On top of the day job, I’m a member of Companies House's Environmental Working Group. Since joining last year, it’s been brilliant seeing the strides Companies House is making to help preserve the environment.
As a planet, our entire life support system depends on the well-being of all living species and small changes can make a big difference.
Over the past 4 months, the coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on the planet and how we live our lives. But as well as the heartbreak and anxieties, it’s also delivered a surprising number of environmental benefits. The air is cleaner, there are lower carbon emissions and there’s been a welcome break for wildlife.
So in celebration of International Climate Change Day, I thought I’d talk about the steps we’ve taken as a business to reduce our carbon footprint over the past few years.
How will climate change affect us?
There's clear evidence to show that climate change is happening.
For example, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the last 3 decades have been hotter than the previous.
According to The Met Office, the Earth is warming, rainfall patterns are changing, and sea levels are rising. And all of these can increase the risk of:
Our role in fighting climate change
We want to make sure our colleagues understand the potential impacts we can have on the environment, including biodiversity. For the year ahead, we've set the following tasks:
- Embedding a framework of governance and support to make sure biodiversity is addressed throughout decision making at all levels.
- Providing environmental education to raise awareness and encourage action.
- Promoting ecosystem resilience through management of land.
- Tackling key pressures on species and habitats.
- Monitoring the effectiveness of the Biodiversity Plan and review.
Environmental Working Group
As I've mentioned, Companies House has a working group to keep our environmental objectives in check.
The group meets every 3 months to discuss environmental issues surrounding our buildings and the communities around us, as well as agreeing ways in which the organisation can help.
Since the group was set up, it’s made a real difference across several areas. For example, our Cardiff office has:
- removed over 152,000 single-use plastic items
- reduced our paper consumption by 3,610 reams
- saved 26,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions
The group is currently exploring the feasibility of installing electric charging points onsite.
Home working has been a huge benefit of working at Companies House for a long time. Fortunately, it meant that most employees were prepared for working from home when the coronavirus outbreak happened. This has positively affected road pollution levels as people have not been commuting to work for over 4 months.
In attempts to take responsibility for our own pollution levels, Companies House has numerous schemes in place encouraging employees to consider alternative travel options when coming to the office. For example, car sharers are given priority spaces in our office car park, we have a secure bike park and offer some fantastic initiatives like the Cycle to Work scheme.
We're also keen to continue our work with Cardiff City Council to support their ambitious transport strategy. The strategy involves:
- reducing the number of vehicles coming into the city centre
- improving Cardiff’s bicycle routes
- supporting any initiatives that'll make it more attractive for employees to use public transport
We know that waste is one of the major problems we’re facing globally. Paper coffee cups and single-use plastic are thought to be big culprits.
In 2017, a report from the UK’s House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee uncovered that only 1 in 400 paper coffee cups end up being recycled. So these cups end up at landfill sites which produce an annual carbon footprint equivalent to over 152,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
In response, Companies House has:
- ditched the paper coffee cups
- introduced reusable coffee cups
- removed plastic cutlery from the canteen, encouraging our colleagues to bring their own
Over the past few years, we’ve implemented several measures to improve the management and diversity of species and habitats at our office site. This includes the installation of bat and bird boxes on many of our trees.
To continue this great work, we plan to implement a sensory garden with pollinating flowers to attract different species of animals and insects. The garden was originally planned for March 2020. But unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s been postponed until 2021.
We’ve also committed to improving biodiversity within our local communities. To date, we've spent 4,067 employee hours on numerous community activities. And we've removed 6.5 tonnes of rubbish from local areas, helping biodiversity to flourish.
It’s great to work for an organisation that’s committed to making so many sustainable changes. In the long run, making these small, alternative choices could potentially save money, make us a little healthier and save the planet at the same time.