How to Go Carbon Negative – A Guide for SMEs to the Process

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I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was eight years old. It’s one of the best jobs in the world. It welcomes my passion for the people, the planet and the animals that inhabit it. The veterinary profession is at the forefront of developing a holistic One Health approach to some of the big issues we face. We have a moral obligation to reduce our carbon consumption but we must solve the waste problem and increase biodiversity.

Here I want to talk about our decision to go carbon negative and how other companies can follow this path. I was at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. The UK Government held the Presidency of the Conference of the Parties 26.

World leaders have tried to pledge to limit the rise in temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Current government commitments are likely to fall short of this target, so individuals and businesses need to step up their efforts to meet this target.

Determining how much carbon we can emit before we exceed the 1.5 degree goal is difficult because it depends on the Earth system model we are using. However, most believe we have 8-15 years of current use before we use carbon and exceed the temperature limit.

That’s why all companies should start limiting the amount of carbon they emit. The climate crisis is ultimately an existential threat to the planet, but businesses big and small can do something about it!

Easier said than done! How can you go about it?

The first step to becoming carbon neutral or negative is to measure the amount of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted by the company.

Greenhouse gas emissions are broken down into different scopes according to their “direct” nature:

  • Scope 1 emissions are your company’s direct emissions. This includes emissions from fuel combustion from furnaces and vehicles, and emissions from chemical production.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the energy consumption of utility providers, such as electricity and gas.
  • Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions not included in Scope 2. This includes anything related to your organization’s operations that are not controlled or owned, such as your entire supply chain, business and employee travel, waste generated, materials and goods purchased, office technology, assets, and consumer use of your products.

Generally, scope 3 emissions represent the largest GHG impact. To complete a full emissions inventory, you will need to reduce carbon emissions in all three scopes. A carbon calculator can be used for this, but we hired a company called Eco Offset to help. However, it is essential that there is buy-in from all areas of the business for this to be successful. A top down or bottom up approach will not work. Creating a green team made up of company members is a great way to take the next step in determining how the company can become more energy efficient.

Once the carbon footprint is calculated, the team can look at areas where carbon reductions are possible. The easiest first step is to switch to a green energy provider like GoodEnergy. Energy produced from solar or wind power is already carbon neutral because it is not produced from gas or oil-fired power plants. Energy consumption can be further reduced by placing LED lighting; install the most energy-efficient boiler and properly insulate your business premises. Installing air source heat pumps, solar panels and batteries can be an additional way to reduce energy consumption.

Many companies are turning to electric vehicles for transportation. MWI, one of the veterinary wholesalers, works closely with a leading veterinary company, IVCEvidensia, reducing the number of product deliveries to the practice and using electric vans where possible. These measures contribute to reducing mileage and therefore greenhouse gases.

We achieved our carbon negative status by offsetting more than the carbon we produced and then using a reputable company to purchase carbon credits. There are sharks trying to make money unethically, so beware. We support a program in the Amazon to prevent deforestation and buy solar ovens for refugee women in Chad so they don’t have to cut down trees for heating. Compensation is controversial – should we devote all our time and effort to reducing our consumption or should we mix this with conserving forest areas? Planting trees is not part of the solution because they won’t sequester much carbon for at least a decade. However, planting the right trees in the right places can increase biodiversity just as important.

Many business leaders see the climate crisis in a hopeless way, not knowing where to start and doing nothing. We all have a responsibility to do something and taking the first step can often be the hardest. Changing energy suppliers to renewable sources will have a huge impact. It will also help satisfy your company’s stakeholders who place a high value on ESG.

Can you afford not to start?

Anthony Chadwick is funder and CVO of The veterinary webinar.

Anthony Chadwick BVSc CertVD MRCVS graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1990, he received his certificate in veterinary dermatology in 1995 from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Anthony was involved in the practice of first opinion and dermatology referrals until 2016.

In 2010, Anthony created The Webinar Vet, the first online training platform for vets and nurses, with the goal of making veterinary education more accessible and affordable across the world.

Since then, tens of thousands of vets and nurses have accessed the platform from around the world. The first virtual Webinar Vet conference was held in 2013. During the pandemic, The Webinar Vet has helped host over 40 online veterinary meetings and conferences, including WVAC2020 and WCVD9.

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