year would create enough carbon dioxide (CO2) to fill a double-decker bus and cost a business over £600 a year. Is your electricity provided from renewable sources? If not, it is a simple transition to make and unlikely to make a significant impact on cost of supply.
Do you have a fleet of company cars? The United Kingdom will ban the sale of new combustion-engine vehicles by 2030. It will also ban the sale of new hybrid cars by 2035. To accelerate this transition HMRC are currently providing a big tax incentive for company car drivers who benefited from 0% company car tax in 2020-21, rising to 2% in 2022-23 and remaining at that level until 2024-25. That compares to rates of up to 37% company car tax on the most highly taxed models. There are additional benefits for the business as well which are covered here. If you would like to see what is available on the market head down to Madeira Dr on the Brighton seafront on July 18th where all the electric vehicles (EVs) that participated in the inaugural London to Brighton EV Rally will be on display.
It is unlikely you will be able to reduce your businesses carbon footprint to nothing just as there are always costs to run a business. However, you can offset greenhouse gas emissions by funding planting trees which will absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Something Propellernet a local Brighton business is currently doing on the journey to becoming carbon positive. There are many providers here is one. Or possibly investing in Kelp farms which are starting to appear along the South Coast of England, like this start-up.
Once you have taken a few small steps you may want to start to measure the impact of your actions and report them. The UK government has produced an excellent guide you can find here.
Circular Brighton and Hove, a collaboration between the Eco-Dinner Club and the Circular Economy Club, is working to support the transition to a circular economy in Greater Brighton.
Find out more here.
What is the Circular Economy?
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary highlighted the problem with plastic in the sea. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Even before this documentary, several initiatives were underway in Brighton & Hove to reduce the amount of plastic that is used in the city. One was set up by Claire Potter called Plastic Free Pledge which aims to eliminate single-use plastic straws, used on average for 20 minutes but last 600 years.
These initiatives are focussing us on alternatives to the current ‘linear economy’ or ‘Take-Make-Waste’; this means we take raw materials, make them into products and throw them away when we have finished with them. The ‘circular economy’ is one such alternative.
A professor once said that sustainability is the goal and the circular economy is the way to get there. This includes businesses being economically sustainable as well as supporting the sustainability of the planet.
Let me give you a graphic example of the difference between linear and circular business models. If I ran a company making orange juice out of fresh oranges, I’d end up with lots of waste: peel, pips with all the pulp and stringy bits. In a linear economy, I would send these to landfill. In a circular economy, I would make much better use of all the parts of the fruit. Biorefining and green chemistry are creating new ways to turn that waste into by-products:
Two Brighton & Hove examples of circular clothing businesses
Ruby Moon – disused fishing nets and plastic waste are made into fashionable swimwear
Superlooper – instead of owning your children’s clothes you can pay a monthly subscription which allows you to return them as your child grows in return of a new set of clothes. This a new business model where the product becomes a service.
A circular business won funding on Dragons’ Den
OPTIAT – One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure – using coffee grounds to create body care products.
Examples from the electronics industry
Sony – after two years the battery is wearing out but I can’t replace it myself. For some electric and electronic equipment, you have the impression that the manufacturers have planned obsolescence into the product so they have a limited life and can’t be easily repaired.
Fairphone – a modular approach: as parts wear out or break I can replace them myself, such as the battery, screen, cameras, wifi, speakers; some of the materials used are sourced from conflict-free zones and Fairtrade gold. And you can rent it – you don’t have to buy it. Ownership remains with the manufacturer.
The benefits of a circular economy
How did I get involved in the circular economy?
I have a passion that business can be sustainable by not just focussing on financial returns but the “Triple Bottom Line” – People, Planet and Prosperity. This has come from my work on sustainability for 20 years with Tomorrow’s Company, including their Inclusive Development Programme which has led onto me co-founding the African Circular Economy Network. I attended the three week Circular Cities Summer School at the University of Amsterdam with Metabolic and learnt of innovative ways to create more sustainable urban environments. I hope that this focus will help Brighton & Hove firms improve their business performance as well as move from just doing less harm towards being a force for good and contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
What to do next?
A group of volunteers who are passionate about the circular economy has come together to create “Circular Brighton & Hove”. We hold monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of the month at different venues around the city to share knowledge and take action. We are connecting with the City Council, businesses, social enterprises and civil society organisations to identify how we can take the ideas forward. We are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so please contact us: @CircBrightHove.
Peter Desmond MA(Oxon) MA FCA MBA FRSA is Managing Director of Growth International a member of Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce. Watch his interview here:
Thanks to Peter for writing this blog
The world of food waste can be a sticky subject but an important one, nonetheless.
