Setting a baseline for your company’s carbon emissions will help you understand where your company has the most room for improvement in its climate policy. But what can you accomplish as an employee? We’ve found that employees are best suited to make the biggest impact on climate change in four areas: energy, emissions, money, and lobbying. Each one contains big opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with options of how much effort to put in.
You’ll note that we don’t focus on topics like recycling, food waste in the office, or other similar, environmentally focused efforts. While these have value to the environment and can be a powerful signal to employees, we focus on the changes that have the most impact on emissions reduction.
Below are brief introductions to each of the areas to help you think about where to focus your efforts.
The no-brainer: electricity
Most of Australia’s electricity is produced using coal and gas, but an increasing percentage is produced using renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal. How your company sources its electricity is a choice, and it's increasingly easy to get energy from renewable sources. Switching to 100% renewable energy is a no-brainer; it doesn’t affect operations, can save your company money, and provides great public relations opportunities. It can be as easy as changing your energy provider, or you can get more creative with your own solar installations. Check out our Renewable Energy page for our FREE Renewable Energy Playbook.
The one to set and forget: investments
Most investors think about financial returns when investing their money. What we don’t always focus on is how those returns are generated, and the follow on impacts of investment choices in terms of what they support, what products are built and distributed more widely as a result. Every company invests money and has ways to affect how money is deployed at scale, notably employee retirement funds such as superannuation. A great goal is to switch your company's default superannuation fund to one that doesn't invest in fossil fuels, or you can focus on moving other investments out of fossil fuel companies. Moving money away from fossil fuel companies or other high emitters contributes to reducing emissions in two ways: first, that money is no longer supporting industries that are harmful to the climate, and second, switching to ethical funds actively support climate solutions and a renewable economy. The best parts about this effort: making changes to investment mixes results in impact at scale and over a long duration.
The most direct: emissions
Reducing or eliminating emissions is the most direct way to keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Emissions are classified into three categories, scope 1, 2, and 3. Scope 1 is all emissions that your company generates directly in the course of its operations, for example, from running a factory. Scope 2 includes emissions generated elsewhere but required for your operations, like the electricity your company buys. Scope 3 includes emissions out of your control, but that factor into operations, for example, in the supply chain. While the electricity area is focused on scope 2, there is ample opportunity to reduce emissions in the other two scopes. This can be as simple as choosing a different provider for a product or service and decisions can be made at the team level. For example, electrifying operations by using electric vehicles where possible moves emissions from scope 1 to 2. From there, moving to renewable energy reduces scope 2 emissions, a rapid way to reduce overall emissions. It can also become quite complex if doing an entire supply chain analysis.
The farthest reaching: lobbying and influence
Finally, every company has a voice. Its public actions can influence competitor companies, peer organisations, governments and individuals to change behaviour, policy and more. As an employee, you can help shape that voice, whether through the organisations and causes your company supports, the lobbyists it employs to advance its interests, or simply the stances it takes publicly. You can help your company shift away from lobbying firms that also support fossil fuel companies, or get your company to make public commitments about going carbon neutral. This goal area can be shaped in many ways to best take advantage of your company's influence.
Read on for Part III: practical tips for getting started at your company.