Climate change is a global emergency, and it’s time to take action. The UK government has set a target for the country to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible and absorb the small amount of remaining emissions by 2050 – called net zero.
However, some companies plan to reach that goal at least a decade earlier – including Everflow Water, the first carbon-neutral business water supplier in the UK. Clare Galland, the firm’s environmental and regulatory affairs manager, explains more.
Climate change affects us all. We’re already seeing the effects in the UK, with devastating floods in the West Midlands and torrential downpours submerging London Underground stations last year. As a water supplier and retailer, here at Everflow we’re particularly conscious of our impact on the environment.
That’s because while water itself is a renewable resource, the infrastructure around its use is quite carbon-heavy, when you consider water treatment, distribution by pumps, and heating water on site, as well as all the people out in vans repairing leaks and meter readings.
At Everflow, we’ve signed the Climate Pledge, a joint initiative between Amazon and Global Optimism, which commits us to:
- Regularly measuring and reporting our greenhouse gas emissions (We’ll do this and publish the results annually)
- Progressively decarbonising our operations and supply chain as much as possible, in line with the Paris Agreement, and
- Offsetting any remaining unavoidable emissions to reach net zero status before 2040.
To qualify, decarbonisation strategies must be through real business change and innovation, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon elimination strategies. And any remaining emissions must be neutralised with quantifiable and socially beneficial offsets.
Small steps equal big impact
For a while now, we’ve encouraged all Everflow employees to do what they can to reduce the impact they have on the environment, by thinking carefully about the water and energy they use and cutting back where they can.
Last year, we launched a ‘100 pledges’ campaign, encouraging employees to take small actions to lessen their impact on the environment, such as switching off the tap when they’re brushing their teeth, sticking to a five-minute shower, or fixing a leaking toilet.
While such measures may seem inconsequential, they can have a surprising impact. For example, we recently fixed a leaking dual flush toilet in our offices, having identified unusually high usage through daily checks on our smart water logger. If the loo had been left unrepaired, our water bill could have increased by £2,000 by the end of the year – wasting a million litres and 421kg of carbon (equivalent to the carbon absorbed by 20 mature trees).
We survey our employees about their commuting habits every year. Last year, many of them were interested in converting to electric vehicles. We listened to them and partnered with the Octopus employee electric vehicle salary sacrifice scheme, so they can access vehicles more affordably. We’re also encouraging employees that live near each other to car share.
With many of our employees office-based, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to largely choose where and how we work, and this can also reduce our emissions. Our new hybrid working policy now enables most of our employees to work from home up to three days a week, saving them petrol and diesel costs and enabling them to work more flexibly.
But we still believe that in person collaboration is really important for our business. When we move offices later this year (we’re growing really fast), public transport and good cycling and walking links, as well as renewable energy installations and water efficiency, will all be considerations when we search for our new HQ.
As a customer-facing business, we’re always looking to find ways of supporting our clients and partners to cut their carbon footprints too.
As part of our commitment to both great customer service and protecting the environment, we’re on a mission to get our customers to save as much water as possible. This not only supports our environmental targets, but it also helps keep their bills down too.
Smart water meters and loggers play a vital role in helping to reduce water consumption, and we’re always banging the drum for them. Not only do they ensure that customers are being charged accurately, but it also makes sure everyone involved is alerted to any leaks – one of the most common reasons behind water being wasted.
We’re confident that we can achieve net zero for our business within a few years, but the water we supply comes through wholesalers, who have their own race to zero commitments – aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030 for all water supplies.
Until they reach that target, we’re committed to offsetting their emissions which relate to our customers’ use of water and wastewater services. This means that our customers don’t need to include these emissions when calculating their own carbon footprints and thinking about reducing and offsetting. We’ve done this through buying ‘to retire’ (not tradeable) United Nations Clean Development Mechanism certified carbon credits from THG Eco. These particular carbon credits are supporting a renewable energy project in Hunan province, China. This purchase means that all our customer contracts are fully carbon neutral from 2021 to 2023 inclusive. Our own business has been carbon neutral since 2020, and will continue to be, while also reducing our emissions as much as possible.
As around three quarters of our emissions are “Scope 3” and relate to our supply chain partners, a core part of this will be supporting and encouraging these third parties reduce their emissions. This year, we’re contacting them to inform them about our carbon emissions plans, offer support with education around ‘carbon literacy’ and find out about their carbon reduction plans. Once they’ve had a chance to make changes, we can start to consider our suppliers’ environmental performance when renewing contracts.
Drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is all of our business. Together, we’re confident we can achieve net zero – among businesses, in the water sector, in the UK and globally.
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