I recently joined a waste food waste management event bringing together champions of food waste solutions under one roof. A statistic that surprised me was out of 325,000 tonnes of carbon waste produced yearly in the Brighton & Hove area, a whooping 128,000 tonnes are the result of food carbon waste, that’s a total of roughly 40% of all carbon-related waste. Diving in further reveals 70% of food waste is perfectly edible leaving 30% to offcuts.
At the meeting, we were asked to come up with some ideas for the reduction of food waste and rate them against the food waste hierarchy my suggestions are as follows.
Are there any obvious methods I might have missed?
If so write them down and grade them against the image above, see if you can make a difference at home.
Prolonged food waste does add up in the grand scheme of things, especially with the cost of living going up in recent months. It is estimated each household throws away £535 every year. That’s £535 that could be going towards a holiday in the south of France or saving up for that car you’ve always wanted.
Behaviour changes are possible and it is not too much effort either, one study carrying out a food audit for local households found that once people become aware of what food waste they are throwing away they stop doing it. This made it very hard for the food auditors to quantify their results but shows that the effort to change your habit is just under the surface with slightly higher awareness for what you’re doing, that new car doesn’t seem so far away.
How can I get involved?
There is a dream where communities come together to create sustainable gardens from their food waste keeping the nutrients in the loop whilst reclaiming that lost sense of neighbourly cohesion. Although we may not be there yet. There are sites such as;
lovefoodhatewaste.com/ that provide education and recipes for using up leftovers in the fridge making your weekly shop go further.
Smart Apps such as –
TooGoodToGo Lists your favourite restaurants, cafes, and bakeries remaining food that would otherwise be thrown away at the end of the day at a discounted rate.
NoWaste - A program that scans your receipts and barcodes logging which food you buy, eat and throw away. Saving you time, money, and mental energy.
The Bigger Picture
UK Farmers indicate we may only have 60-100 harvest cycles left with the rate of topsoil degradation experienced in the recent years, becoming conscious and in control of your food waste not only benefits you as an individual but also our society as a whole elevating the pressure on local farms and buying time for nature to heal naturally.
For more information visit https://www.instagram.com/circulareconomyclublondon/
15/03/2022 Written by Alex Haboubi
Peter Desmond from Growth International discusses the Circular Economy concept and how the Brighton business community can assist the transition towards this alternative approach.
We have many problems in the world: one of them is the problem of scarce resources and electronic waste which arises from the way our modern economy currently operates. This approach is ‘linear’ in design where products are made, used by consumers and disposed of without a great deal of thought to environmental sustainability. The linear economy is powered by increasingly expensive fossil fuels, relies on continual economic growth and generates waste.
An alternative approach to a linear economy is a circular economy. This is an industrial system which benefits society and nature; it aims to reuse products and the materials they are made of to realise their maximum value, as in a natural ecosystem. It is an industrial system that is intentionally regenerative in its design.
The circular economy replaces the ‘end-of-life’ concept with restoration and moves towards the use of renewable energy. It reduces the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse, and aims to eliminate waste through the considered design of products and systems. In order to achieve this transition some experts see that a change of the entire operating system is essential.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has undertaken significant research into the circular economy summarised in the diagram below.
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
They found that circular economy thinking and methodology is now being used in a variety of business applications. For example, recycling toner cartridges (HP), selling of light rather than light fittings (Philips) and motor vehicle take-back schemes (Renault). The lessons learnt in these environments are being considered for other applications such as the design, reuse, repair, repurposing, refurbishment and recycling of mobile phones.
A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey and SUN estimates that a circular economy could allow Europe to grow resource productivity by up to 3% annually, creating a net benefit of £1.27tn by 2030. The report also suggests that a circular economy would increase the average disposable income for EU households by £2,110.
On 2nd December 2015, the European Commission published their Circular Economy Package. It certainly takes the agenda forward but, in the opinion of a number of industry watchers and experts, it is not going to have the impact that had been hoped for.
Yet, it would seem that the business opportunities are there for the taking. The EC package suggests that, in the electronics sector, re-use, re-manufacturing and repair can play a big part in using scarce resources more efficiently. For example, the cost of remanufacturing mobile phones could be halved if it were easier to take them apart. If 95% of mobile phones were collected, this could generate savings on manufacturing material costs of more than €1 billion.
To assist the transition towards a circular economy, particularly amongst the local SME community, an event is being organised in Brighton. Growth International and the School of Business, Management and Economics at the University of Sussex have come together to run a circular economy workshop on Thursday 19th January at 4pm.
It is recognised that SMEs have a key role to play in the circular economy. However, the opportunities and challenges they face in the transition to CE are under explored. The workshop brings together academics, businesses and policy makers with four specific aims:
Thank you to Peter Desmond for providing this blog. For more information about to Circular Economy or to get in touch email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit growthinternational.com